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How to Help Someone You Love Get and Stay Sober

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It is always painful to see someone we love battle through an addiction. We want to help them, to take the addiction away, to fix everything for them forever…but we can’t. Addiction is an individual fight and much of the work that your loved one will have to do will have to be done on his or her own. That doesn’t mean, however, that you should simply walk away. On the contrary! The best thing you can do right now is to be a source of love and support. Here are some tips to help you do that.

Confronting Your Friend About Her Addiction

You’ve noticed that your friend is struggling for a long time. In fact, you’ve seen many of her relationships explode because of her struggle. Even though it will be painful and she might lash out at you, one of the best things you can do for your friend is to confront her about her addiction. There are several schools of thought as to how to go about this.

Some insist that interventions work the best. Others will tell you that taking your friend aside is the way to go. We suggest a two pronged approach. Start with a quiet one-on-one with your friend. Tell her that you’ve noticed she’s struggling. Make sure to tell her that you love her and you’re there for her. Offer to help her get some help. If she responds badly, then take it up a notch and try an intervention. Remember, though, the goal is not necessarily to be confrontational. It’s to encourage your friend to get help (1).

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Getting Your Friend into Treatment

This seems like a simple enough idea but the truth is that finding the right rehabilitation program will take some research. Not every program out there is worth your friend’s time, energy or money. Make sure that any program you consider has the proper accreditation (2). From there, it’s a matter of working with your friend to decide whether in-patient or out-patient programs are best. Will she benefit best from a loose program like AA or NA? Or does she need the structure and monitoring a treatment center will provide? Spend some time exploring both options and choose the one that best fits your friend’s personality and needs.

Support During Treatment

This is going to be incredibly difficult, especially if your friend is in an in-patient facility. In-patient programs have very strict rules about what can and cannot be shared about patients. Try not to take silence or distance personally. Try to find a balance between support and prying. You do not need to know every detail about your friend’s recovery (though it will feel like you do).

You should definitely consider seeing a therapist during this time (3). A qualified therapist can help you work through your own feelings about your friend’s addiction as well as give you tools to help repair your strained relationship and provide support once your friend has completed her treatment and starts trying to live a sober lifestyle.

Support After Treatment

Many people struggle to help their loved ones stay sober after those loved ones leave rehab or finish a treatment program. There is a lot of pressure to both celebrate your friend’s sobriety while also supporting the fact that she might not you to make a big deal out of it. There are a lot of schools of thought about how to approach a friend’s newfound sobriety. Some will suggest finding lots of things to do together that do not involve the subject of your friend’s addiction. Others will say that you should make things as “normal as possible.” The very best thing you can do, though, is ask your friend what he or she needs from you and then do that (4).

It is going to take time for both of you to find your footing and you will both stumble along the road to your friend’s sobriety. What matters is that you do your best to stay strong and offer your friend as much support as you can. It will be hard but you can do it!

Sources:

  1. Treatment Accreditations | Dual Diagnosis. (n.d.). Retrieved June 22, 2015.  http://www.dualdiagnosis.org/dual-diagnosis-treatment/accreditations/
  2. Rothman, J. (2009, April 20). How Your Loved One’s Addiction Affects You. Retrieved June 22, 2015.  http://www.everydayhealth.com/addiction/how-loved-ones-addiction-affects-you.aspx
  3. Supporting a loved one after drug rehab. (2014, February 7). Retrieved June 22, 2015.  http://goaskalice.columbia.edu/supporting-loved-one-after-drug-rehab