Helping a Friend on DRUGS
It is so hard to help someone on drugs, especially if they are in denial. Addiction is something that is often kept secret, making it difficult to confront someone who is caught in its grip. It has many layers, all hidden under deception. In fact, addicts usually believe the lies they tell themselves and others. So, the challenge is to find a way to break through the veneer to find the person underneath.
Having worked as a therapist for many years, I have often had to challenge unhealthy lifestyles that involve addictive behaviour. For me, it is easier to do because I have a professional relationship with the client. I usually know a great deal about the client, often more than family and friends and so can see clearly without the hindrance of intimate relationships getting in the way.
So how can you help your friend with addiction?
It will depend on some factors:
• How close are you?
• How robust is your relationship?
• How honest are you with your own struggles?
• How open are they to receiving support?
It is difficult to challenge someone about being on drugs, if you don’t have a close relationship, as they will most likely become defensive. If you are concerned and know someone who is closer to the person than you, maybe it’s best to speak to them about your concerns and construct a plan together. The addiction will certainly be affecting the wider family and friends and the impact on them can be something that you can speak about. If they have children, you are entering a whole new arena. There are legal implications regarding their safety and you will need to consider this.
You may be a work colleague who has become aware of the problem. It may also be influencing their work. This will give you another way of confronting it. Usually drugs start to take their toll by affecting time keeping, work output, relationships and self-care. In some organisations, there is support in place to help staff. Coaching or counselling may be available and if accessed, would enable them to discover the root cause behind the problem.
Emotional knowledge is important in discussing delicate subjects. It involves stating something in a manner that gives the person something specific to reply to.
It is very important how you phrase your questions. Try these:
• I have noticed that you are not eating well, why is that?
• I am concerned about you, I think you are taking drugs. What would help you?
• You seem to have lost your zest for life, what can I do to help you?
What, why, who, when and where questions, are open questions and require more than a yes or no answer.
If you have been honest with your friend about your own life, then you are better placed to just speak up. They are less likely to think that you see yourself as superior to them, if they have been a sounding board for you on occasions too.
Initially, it would be best if you found out what avenues there are to support them and maybe you could offer to attend with them. There are groups that deal with specific addictions, Narcotics Anonymous (NA) for drug takers, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) for alcoholics. There are some differences between NA and AA, as alcoholics tended to be pure alcoholics and addicts are pure addicts, but in the current world of substance abuse, cross-addiction seems to be a bit more prevalent, so choosing what program is right for you, is important. See this site for more information on NA and AA.
There are also Recovery Groups run in churches based on the same 12 Step Programme that AA and NA use. These groups are for everyone, not just Christians and they work with all addictions.
In the end, the only way to help someone on drugs is to confront them, while still believing in them as people. Don’t let it become the elephant in the room. If you know for sure that they are in trouble, take a deep breath, take all the information you have on support groups etc, as well as your concerns, then bite the bullet.
Only a true friend can speak the truth.
Susie Flashman Jarvis is an accredited counsellor, speaker and ambassador for the charity Restored working towards bringing an end to violence against women. Susie’s novel At Therapy’s End tackles the issue of domestic abuse. She is based in the UK and is available for skype sessions. Susie may be contacted via her website.
IF YOU HAVE A ROBUST RELATIONSHIP YOU ARE BETTER PLACED TO CHALLENGE THEIR BEHAVIOUR.