by Jenna Brown
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) estimates that 17.6 million people in the United States suffers from alcoholism or alcohol dependency, which is one in 12 people over the age of 12. Several million more people engage in risky drinking behavior. The NCADD reports that 20 million Americans have used an illegal drug in the past 30 days, and another 48 million are using prescription drugs for non-medical reasons.
Yet you are not helpless. You can help your friend or family member get the help they need -- provided they are ready for it. Here are a few things you can do to help someone seek help with addiction:
Educate Yourself on the Signs and Symptoms of Addiction
Your loved one may be in denial that they have a problem. The best thing you can do is educate yourself before you start the conversation. Some signs and symptoms of addiction may include:
- Problems at work or school
- Lack of energy and motivation
- Poor hygiene habits
- Changes in behavior
- Financial problems
When you talk with your loved one, you can cite some of these symptoms as cause for your concern.
Most television shows and movies portray an intervention for addicts that includes a group of family and friends. However, being confronted by a group can put addicts on the defensive. Before you opt for an intervention, try talking to your loved on individually. Choose a time and place that you know you will be alone and will have plenty of time to talk.
Wait Until the Person is Sober
You will not make any progress if you try to talk to an addict while they are drunk or high. In fact, the addict may become very volatile when confronted. Instead, you should wait until you know the person is sober to have the conversation. The addict will be more receptive to what you have to say and can respond in a more rational manner.
Use Non-Blaming Language
Lecturing or criticizing an addict will only make them shut down or block out what you have to say. Just think about how you respond to someone lecturing or criticizing you -- probably not too well. Use non-blaming language to create a dialogue with your loved one about their addiction. Focus on asking open-ended questions, such as how the addict feels their substance abuse has affected them.
Focus on Specific Behaviors
Addicts don't typically understand the severity of their problem or how it has affected others. Offering specific examples can help to illustrate your point and keep the conversation on track. Cite examples of how the addiction has affected the person -- such as the loss of a job or the ending of a relationship -- as well as examples of how the addiction has affected you -- such as the addict stealing money from you or not showing up at an important event.
What you don't want to do when you cite these examples is to turn yourself into a martyr. Becoming overly emotional or trying to make the person feel guilty may only intensify the need to drink or use drugs. You should also not preach, moralize, bribe or threaten. These things will only put the person on the defensive.
Do not argue with the person about the addiction, as this will only derail the conversation. You cannot force a person to recognize their addiction or to seek help. If your loved one is not receptive to the conversation, drop it and return to it again another time. If you feel that an intervention is necessary, contact a professional counselor to make sure the intervention is productive. Have a reputable treatment facility such as Reflections Recovery Center in mind to refer your loved one when they are ready to get the treatment they need.