You’re best friends—or at least you were, before addiction took over his life. You still care about him, and can’t wait to spend time with him again, without addiction and drugs ruling the conversation, but how? Watching a friend struggle with an addiction to drugs or alcohol can be extremely upsetting, but you can offer help.
While you may not be able to force your friend into treatment for his addiction, you can urge him in the right direction by lovingly offering guidance and support when he needs it the most. To do so, you need to make sure that you have the support that YOU need to stay well in the process.
Here’s a look at what you can do to help an addicted friend choose treatment instead of letting addiction ruin another day of his life:
Be Prepared to Seek Support for Yourself
It sounds counterproductive—your friend needs help, but you need support? WHY?
The truth is, addiction affects more than just the user. Friends and loved ones are also deeply impacted and, in many ways, wounded by the addiction of a loved one. Before you plan to discuss the addiction, and the need for treatment, with your friend, make sure you have a support system in place for yourself and your needs.
- There’s a good chance that your friend will initially lash out and get upset with you about the offering of treatment. It’s not your fault, but you could feel the repercussions in the form of sadness or anxiety, and for this—you need support.
- If you give your friend an ultimatum, “choose treatment or I walk away” or something similar, you need support to ensure that you won’t “give in.” Be prepared for your friend to say no, even though you KNOW they should say yes.
- Addiction takes its toll on everyone—not just the user. Be prepared to seek support for yourself so that you don’t fall into the throws of becoming codependent or otherwise in a state of suffering as a result of your loved ones problem.
- Talking to an addict about treatment can be extremely difficult because the individual will most certainly twist the situation around and make you out to be the one with the problem. You need to be prepared for this.
Wait for the Right Time
When is the “right” time to tell your friend that you think he needs to seek addiction treatment? How mad will he get? Will he ever forgive you for your accusations?
The time to discuss treatment with your bestie isn’t all about what’s right for you—it’s actually about finding a time that’s right for them. It’s important that you approach your friend at a time when he is sober or as close to sober as possible—you want him to remember the conversation that you have together.
Here are a few more reasons to wait until sobriety is a factor in the discussion:
- IF your friend is sober, there’s a chance he will feel more remorse about the situation and that there will be less backlash.
- If your friend is sober, there’s a chance he will be willing to “do anything” to feel better—and this could include accepting your recommendation of treatment.
- IF your friend is sober, he will have a clear (or at least semi-clear) mindset.
Be Completely Honest
Does your friend’s decision to use drugs make you feel scared, angry, frustrated, or otherwise upset? Tell him!
Don’t be afraid to be completely open and honest with your friend about how YOU feel about the addiction. Remember, somewhere, deep down inside that individual that you’re talking to is your best friend—if you’re completely honest with how the addiction impacts YOU and your life, the addict may find the strength to accept treatment.
Here are some ways that you can be honest with your friend and help him choose addiction treatment:
- Be specific, bringing up times that specifically address your concerns.
- Discuss behaviors or actions that have occurred and HOW they impact your thoughts and feelings.
- Tell your friend WHY you think he needs help.
- Be sure not to accuse—any specific feelings, actions, or behaviors that you address in the conversation MUST be real and they MUST be directly related to the addiction. Otherwise, the friend will feel like you’re pointing fingers.
- Stay calm and keep pushing on no matter how the individual pushes back at you for your comments—remember, they will do just about anything to pin the problem on someone other than themselves.
Lend a Listening Ear
There’s an old saying, “God gave you two ears and one mouth so you could listen more than you talk.” Keep this in mind when discussing addiction treatment with a friend or loved one.
You may have a wall up when you initiate a conversation because you’re likely expecting your friend to lash out, to place the blame on you, and to be defensive. It’s important that you let that wall down enough to have an open conversation, and that you don’t overreact. Be a listener.
Here’s what you should do:
- Let your friend talk to you, and don’t cut in—listen, listen, listen.
- If he says something you disagree with, allow him to finish and don’t be quick to snap in about how you don’t agree. This doesn’t mean you just allow your friend to go on without knowing that you disagree, but think about when the right time to interject is and do so in a caring, loving, non-combative manner.
- Let your friend tell you about his addiction or his feelings—this shows him that you care enough to hear his side of the story.
- If your friend completely denies the problem, just move on gently and continue to work the conversation in a manner that is not combative but rather encouraging.
Educate and Inform
Just because your friend is addicted to drugs, this does not mean the he understands his addiction fully. Don’t mistake the fact that someone you love is an addict, for the idea that he knows exactly what has happened or how the addiction is impacting his life.
The reality is, your friend’s addiction is likely blinding him to the reality of how troublesome the condition really is. In fact, it’s very common for an outsider like yourself to notice the repercussions of addiction much sooner than an addict does. Help your friend to understand how the addiction is impacting his life and yours by sharing information.
Some of the ways you can education your friend and encourage addiction treatment include:
- Sharing links to NIDA and other helpful resources that explain addiction.
- Sharing pamphlets and information guides that encourage treatment.
- Sharing a phone number to our helpline 800-654-0987 where your friend can call for immediate help.
- Sharing encouraging words, phrases or images.
No matter what you do, make sure you keep communication lines open between you and your friend as he makes the difficult decision to seek treatment for addiction. This could save his life, and your friendship at the same time—for more help, call 800-654-0987 for immediate treatment placement.