It can be so painful to watch someone you love and care about battling with addiction. There may be a relative or friend who you want to help, but you may have already discovered that until the person is ready for help, there is very little you can do. Here we discuss some ways that you can be there to support the person you care about through this incredibly troubling time. We can look at ways to bring up alcohol rehab, drug rehab or any other kind of addiction that your loved one requires, as well as how to talk about the detox process and what rehab may involve.
Stage an intervention
You may have heard of an intervention. An intervention is a way to show support for the person struggling with addiction whilst also offering a ‘reality check’ – a way to show them that their addiction is noticed by others and affects other people. The key to a successful intervention is to confront the person lovingly. You may feel some anger or disappointment, and your feelings are valid. However, an intervention is not a space to air your grievances or share your anger. It is important to stay focused on the task at hand, which is to show the person that you love them and want to help them. You and some other close friends or family may share personal stories about how their addiction has affected your life, but be careful to keep things balanced and not overwhelm them. Remember that if someone is struggling with addiction, they are already at a very low point and feeling unable to cope with stress and painful feelings.
We advise that you organise any intervention with the support of an addiction specialist, who can help you practice and facilitate the conversation.
Get counselling for yourself
You will have all kinds of feelings about the person that you love or care about and what they are going through. It can be incredibly painful to watch someone fall down that downward spiral of addiction, and you may need some support as well. In fact, it can be difficult for you to truly be there for another person unless you have a space to talk about your feelings as well.
Do your research
Make sure that you have checked out what options are available for the person you are concerned about. Will you be encouraging them to access rehab through the NHS or privately? Do you feel confident that you know what the different options are and what the important differences are? Have you checked what is available to you locally and how long rehab might take? Will they need some support from you or anyone else with managing childcare or other commitments? Make sure you have thought through some of the details so that they do not have to work everything out themselves when they are already feeling overwhelmed.
Be prepared to listen
Addiction is only a coping mechanism. It is the behavioural manifestation of something deeper underneath which is troubling them. When you ask someone about their addiction, you are really asking them, ‘What’s really wrong?’ Some people drink to excess or engage in other addictive behaviours without knowing what the cause is. Alcohol rehab will help with this. However, some people might know what is really bothering them, Jason Shiers Certified Psychotherapist says “you must be prepared to listen to them speak and provide some support and encouragement. “
You can do this through ‘reflective listening’ – repeating back what you have heard to show that you understand them – and providing warm, empathetic responses. Here is an example of reflective listening:
Person with addiction: “I just feel so alone, I can’t cope. It’s all too much, so I drink to forget everything.”
Family member/friend: “So you feel like you need to drink because you are so overwhelmed?”
Person with addiction: “Yes, exactly! It’s all too much”.
Reflective listening helps the person to feel that you are following what they are saying and that you are listening without judgement. Fight the urge to give advice or tell them how to cope better. They will receive a lot of support with these things during alcohol rehab, but right now, your role is just to show them that you understand and care.
It can be very daunting to approach someone with an addiction. The most important things to remember are to communicate your sense of concern and the love you have for the person and to show them that you are listening in a non-judgemental way. Someone who feels judged or criticised will shut down, and this could really hinder their chance of progress.
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