Tough Love: How To Help an Addict

Have you recently discovered that someone you love is struggling with addiction? It’s a difficult and confusing time. You may feel like you don’t know what to do or where to turn. You may get angry or frustrated and want to give up, but don’t despair. There is hope. You can still love them without enabling the addiction. Here are tips on how to help an addict:

Educate Yourself

You’re better equipped to make tough decisions when you have the right information. Learn as much as you can about addiction and recovery. This will help you understand what your loved one is going through and how you can best help them. 

You’ll also discover that you’re not alone. Many resources and support groups are available to help you through this difficult time. You’ll also realize there’re institutions such as Spark to Recovery to treat addiction.

Set Boundaries

It’s difficult to set boundaries because you want to help the addict without enabling the addiction. Set firm boundaries and stick to them. For example, you may need to limit contact or set a curfew. You may also have to stop giving them money.

Be clear about your expectations and what will happen if not met. You’ll also have to talk and agree on some decisions as a family, such as treatment options and going to support groups1.

Be Supportive

Show your loved one you care and want to help. Listen without judging and offer encouragement and hope. Let them know that you’re there for them and will support their recovery. 

When they make mistakes or relapse, don’t give up on them. It’s a difficult road to recovery, and there will be setbacks. Showing your support will help them stay motivated and focused on recovery.

Seek Professional Help

If you’re struggling to cope or don’t know how to help, seek professional help. There’re counselors and therapists specializing in addiction and recovery2. They’ll provide you with support and guidance. You can also join a support group for families of addicts. The groups provide information and support from people in similar situations. Opening up to others enables you to deal with your feelings and frustrations.

Take Care of Yourself

Take care of yourself during this difficult time. Addicts often put their own needs first and neglect their loved ones. You’ll sometimes feel angry, resentful, and helpless but learn how to express your feelings healthily. Additionally, learn how to distance your feelings from the chaos around you.

Talk to a friend, counselor, or therapist if feeling overwhelmed. Besides this, spend time with friends and loved ones, do things you enjoy, and take care of your health

Don’t Cover Their Consequences

One of the most difficult things you’ll have to do is let your loved one face the consequences of their actions. Naturally, you’ll want to protect them from the pain, but it will only enable the addiction. 

Letting them hit rock bottom may be the only thing that will help them realize they need to change. For instance, if they don’t have money to pay rent, don’t give them. If arrested, don’t bail them out of jail. It’s hard to see them suffer, but it may be the only thing that will help them turn their life around.

Don’t Force Them To Quit

Tough love doesn’t mean giving ultimatums or forcing them to quit. It’s about helping them realize they need to transform their life. They need to want recovery more than anything else. You can’t make that decision for them. The best you can do is provide support and guidance.

Don’t Give Up

Tough love is never easy, but it’s sometimes necessary to help an addict. You’ll, at some point, feel like you’re doing more harm than good but don’t give up. Seek professional help if you’re struggling to cope or make decisions3. Remember to take care of yourself during this difficult time.

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  1. Weinberg, Nancy, et al. “Computer-mediated support groups.” Social Work with Groups 17.4 (1995): 43-54. ↩︎
  2. Davidson, Larry, et al. “Enabling or engaging? The role of recovery support services in addiction recovery.” Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly 28.4 (2010): 391-416. ↩︎
  3. Rugalema, Gabriel. “Coping or struggling? A journey into the impact of HIV/AIDS in southern Africa.” Review of African Political Economy 27.86 (2000): 537-545. ↩︎

Last Updated on by ayeshayusuf


Icy Health Editorial Team

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