The Dos and Don’ts of Addressing Addiction in a Loved One

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The Dos and Don’ts of Addressing Addiction in a Loved One

When Your Loved One Is Struggling with Addiction

mom consoling her young adult daughter - loved oneSuspecting (or knowing) that loved one is struggling with an addiction to alcohol, drugs, or prescription medications is a tough spot to be in. You want to help, but they don’t seem to want your help. You don’t want to enable them, but it’s hard to know how to tread the line between too much and too little support.

To help you navigate the process of helping a loved one, we list for you here some thing to NOT do as well as some positive steps to take.


DO NOT completely ignore the problem, hoping it will just go away. Chances are, it will get worse.

DO NOT assume this is “one and done” issue. Addiction and other mental health disorders often go hand in hand. Not always, but a good bit of the time issues like anxiety, depression, PTSD, and bipolar disorder underlie and are exacerbated by substance use and addiction. If you suspect your loved one might be suffering from a mental health disorder, encourage them to meet with a therapist. If they refuse, meet with a therapist yourself to get insight into your loved one’s behavior and learn how to proceed.

DO NOT follow them around, shouting out loud what number of drink they’re on. At this point, they know, or they’re not interested. And it often just makes them want to drink more. (By the way, yes, addiction to alcohol can be just as dangerous as addiction to other drugs.)

DO NOT cut them out of your life without telling them why. This can be unnecessarily – even if it’s unintentional – cruel. In general, abandoning someone with no explanation is really hard on the other person – and someone struggling with an addiction will take it even harder.

DO NOT make jokes about their “problem” – not to them, not to others. Addiction isn’t funny, and although you might just be trying to provide some levity or lighten the mood, it sends the completely wrong message to anyone who hears you.

DO NOT shame them and make them feel awful about themselves. They already feel really awful about themselves. Matter of fact, the better they appear to feel about themselves on the outside, the more likely it is that the opposite is true.

DO NOT act like giving up their addiction substance is no big deal. If it was, they would have already done it. If and when they decide to get help, just know it’s not going to be easy. Withdrawal is real and can be really tough.

On the other hand…

The DOs

If you think someone you care about has an addiction and you want to do something that might actually help, here are some things TO do:

DO your own research. Nothing can take the place of you sitting down for an hour or so and reading real data and facts. There’s way too much anecdotal stuff out there, so the more accurate information you have, the more likely the chance that you can help. The National Institute on Drug Abuse is a good place to start.

DO make sure that you’re reading information that’s current. New data comes out all the time. And new forms of treatment. (For example, did you know that acupuncture and reiki are on the list for recovery options?) Just like in everything, change is the only constant. So please, keep up. The Seabrook blog offers great information about addiction and treatment.

DO talk with experts. It’s tempting to talk to your friends and even casual acquaintances about your challenges. And that makes sense – you need an outlet. But when it comes to getting help and making a plan, you need to talk with experienced, credible professionals who know what they’re doing.

DO try to understand what your loved one is going through. Addiction is both highly personal and a treatable disease. Understanding can go a long way in maintaining this – and all – relationships.

DO tell them that if and when they want to talk, you’re there. Even if they don’t want to talk right now. Timing really is everything, and you want to make sure they know you’re available whenever they’re ready.

DO consider an intervention – but make sure you do it with, or learn best practices from, professionals who know how.

DO a lot more listening than talking. (P.S. – this is a great thing to do in all of your relationships.)

DO be there when and if they reach out. Answer the phone. Return their text. You can be sure it was really hard for them to ask for help – or sometimes, even just to talk and think about getting help. Make it easy when they finally do. And tell them how glad you are that they did.

The Takeaway

Bottom line, there are a whole lot of DOs and DON’Ts when it comes to interacting with someone you think might have an addiction. And the really good news is that you don’t have to figure it out on your own.

You Are Not Alone

For more information on how best to help your loved one, and for the emotional support you’ll need to do it, please contact us today.