In the over-exaggerated world of movies and television, helping someone with addiction can look really heroic and ever-absorbing. I recall scenes of people setting up rooms for their loved ones detoxing, people taking 24-hour vigils as the addicted person was trying to come off drugs. Families and friends driving to and visiting rehabs, sometimes putting their own lives on the line to save the other person.
In my own life, I’ve had people rally for me and go above and beyond to help me get sober—I was lucky that way and I will forever be grateful. But I know that not everyone has such support or is in the position to have their detox and recovery play out like a movie. And if you’re friends with someone with addiction who is struggling, you also know that sometimes it’s just not possible to help them in the way you’d want to—finances, circumstances… life just gets in the way.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t help. You’d be surprised how far a phone call or even an email can go. Just letting someone know that you support them—even from a distance—and appreciate them reaching out is enough. Acknowledging someone’s pain and struggle is big—they might not have anyone else in their life to do that and if you can simply say, “I support and thank you for sharing” that will mean more than not saying anything at all because you don’t think you have much to offer.
What I’ve seen in my journey to sobriety, and as an addiction expert, is that second to addiction itself, loneliness and isolation are the biggest culprits for people’s failure to get sober and stay sober. Not everyone takes to Alcoholic Anonymous, for example, and we’ve all heard the message how that’s the only way to recovery… it can be really confusing for someone to want to stay sober and feeling like they don’t “get” the program.
And not everyone who wants to get sober even considers themselves an “addict” (“alcoholic” “junkie”), because the term might sound so off-putting, derogatory even, that it’s just not something a person might want to label themselves with. Yet, they might still suffer from addiction and have no one to share with because they don’t feel like they belong.
If you have a friend or a loved one like that, believe me, simply acknowledging their pain and sending some words of support might be that one extra push they need to steer them in the right direction. So forget trying to swoop down and stage a big intervention if it’s not possible—and feel guilty about it—as when it comes to addiction, even a word or two of encouragement can be huge. Recovery is a long and hard journey and as it is with any big cause, anything helps because it will all add up and hopefully create the feeling of safety and connection for someone with addiction issues.
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