It’s never easy to approach a friend when you need to have a difficult conversation, but sometimes there’s no way around it. If you’ve become concerned about a friend’s behaviors in regards to drugs or alcohol, it’s important that you do find a way to express yourself to the addict. Here are a few tips to get you started with having the important conversation with your friend:
- Choose a wise time to approach your friend. Make sure they are not actively inebriated when you approach them, as it will make them less inclined to listen and will likely impair their judgements.
- Make sure that the two of you can talk together privately first. Don’t go straight to a group intervention. It’s much better if you can give your friend an opportunity to hear you out first. They may be surprised to find out their behaviors had changed so much and might be open to treatment right away.
- Know what you’re going to say in advance. Consider how your friend has changed and what behaviors you are specifically concerned about. Be prepared to tell him or her what your worries are, though you don’t need to try to scare them. Be ready for them to have questions or to resist.
- Give them a reasonable amount of time. Of course the risk here is that their behavior could get much worse in the meantime, so set a date in the very near future to talk again. Lay out specific changes you think they should make before that time.
- While some people do need to hit rock bottom before they can start getting better, for most people it is actually a myth that this is a necessary part of getting on the road towards recovery. In fact, most people will be open to help as soon as they find out you’re worried.
- Talk to their family privately. Share your concerns and find out theirs. If they feel threatened or at risk, encourage them to get help or protection for themselves.
- If you are still very concerned and your friend is still resisting treatment, it is then time to pursue the intervention as an option. Make sure everyone has plenty of time to express themselves and leave a few hours for the whole meeting. Give everyone plenty of notice and encourage them to write down their thoughts beforehand. It’s a very good idea to involve a psychologist or social worker at this stage to help you as they will be better trained to handle specific crises and to help individuals discover effective ways to express themselves to each other.
- Don’t try to force them to do anything. Not only is this ineffective, it’s also illegal. A person can only be forced to undergo treatment by a court order, which usually follows an arrest.
- Don’t suddenly disappear when they do finally start to pursue rehab. Help them to understand that there is a variety of options in treatment, and no one is going to make them check themselves into an expensive months-long program at a facility.
- Visit whenever you can, at the facility if they do choose that route, or at home. Bring or mail small encouragement gifts regularly. This can be as small as nice notes and letters, candies, books, etc.
- Check in with their family the entire time. Make sure they feel safe and are content with the situation as it progresses.
- Be supportive when your friend struggles, but make your limits known. If you don’t want your friend to come to your house when they are under the influence, you are allowed to say so. Make sure they know that you want to be able to help them and you don’t want to see them get hurt or worse, but that you have to set these limits. Help them to understand why you have set them if they are confused.
- Help them develop positive habits as they recover. For many people, it can be difficult to quit something they have relied on so long, and you may see that they develop addictive behaviors with other things like caffeine, food, or cigarettes. Though they will likely need to have some rewards in order to be successful, try to help them develop good ones. If they are struggling with cravings, take them to do something distracting like going for a walk before letting them have a cigarette. And if they do come to rely on cigarettes, help them choose a less unhealthy option like the electronic cigarette to keep from developing another problem. The NJOY e-cig starter pack is a particularly cost-effective option if you decide that you want to buy one to bring as a gift to your friend to really put them in a position where it would be downright inconvenient to choose regular cigarettes instead.
- Be there when they get out. Things may be very different for them for a little while, so be sure to provide a safe space and a listening ear to the degree that you can. If they need a place to stay, consider helping them out. If they just need to talk, be there for them. If they try to call at work or become otherwise difficult to manage, just talk with them about it and set guidelines for how you can best help them. For example, encourage them to, instead of calling whenever they get upset, to write things down and call you at the end of the day. Consider going with them to AA meetings. Help them with chores to minimize their stress on returning home. Help friends and family understand the strain and stress that your friend has just gone through and advise them on sensitive ways to behave around them.
Though it’s never an easy process to help a friend through addiction, it doesn’t have to feel impossible. Consult with a professional in advance to manage your own expectations, and always practice positive thinking. It will be a good influence on your struggling friend.