I’ve dealt with a lot of addicts in my life. There were some who didn’t make their addiction obvious and some who did. I had a cousin who used to be addicted to heroin. It was difficult to wrap my head around her situation and even try to be there for her, despite my attempts to do so. At the time, I thought I was there for her; in retrospect, I ended up not wanting to be associated with her.
If someone you care about is dealing with addiction, here are some things to consider when interacting with them:
Don’t criticize them.
One thing addicts hate more than broken paraphernalia is being criticized or having someone persistently hassle them about their situation, even if you do mean well. Even if they want to go straight but make little effort, harassing them about it will distance them from you and anyone else trying to help.
The mind of an addict is already consumed by their addiction. If they refuse to get clean, your persistence will slowly, but surely, have them distance themselves until you realize that it’d been months since your last contact. If they’re trying to get clean, let them do so at their own pace. If they’re committed, you rushing them will baffle their addict-wired minds and make them reconsider turning around for the better. If you criticize the way they try to get clean, it’ll make them consider themselves as a failure and believe the only option is life is to continually fail with drugs in hand.
Be there for them.
The important thing when dealing with an addict is to simply be there for them. They’re always in need of someone to have as their source of support. Usually, addicts are addicts in the first place because of issues that took a toll on them to the point of turning to drugs for a moment of peace.
Deep down, there’s a bit of regret on becoming an addict, and hopes of getting clean, even when they’re adamant on staying on drugs. Just be there for them to hear them out when they have thoughts to share. Listen to what they say and if there’s an inkling of their regret, or any hope to get clean, continue supporting them and being there all the way until they are clean.
Continue to love them.
The hardest part of caring for an addict is continuing to love them. If the addict you care for seems impossible to help, it’s easy for your respect for them to deteriorate. It’s also easy to slowly stop caring about their well-being. But even when worst comes to worst, remind yourself to never stop loving them.
Love is what an addict needs the most during their time of need. They’ll soon realize that they have someone there for them and that you’re worth keeping in their life once they turn their life around.
Don’t be an enabler.
With the details given, it’s difficult to do what was mentioned without being an enabler. Sometimes, no matter how much you’re there for them and gently encourage their sobriety, an addict might stay the way they are. The best thing to do in this case is to remind yourself that you’re there for them as a friend, wanting them to get better, and not an enabler. Don’t give them money if they ask for it. If they ask for money, ask what for and buy it for them. Don’t let them get drugs. Try and find ways to distract them; find distractions that make them happy and momentarily forget about their addiction.
As tempting as it is to smack the lighter out of their hand while they get high, avoid such rash actions. You also want the addict to trust you, which is a small step in helping them become sober. Let them feel comfortable sharing their most vulnerable time with you, and they’ll slowly open up to you.
If you want to help an addict, don’t be quick to judge and criticize. Be there for them, and continue to care for them. Just don’t forget that there’s a difference between a friend and an enabler who involuntarily ends up enabling the addict to continue their addiction.