It can be extremely challenging to help somebody you love who is struggling with alcoholism, a drug problem, an eating disorder or some other destructive behavior. Sometimes a direct conversation can start the person down the road to recovery. But when it comes to addiction, a more direct approach is sometimes needed. For those who struggle with addictive behaviors, denial is usually the case. They don’t see that they have a problem and feel that they are in control of their situation. Intervening gives your loved one an opportunity to have it taken out of their hands, a ‘way out’ if you will.
If you have somebody is your life that you believe needs help with their destructive behavior, there are a few ways that you can be the first step for them.
First, speak up! Talk to the person about your concerns. Offer them your support without being judgmental. Let them know you love them and want to be an encouragement to them. Be prepared for denials; have specific examples to showcase why you are worried.
Second, avoid blaming yourself! You are doing your part by showing your love, support and encouragement. Don’t blame yourself or feel guilty if your first intervention doesn’t work. It is their responsibility to accept the help you offer. You can’t force it on them.
Thirdly, remember you! It is easy to get caught up in their problem and neglect your own life. While you are the addicts support and encouragement, make sure that you yourself have somebody who you can lean on for the same support and encouragement.
Having an encouraging and supportive friend is the most important aspect an addict can have. They may sometimes resist your interference and when that happens, it is easy to feel discouraged and want to give up. “It’s their life they are ruining, not mine”, may be a thought that runs through your mind. But the first response of an addict is almost always denial so being prepared for that denial is essential for the addict to move on from “I don’t have a problem” to “maybe I have a problem” to “I need help.” Their responses likely won’t happen at the same time; there could be days or even weeks between the outright denial and the cry for help. You can’t take the addiction from them, but you can help them recognize it for what it is.
A Final Thought
Be encouraged! Think about recovery as a long spiraling staircase. There are many steps to take, and a lot of corners to turn. As the climber climbs higher up the staircase, twisting and turning, the end comes into view, pushing them on. It may take time for them to work up the courage to take the first step or turn the first corner, but with somebody who is encouraging them to do it, the first step is never out of reach. It is attainable. There are plenty of treatment resources out there.