Talking to, or confronting, a friend or loved one about their addiction can be difficult and emotional for both parties. Listed below are some simple steps to follow that will make it easier to confront someone and help them address their destructive behaviour.
The key initial step is to talk to him or her like you would talk to anyone else – say what you mean, and mean what you say. Manipulation is one of the key tools an addict or alcoholic will use in order to hide their addiction and control those around them. Therefore don’t be manipulated.
Confronting and talking
Any time that you casually approach an addict or talk with them about their substance misuse or the possibility of getting help is an example of an ‘informal intervention’.
This might not sound like a very useful when compared to a more formal intervention by a drugs worker or counsellor, but nonetheless it can be very effective in helping the addict take the first steps to recovery.
It is the experience of many recovered addicts that they finally decided to ask help after a conversation with a family member or close friend. The reason for this is because timing was everything and prior to this they simply had not been ready to make a change. But a key conversation helped them increase their motivation and this set in motion a series of life changing events.
This does not mean that you should pester someone incessantly until they get clean and sober or agree to go into counselling. Rather you should have a consistent message for them without badgering or nagging them. Make sure they know that help is available for them if and when they want it.
Establish boundaries and set limits
One example of setting a boundary is telling a close friend that you prefer they not be around you if they are drunk or high on drugs. Notice that it is specific, and you have to sit down and communicate this type of request explicitly with someone. Setting a boundary like this is difficult because there is this tendency to hurt other’s feelings.
Setting boundaries is about putting your own personal well being first, and reducing the negative effect of an addicts behaviour on you. You know you are setting effective boundaries when you are taking back control of your own life, instead of being all wrapped up in the problems of a struggling dug addict or alcoholic. This is a crucial distance you must learn to keep when learning how to help someone.
Organise a Formal Intervention
This is what most people think of when they hear the term “intervention,” where the friends and family of an addict or alcoholic all get together and confront that person together and urge them to get help. This is not necessarily the best choice though. There is a lot of evidence that an addict or alcoholic will only change when they personally come to their own lowest point or increase their motivation to change. Another form of formal intervention is arranging for the addict to meat a professional drugs worker or counsellor who will undertake ‘motivational interviewing’ and other forms of interventions to try and help the individual into treatment.
Assess a Person’s Addiction in Order to Determine the Correct Approach A friend or loved one who is caught up in the cycle of addiction has to be approached in the right way. We all know how worthless it is for advice to fall on deaf ears, and this is bound to be the case with certain approaches in trying to help addicts. But there are specific, proactive actions that you can take regardless of where your loved one is at in their addiction cycle. There are no hard and fast rules here because different personality types will call for different approaches. One valuable guideline might be to always use a caring approach instead of a threatening one. Consider the different levels of denial and willingness to change that an addict or alcoholic might have:
* Complete Denial – If a person is in complete denial of their addiction, then there is little that you can do other than focus on your own behaviours and actions. The best that you can do in this case might be to communicate your boundaries with the person and let it be known that you won’t be bailing them out of any jams or difficulties. A formal intervention is unlikely to produce an immediate change, although it might be a step in letting the person know how much everyone cares for them. In this instance it might be useful for you to seek support for yourself, such as counselling.
* They are Admitting to their Problem, but are Reluctant to take action – This is the difference between admitting and accepting that they have an addiction. This person is technically still in denial, but they just aren’t willing to change yet. The fear of change, the fear of life without chemicals or alcohol is too great, even though they know that they have a real problem. In short, they are caught between a rock and a hard place.
* They Admit to their Problem and Say they are Willing to Change, but only on Their Own Terms – This is still denial, but in its sneakiest form. The person has agreed to address their addiction and says that they are willing to change. They might even have a genuine willingness to change. But the problem is that they are only going to change on their own terms.
Fear is holding them back. The person is so close to making a life changing decision. Tread with caution and don’t push them too hard as this will have the opposite effect. Be helpful and supportive. Personality type will help dictate if this is the best time for a formal intervention or not. If they are secluded, isolated, or have anxiety or depression, then a formal intervention with a professional is a good idea.
They Accept their Addiction and Will do Almost Anything You Suggest – This represents someone who is ready to change. Get them to a treatment centre or arrange a professional intervention. do things that they should be doing themselves.
One of the key principles that will help you in dealing with an alcoholic or drug addict is detachment. The idea behind it is to separate yourself emotionally from the damaging effects of your relationship with them. It is not the same as complete disassociation or abandoning the relationship. The idea is to care for them while detaching emotionally. You can care for them but not feel like you are responsible for them. In other words, you are specifically trying to not get all wrapped up emotionally by an addicts destructive behaviours.
This is difficult.
Practicing detachment should make it easier over time. Here are some things that you can do in order to practice detachment with the addict in your life:
- Don’t bend over backwards to rescue them or save them from natural consequences.
- Don’t cover up for their mistakes or embarrassing situations.
- Don’t rescue them from crisis or financial situations.
- Don’t try to fix them.
- Let go of any guilt you may have about their addiction
Detachment is not about denying your emotions. If someone close to you dies, for example, you will probably feel sad. You can’t choose this feeling. It simply is. But we do have the power to affect the intensity of this feeling, by focusing on the positive aspects of the situation. We can also change our thinking in an attempt to eradicate irrational beliefs that might be contributing to our emotional turmoil.
The goal is not to go without emotions, the goal is to achieve some level of emotional stability. We are detaching from the negative, irrational thoughts that stir up our emotions–like the guilt we might have if we think someone’s addiction is our fault.
For more details and help, call our team on Tel: 0845 3881 543