Addiction is a disease much like diabetes or heart disease. It’s usually easy to remain friends with someone after they develop heart disease or diabetes, but the same cannot be said for friendships with addicts.
As a friend to an addict, you’re torn. It’s impossible not to be. You love your friend, but you don’t love what he or she has become. You want to help your friend, but you don’t know if it’s possible. You don’t want to see him overdose, but you feel like you may have already lost him for good.
And there’s the burning question:What can you do?
>Here are some tips for being a good friend to an addict:
Addiction is a disease of the brain. Since addiction affects the brain so deeply, it also affects the person’s behavior. Additionally, there’s a stigma attached to addiction that other diseases don’t have. So your friend isn’t acting like themselves, and you’ll likely be judged for spending time with them. That makes things difficult!
We’ve only been diagnosing addiction as an illness since 1956 when the American Medical Association (AMA) recognized it as such. Prior to this, people commonly believed that addiction was solely the addict’s fault. Since then, addiction has become recognized as a chronic, often relapsing brain disease, rather than a moral failing.
When you understand that addiction changes a person’s brain chemistry, it’s easier to react with empathy instead of judgment.
When you love someone, you want to see them happy. Unfortunately, the only way to make an addict happy is to provide them with a means to obtain or use drugs. Drug addicts can be sneaky, misleading and dishonest. They’ll do anything to get another fix. And the people who love them are likely to believe their lies. You want to believe that she needs money for the dentist, so you hand over $200 and hope to see her teeth capped soon. But deep down, you know you won’t.
You know she’s going to use the money for drugs. It was just more pleasant for you to pretend it could have been for something else. This is enabling, and it doesn’t help anyone.
Before you respond to any requests from an addicted friend, ask yourself if the end result would help them get high. Say no to anything that could result in that person buying or using drugs.
Always be there
There will likely be times where you don’t want to be around your addict friend. That’s okay. You don’t always have to be physically present. Just let him know that you’re in his corner. You’re not going to help him use drugs, but you’ll always be there to help him off of them.
It can be difficult to be a good friend to an addict because it’s painful. Their only life motivation is to get high, and they’ll stop at nothing to get there, which means friendship is trampled. You often have no choice but to sit back and watch your friend become a shell of her former self as you wait for her to hit rock bottom.
Just keep talking about rehab and getting help. Talk about how great sober life can be and how you miss having your friend around. With any luck, your friend will come around eventually and she’ll need you more than ever.
Author: Trevor is part of the content marketing team for Medically Assisted and a recovering addict & alcoholic who’s been clean and sober for over 5 years. Since his recovery began, he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources, addiction awareness, and general health knowledge. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.