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.