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Helping Someone Through Addiction

Tough love for addicts

Addiction is a terrible thing. If you know someone who is struggling with addiction, in any form, you will find they are no longer the person you once knew. The disease will slowly change who they are and how they act. It will consume them entirely and it can be very painful to watch. You want to help them, but everything you do seems to make them angry or lead to further withdrawal, and the last thing you want to do is to push them away. Here are some tips to help.

Offer Help

The first thing you should do is simply offer help. Explain that you know they have a problem, that it’s not their fault and that you are there to help them. Many people dealing with addiction either fail to realize that they have a problem or believe that they are doing an excellent job of hiding it.

So, this first conversation may come as a shock to them. Don’t be surprised if they deny it straight away, but keep offering regardless. In their own time, they will become aware of a need for help and remember you.

Tough Love

There will be times along the road to recovery when you need to practice tough love. Be honest with them. Show them how their addiction is affecting them and those around them. Show them how much worse it could get in the future. Be as honest as you can.

Make Recommendations

It’s important not to try and force them into anything that they are not yet ready for, as this could set them back or lead to further denial. However, it’s a good idea to let them know that help is available from a variety of different sources. Mention support groups, doctors and treatment centers such as The Recovery Village.

Set Boundaries

Set clear boundaries as to what you will and will not do. Stick to these, and follow through with consequences if they are broken. Failing to do this will enable their behavioral addiction or another type of dependency.

It make you seem weak and easy to manipulate. Saying no to someone who is suffering can be one of the hardest parts of helping someone through addiction but it’s also one of the most important.


Learn all you can about their condition and what to expect. This will help you to understand their behavior and symptoms, find the best ways to help and prepare for the future.

Look After Yourself

Looking after and helping someone suffering from an addiction is difficult. You are bound to find it both physically and emotionally exhausting. So, it’s exceptionally important that you take the time to look after yourself. Make sure that you are eating well, getting plenty of sleep and relaxing as much as you can. Take some time out for yourself whenever you need it.

Remember, you can’t force them to stop. Do what you can, but, ultimately, the choice to move forward must be theirs and they can only do it for themselves. Not because you want them to.

33 thoughts on “Helping Someone Through Addiction”

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  2. I have battled with an addiction that put me and my family through the wringer. They wanted to help, but didn’t know how, and I always had an excuse. Talking to the addict in active addiction is SO hard, and I think people must understand it is ultimately up to the addict to change. No one and nothing can make the addict change until they’ve endured enough suffering and pain to say enough is enough. Unfortunately, for some, that ‘rock bottom’ is so low, their lives end before they can see the light. I’m so grateful I came out alive, that I hit rock bottom before death, and found hope to recover. Thank you for your post!

  3. I found this post to be very informative and spoke true of the difficulties that lie in the journey of addiction to recovery. I, myself have gone through the turmoil of addiction and the road to recovery does indeed begin with wanting to get better yourself. Although, with that being said, sometimes the addict worsens because they thrive off of loving the life they hate. I look forward to reading more of your posts. If you find yourself with a moment of free time please check out my first post :) I think you would gain some great insight as it pertains to this subject.

  4. This a great informative post. Families are destroyed by the disease of addiction every day. Knowledge is power! Recovery does happen and it’s important to keep hope while maintaining your own self-care and healthy boundaries.

  5. ‘Addictions’, irrelevant of what to, may yet turn out to one of the ‘new era’, hardest things to treat, control, cure.

    May be a terminology thing but is an ‘addiction’ an actual disease? I tend to think of a ‘disease’ as something that is passed from one to another.

    Is it not an ‘illness’ or a ‘condition’? The reason I make this statement, pose this question is, my family lived next door to an alcoholic. We always wondered how, when they were employed, their addiction kicked in, so to speak, their employer was very good with them. Apparently their addiction, from an employer’s perspective, was treated as an illness.

    1. Addiction, specifically substance abuse and alcoholism, is passed on from one to another through genetics. 40-60% of people that suffer from addiction have a close relative that also suffered from an addiction, like a mother or a grandparent.

  6. Amazing insight. As someone who has struggled with addiction, I think one of the most important things is knowing HOW to talk to someone with addiction. It’s not easy if you don’t know the “right” thing to say.

  7. Excellent post filled with useful information. Addiction can destroy families.
    Recently I was in a relationship with a man classified as an enabler whose son continually fed him a pack of lies to obtain fast cash.
    In turn the non-deserving father of son’s mess worried himself sick and became quite depressed.
    Vicious cycle!

  8. Been there, done that!
    No one is as unappreciative as an addict. If you end up hanging in, it is because the addict is someone you love, and that someone will hate you if you try to help. It’s a vicious unrewarding cycle, that usually results in failure.
    I’m trying to be positive within a very negative situation. I am saying be prepared to be the strongest you have ever been.
    In some ways it is akin to hanging in and loving a schizophrenic.
    Been there and done that, too!

  9. I had a friend who quit drinking and took up Tai Chi, then realized he hated engineering and quit that to teach disadvantaged students. But because of the 50% pay cut his g/f kicked him out. Anyway, we spent a lot of time walking his dogs on the weekend talking philosophy, politics, and personal stuff.

    1. Oh wow that’s quite the story! It’s too bad she didn’t support him… perhaps it spoke to underlying issues already existing in their relationship…

  10. Addiction to any substance is a terrible thing for both the addict and those close to him/her. I know this from personal experience with people close to me. As you said, Christy, the first (and often the hardest) step to recovery involves the addict admitting they have a problem, and your tips are useful to people trying to help. Unfortunately, It’s often a long, slow road to recovery.

  11. Thank you for this post! It definitely isn’t an easy thing to watch. It can be just down right heartbreaking watching someone with an addiction. This was a very helpful post and it is much appreciated.

  12. A very useful post, Christy. I imagine helping someone with an addiction is similar to living with someone suffering from chronic OCD. They need to seek help, boundaries must be implemented and their is not reasoning or rationalising with a sufferer.

  13. Great post! I think everyone needs to read this one. It’s really a matter of true kindness to help someone through addiction. I think even you’ve done it by posting this one.

  14. it might be easier to read and agree than to implement what you said. first of all, people with an addiction will not only deny it to others, but convince themselves they have it under control. It might be a long time coming before they themselves realize they have a problem. To help a person with an addiction, that person must want the help. You can’t help them, no matter how much you try, if they aren’t convinced, or really want the help.

  15. Great post Christy ! Helping them realise they have an addiction is the first step! Once they can admit that they do, then they are more open to help! Xx ☺

    1. Thanks Carol. It’s tough when we want to change someone else’s behavior but it’s ultimately in their hands. We can suggest ideas, though, and love them, which can motivate them. I appreciate your support here xx

    2. It is so hard even when they know they have an addiction! I have tried for years to help a couple people and feel like I am getting no where. I am supposed to be reducing my stress because it has been causing problems with my MS but I just have this need to fix issues in people I care about lives!

    3. Oh hi there! You need to remember to look after yourself! You can only look after people if you are looking after yourself! I hope your MS gets better (under control) xx

    4. No, no need to feel selfish! You need to look after yourself before you can look after others! Xx hope you get better soon!

    5. Thank you so much Carol! I have always felt a need to take care of people. Even as a child! But I am working on just thinking of me. This blog has been really helpful for me!

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