Very often, we look at a friend who is vulnerable to drug or alcohol dependency and convince ourselves that it’s not our business to intervene or not our place to say anything about it. In theory, this sense of neutrality may make perfect sense; in practice, watching an addicted friend fall further and further into substance abuse can be painful and disheartening. If drug or alcohol addiction is allowed to continue long enough without treatment, it will eventually erode the friendship and all other aspects of the addict’s life. There are ways to help an addicted friend without betraying their trust or putting our personal safety or feelings at significant risk.
The Direct Approach
An addicted friend is still a friend and friend will understand that you’re trying to help them. While addiction alters the brain chemistry, somewhere inside of that neurological chaos is the friend we know and love. A frank, honest, supportive and non-judgmental conversation can be the first step toward getting our friends the treatment they need. We should not be naïve enough to believe that they will always be 100 percent honest with us, so we need to use our best judgment in determining their reactions to our overtures of support. If we gain nothing else from this exchange, we make them realize that they can no longer hide their addiction.
Appealing to A Loved One
Even if we don’t think it’s our place to confront an addicted friend, it is surely the responsibility of their family to get them help. By simply voicing our concerns to our friends’ parents or siblings, we are doing our part to intervene to get them help. The dynamics of friendship can be tricky and, while this may seem like a breach of trust, we just have to reassure ourselves that we’re doing the right thing and have our friend’s best interest at heart.
In some cases, setting certain boundaries and keeping distance from our friends while they engage in active substance abuse may be enough of a wakeup call. By the time our addicted friend realizes what their substance abuse is doing to their friendships, chances are other areas of their lives are suffering as well, including their careers, their finances and even their legal freedom. Pulling back from them until they get treatment might be just the wakeup call they need.
Confronting an addicted friend is different for everyone, depending upon the specific dynamics of the relationship. We should never, however, be afraid to step in and help when given the chance, even if they don’t want to acknowledge that we’re helping, at first.