If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact the Military Crisis Line or call 911: 1-800-273-8255, press 1 or Text 838255

When Someone You Know is Struggling with Addiction

Addiction is complicated and often impacts not only the person with an addiction, but also those around them. If a Service member you know is struggling with addiction, you may be overwhelmed trying to deal with their behaviors, potential financial problems, career setbacks or feelings of shame. Supporting a person with addiction is not an easy task, but there are things you can do to help.

How you can help

Helping a buddy or loved one who has an addiction can be tricky. Some might practice ‘tough love’ by taking a hands-off approach and letting the person hit ‘rock bottom’. While understandable, that approach may not help because addiction can be life-long and requires time, energy and support from others to manage.

Instead, experts recommend a compassionate approach by building an environment of trust, honesty and understanding. Compassion is key to helping a person with addiction recover.

Try these tips to understand what your Service member is going through:

  • Realize they are probably in pain or distress. Denial is a strong part of addiction, but deep down there is usually strong physical or emotional pain.
  • Learn about addiction and how it affects people. Understand their struggles and know that people with addictions aren’t weak; they are dealing with a physical need.
  • Listen. Sometimes a pat on the shoulder or being a safe person to talk to is a huge part of what they need.
  • Know that people with addictions may be embarrassed. Try not to add to it by blaming or criticizing them.
  • Be encouraging. Let them know you believe they can live a healthy life. Recent studies show that our brains make new pathways, even as adults, which means we can create new patterns of behavior.
  • Set boundaries. Often, people with addictions take advantage of close relationships. There are many ways to be supportive, but lying for them or giving them money is not the answer.
  • Be patient. Recovery can be a long process.
  • Remember, this is personal. Unless you think they may harm themselves or others, respect their privacy.

As a friend of someone in need, you deserve support too. Contact Military OneSource or your chaplain to speak with someone in confidence.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact the Military Crisis Line or call 911: 1-800-273-8255, press 1 or Text 838255