Help for a Loved One

How to Help Someone with Addiction

When your loved one is struggling with substance abuse, it can have serious adverse effects on their relationships with family, friends, and work colleagues.  If you know or presume that someone in your life suffers from alcohol or drug addiction, you will want to get help for a loved one, but this can be met with resentment or denial.  Addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease, and the way to recovery for someone who is addicted is often a long and complicated one.  This unavoidably impacts those closest to them, and professional help may be required to get them to treatment and into recovery.

Drug addiction can be treated, but it’s not simple.  Addiction treatment must help the person do the following:

  • Stop using drugs
  • Stay drug-free
  • Be productive in the family, at work, and in society [1]

Signs of Addiction

It is essential for family members and friends to understand the signs and symptoms of addiction.  These can vary depending on the type of addictions they are coping with.  Many people can hide their addiction even from those closest to them, and it can be tempting to overlook the problem when that seems more controllable.  Some of the most common signs that someone is suffering from addiction include:

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Behavioral Changes

  • Developing troubles at work or school
  • Lying about the substance or how much they use
  • Becoming furious when asked about their use
  • Changing friends groups
  • Secretive behavior, lying, stealing
  • Changes to regular habits or mood swings
  • Discontinuing social activities
  • Unlawful behavior

Physical Changes

  • Appearing intoxicated more often
  • Difficulties with memory or cognition
  • Strange tiredness
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Rapid weight fluctuations
  • Poor hygiene

Obstacles to Get Help for a Loved One

As much as you want to get help for a loved one, it is common for those who suffer from addiction to show adverse reactions and attitudes when faced with their use.  Many people will react in the following ways:


  • Part of the reason addiction is so challenging to treat is that the person affected denies accepting that they have a problem.


  • The person affected may start to avoid you, or avoid speaking about their problems, if they begin to feel “attacked.”


  • People with addiction will commonly be feeling defensive and can turn aggressive if their use is brought up.

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How You Can Get Help for a Loved One

Here are six things to remember that can help you if you try to get help for a loved one who has never been admitted to treatment or someone in recovery and is now relapsing.

1. Don’t Enable

It can be hard to watch someone spiral into addiction, particularly if they have reached the point where they can no longer manage the daily functions that they used to.  In these cases, family and friends might be moved to step in and help, such as taking over their responsibilities, giving them money;  doing more household tasks and childcare, or apologizing to other people for their behavior.

It can be challenging to draw the line between supporting a loved one and enabling them.  Although this is done from a place of love or obligation, it helps shield the person affected by their reality.  In many cases, it is not until the person is confronted with the consequences of their actions and behavior that they can come to terms with their addiction and commit to treatment and recovery.

2. Use Empathy in Getting Help for a Loved One

Without support, the person who is addicted can feel even more alone and cut off, which will push them to use more.  Negative social support is one of the most significant obstacles to entry to treatment because the person fears they will be excluded from their family and friends.

By showing compassion, the person struggling will feel more comfortable, open up, and understand how their actions affect you.  Leading experts now believe that understanding and social support can be vital to getting people into treatment and staying in recovery.  However, it is essential to understand the distinction between enabling and supporting, which can mean getting treatment.  Some ways to exercise compassion include:

  • Open questions
  • Family inclusion in therapy
  • Listening and acknowledging the pain
  • Emphasizing care and concern

3. Don’t Concentrate on Guilt or Humiliation

Someone struggling with addiction is usually already feeling intense guilt, shame, and anger about their addiction.  In addition, many feel judged by their family and friends and will act defensively in response to any criticism surfaced at them.  Rather than helping, if the judgment does appear, they may turn to resist the feelings of stress that this gives them.

However, it is expected as the person suffering may have already thoroughly hurt you, broken your trust, or angered you.  There is love left, though.  Research shows that shame is one of the worst reasons someone is isolating and painful. It can make the addicted person believe they are undeserving of love or treatment.

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4. Encourage Healthy Habits

Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are often exacerbated by addiction or worsen addiction.  Supporting the person affected to seek treatment for their health issues can help them understand the damage their addiction is taking on their life.  In addition, establishing a structured environment and reinforcing healthy eating habits and exercise can help the person want a better lifestyle overall and seek treatment.

5. Take Care of Yourself as You Get Help for a Loved One

This is one of the most crucial things you can do if you know someone suffering from addiction.  Helping someone with an addiction can be physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting, and it is vital to care for yourself first.  Please recognize that this is not self-centered;  it is self-care.  It can be heartbreaking to see someone make the same mistakes frequently, but you need to take care of yourself before you can help anyone else.  Please take the time to reach out to others for assistance.

Intervention Help

Most of the time, addicted persons will not want to accept that they have a disease, but an intervention can help them recognize how much it affects the people they know and care about most.

An intervention service usually involves a group of family and friends, led by a professional such as an interventionist or therapist.  The professional will lead the meeting, assure that everyone gets to say what they want in a supportive setting.  Their attendance can help to calm the addicted person or enforce the importance of the problem.  The person affected will usually remain in denial about their condition, but an intervention can be an essential first step on the way to recovery.

Helping someone with an addiction demands education, patience, and compassion.  Addiction is a disturbing experience for everyone involved. And, if left untreated, it can ruin relationships, families, and the addicted person may end up abandoned.  Recognizing this and reaching out before this happens can be critical, but it is important to remain hopeful and get support when you need it.

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Anyone close to a long-term alcoholic or drug addict knows that getting someone to quit is tough.  Denial is a powerful force that keeps a tight physical and mental grasp on its habitual users.  Ready to approach them to get help?  It would help if you had the right strategy–and the proper support.  The best way to go about such a sensitive topic is to work with a seasoned interventionist like ours at We Level Up NJ.

How Interventions Can Provide Help for a Loved One

Interventions can be successful in getting an addicted person to admit that they have a problem and to realize that they need help.  In fact, addicts are more likely to undergo addiction treatment when there has been an intervention.  However, it does not necessarily increase the efficacy of their treatment or their likelihood of success.  However, social support and family support are significant components in recovery, and intervention can be an asset later on.

Although it can be tough to come to terms with the fact that someone you love works with addiction, it can save their life.  You may even resort to denial and look the other way when you see the warning signs.  But, unfortunately, there’s also a chance that you have no idea how to get your loved one the help they need, which is typical.

You must try to get help for a loved one that struggles with addiction.  And although it can be tough to come to terms with the fact that someone you love suffers from addiction, it can save their lives.

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[1] Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration