How to Help a Drug Addict Seek Recovery

Last Updated: Aug 24th 2021

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

How to Help a Drug Addict Seek Recovery

If a friend or family member is struggling with addiction issues, you’re probably feeling a mixture of compassion, frustration, fear, and helplessness. You may be spending much of your time wondering how to help a drug addict experience success in their journey with recovery. It’s natural for those in your position to feel a variety of conflicting emotions, and you’re undoubtedly aware of the strain that addiction places on relationships of any kind. If that person has recently made a commitment to recovery, you’re probably also wondering how you can be supportive in ways that have the best chance of helping your loved one’s recovery be successful.

Knowing how to help someone get off drugs isn’t always straightforward or simple. Personal relationships can be complicated. As a result, it’s sometimes difficult to bring up addiction and recovery in a way that your loved one will feel is coming from the best possible place. However, there are ways to help someone struggling with addiction. The most important being to find an addiction treatment center that can give them back the life they deserve.

Although there aren’t any one-size-fits-all answers to providing a person in recovery with support, there are a few best practices and more than a few pitfalls experienced by those in your situation. Here’s what you need to know about providing genuine support as your loved one gets started in their journey toward a sober life.

Get educated about drug addiction and recovery

The first way to help addicts on the road to recovery is by learning more about drug addiction. To start, remember that drug addiction isn’t a choice, a character flaw, or a moral defect. It’s an illness and should be viewed as one. It needs to be diagnosed and then treated so that patients can go on to live happy, healthy, and successful lives.

Get familiar with the process of treatment. After detox, patients attend a rehab facility. Rehab is where your loved one will have the chance to learn new habits. They’ll also learn how to prevent relapse, while working hard to tackle the factors that lead them to addiction. Finally, they’ll have unlimited access to great resources and professionals.

There is an abundance of excellent resources designed to provide you with the knowledge that you need to effectively support someone who is working through addiction issues. You can read books written by experts on the subjects of addiction and recovery as well as learn from others who’ve walked the path you’re just beginning. As with anything else in life, knowledge is power, so the more you learn about addiction and recovery, the better able you are to offer support to your loved one.

Learn to differentiate between support and enabling

By now, you’ve probably heard the term “enabling” tossed around quite a bit in discussions involving addiction and recovery. This is normal because enabling behavior often closely resembles that of authentic support. Those who enable aren’t necessarily trying to sabotage their loved ones, but it’s often necessary for them to fine-tune their self-awareness to avoid acting as enablers while believing they’re just offering support, and in some cases, protection. 

A basic example of enabling is if your loved one misses work as the result of a relapse, and you make excuses to their employer. This is enabling because you are making it so that they aren’t facing the true consequences of their behavior. As a general rule, anything that somehow compromises your own personal standards or morals is probably crossing the fine line between being supportive and enabling the person. If it involves lying or making excuses, it’s enabling.

Join a support group

Group therapy is not only for those struggling with addiction. It provides a safe place for those in your position to vent, complain, get outside advice on how to help someone with drug addiction, and simply feel that they’re not alone. Connecting with others in the same boat is an important part of providing those in recovery with the best possible support.

Support groups generally include those in varying stages of providing support to loved ones in recovery and can therefore serve as valuable resources for those who are just beginning to learn how to help a drug addict navigate the often rough and rocky waters of recovery. As an added bonus, support groups of this nature often result in lifelong friendships between participants, and these strong bonds can be invaluable.

How to help a drug addict identify the problem

Helping a drug addict achieve recovery may include steering them towards identifying or admitting that there’s a problem. Many loved ones want to avoid a confrontation, but keep in mind that confrontation doesn’t have to be upsetting. A planned intervention, for example, eliminates the element of surprise but can still be the catalyst that drives addicts towards treatment and a life of sobriety.

If you want to learn more about planning an intervention, we encourage you to read into the 5 intervention pitfalls to avoid.

Research drug addiction treatment options

Trying to choose addiction treatment programs can be overwhelming, so one of the ways you can help is by conducting research for your loved one. First, it’s important to look at the available levels of care and the types of programs available at a facility. Treatment methods are also integral to success. The best rehab facilities offer the following:

Help with the logistics of treatment

If you’re wondering how to help a drug addict in a practical way, handling the logistics of detox and rehab is a great first step. This can include physically providing them with a means of transportation to get to their choice of addiction treatment facility. Additionally, it might mean helping them with the finer details of determining how to pay for treatment or checking on the status of health insurance coverage for rehab. These are no small matters, and they can be the difference between your loved one attending treatment or skipping it altogether.

Drug addiction doesn’t need to continue running your life, or the life of a loved one. At 1st Step Behavioral Health in Pompano Beach, Florida, we can help you take on active addiction. Call (866) 319-6126 to get on the path toward lifelong sobriety and a brighter future for yourself and those you care about most.

How to help a drug addict stay clean

Helping someone get the necessary treatment in order to stay clean is an achievement in and of itself, but helping a drug addict stay clean can be even more difficult. Encouraging healthy habits is a great way to offer support to a loved one as they overcome addiction. Asking the person to accompany you on nature-based activities such as hiking, fishing, or picnicking is a good way to get some fresh air and exercise in an outdoor setting. If you’d like to introduce healthy eating patterns into your household routine, consider practicing nutritious cooking with your loved one. 

Whatever the new activities or hobbies are, the importance of this is to replace old patterns and routines with new ones that are conducive to a healthy lifestyle. Persuade the other loved one to explore these with you as much as possible.

Learn the warning signs of relapse

It’s important for both the person in recovery and their partners or other loved ones to become familiar with the warning signs of relapse. Common signs include the following:

  • Failure to attend meetings 
  • Attending meetings but not engaging with the group
  • Self-isolating
  • Poor self-care
  • Cravings for substance in question

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, most people in recovery experience at least one relapse, which is why knowing the warning signs is an essential part of the process. It’s also recommended that you and your loved one identify personal triggers so that you can plan to avoid or minimize them.

Realize that recovery is a lifelong process

Drug addiction treatment can stop a former addict from doing drugs again for years but that doesn’t mean they’re out of the woods forever and will never relapse. Recovery from drug addiction is truly a lifelong process and you’ll likely be providing support to your loved one for years to come. 

Like all other aspects of life, the recovery process will have its ups and downs. Unfortunately, this means that those in recovery often relapse — sometimes several times before finding the right kind of treatment for their personal needs and preferences. Fortunately, this is far more likely to occur during the first year or so in recovery, but it doesn’t mean that the person has failed but rather that the method of treatment wasn’t the right one for them — and you may find yourself asking how to help someone overcome drug addiction all over again. The good news is that the longer the person goes without using substances, the greater the chances of achieving lifelong sobriety. 

If you have a friend, spouse, son or daughter who is struggling with drug addiction, please feel free to call or text us at your convenience. We’re available by phone at (866) 971-5531 for those requiring immediate assistance or you can use our online contact form.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

Brittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is the Assistant Clinical Director at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.