How to Help
Denial is often a hallmark of substance use disorder. No one wants to admit they or a loved one has this disease.
But many won’t get help unless a friend or loved one steps in to share concerns about their drinking or drug use. Most people entering treatment say the influence of a close friend or family member made a lifesaving difference.
Having that talk can be one of the hardest things you’ll do. It’s not always easy to find the words or know how to approach it.
You don’t have to wait for someone to “hit rock bottom” to act. Here are some steps you can take:
- Stop all “cover ups”. Family members often make excuses or try to protect the person from the effects of his or her use. It’s important to stop covering up so that he or she experiences the full consequences.
- Time your talk. The best time to talk is shortly after an alcohol or drug-related problem has occurred, like a serious family argument or an accident. Choose a time when he or she is sober, you are both fairly calm and you can talk in private.
- Be specific. Tell the family member you’re worried. Use examples of the ways in which the use has caused problems.
- State the results. Explain what you will do if he or she doesn’t get help – not to punish, but to protect yourself from his or her problems. Don’t make any threats you are not prepared to carry out.
- Get help. Gather information in advance about treatment options and recovery services in your community. If the person is willing to get help, call immediately for an appointment. Offer to go with the loved one on the first visit.
- Call on a friend. If the loved one still refuses to get help, ask a friend to talk with him or her using these same steps. A person in recovery may be more persuasive, but anyone who is caring and non-judgmental may help.
- Find strength in numbers. With the help of a healthcare professional, some families join other relatives or friends in a formal intervention. This should only be tried under the guidance of an experienced professional.
- Get support. It’s important to remember that you are not alone. There are support groups in many communities that regularly hold meetings. These include Al-Anon, for family members and Alateen, for children of alcoholics.