Helping Someone Overcome Addiction – Dos & Don’ts

If you live in any major city in Canada or some rural town, there is a good chance that you know a person struggling with illicit drugs or alcohol abuse. The fact that this is true is, in itself, an alarming fact. But even more troublesome is that the information to help a person in overcoming addiction is so varied with opinions that it makes help difficult.

The only resolution families have is to put the person in the hands of a professional. Often this is a doctor or counsellor. Even if this is a route to use and will be helpful in the long run, it is further down the road on the recovery line.

Helping Someone & Hopelessness

More often than not, families & friends find themselves in a hopeless situation. What can I do if the addicted doesn’t want my help? Too many instances have occurred where you may have tried to speak with them and tell them to seek help, but the person just ignores your request. Many will take this as a failure. Truth be told, it is an expected response from the substance abuser.

Know that an addicted person is not tracking with the same information as you or I. The abuser is in their own world and, in fact, sees things from a very distorted point of view. The idea that someone under the influence of any mind-altering substance can think and reason clearly is absurd. These mess up the person’s ability to reason with simple information.

 Overcoming addiction.

Overcoming Addiction & Failures

Drugs of all types, over time, will affect various human abilities, including responsibility, morals, perceptions, cognitive ability, and more. So, your efforts are not failures but rather rejected by complex conclusions made by a person who is not fully aware of their present issues and environment.

Do’s & Don’ts in Helping an Addicted

Major “Don’ts” in Getting a Person to Receive Help

Getting a person to recognize and accept that they need help will require patience, care, compassion, the ability to grant life, and above all, good communication skills. There are a few things you should never do:

  • You should not keep asking why the individual keeps getting drunk or high.
  • Pointing to them how destructive it is to their health and those around them.
  • And call them out when they were high or drunk.

All this does is make the person feel worse about their actions. It is an additional unwanted feeling, and they will use more drugs as the solution to get relief from the unwanted sensation.  

The Must “Do’s”

Helping a person with substance abuse can be done only with a gradient approach. It means

  • presenting things a little bit at a time.
  • Things the person can accept easily in the direction of the end purpose – accepting help.

This may go something like this,

  • first, present a booklet or flyer on treatment and simply leave it in a place you know they will find it. Maybe in a day or two, you notice the flyer is now on another table – aha! They touch it. Possibly the person throws it out. Okay, so you put another, etc
  • You can even send them an electronic link to a site such as; this site has information on every type of drug with free downloads and educational videos.

The idea here is to keep presenting things to the person until they recognize you care to help them.

The recognition can, at times, be explosive. “What the hell! Stop sending me these links! The person is now noticing you worry about them. DON’T STOP. Simply ask them (when sober)

  • did you read it?
  • And, what is your take on it? And such questions.
  • Invite the person to talk to you. It is important that you listen to what they say.
  • Find out how the drug or alcohol is helping them.
  • What benefit do they get from it? And similar questions.

The answers may surprise you. If the person tells you of the benefits, you should also

  • find out the disadvantages of drugs or alcohol.

These actions get the person to look at both sides of the issue. In other words, you are asking them to evaluate their current lifestyle choices. There are many ways of doing this; you must remember that you are simply getting them to LOOK at their life.

The Addicted’s Realisations

At some point, the person may realize things are not as bright as they seem. You do not tell them what to do but ask them how they should handle this if it makes them unhappy. Get the person to propose ways to overcome this on their own. Again, the person may come up with ridiculous solutions that you know very well won’t work.

I recall one person who was a heavy opiate user proposing to smoke weed instead of opiates. He did this for many weeks and was able to stop his opiate use – but now was addicted to weed, which is somewhat easier to quit than heroin or painkillers. The point is you become a coach or a friend supporting change.

Extra Help in Overcoming Addiction

Obviously, in many cases, the person cannot simply stop their use without serious withdrawal consequences. That is when you can propose a good addiction treatment program. You can also get them in contact with a certified drug and alcohol specialist. This person is also known as a referral and consultation counsellor. If you have any questions on the above, feel free to reach out to our consultation counsellor, who is more than willing to help. They will guide and refer you to well-established drug rehab facilities across Canada.

Marc J. Bernard

Marc J. Bernard

Substance Use Disorder & Recovery Professional,
Referral & Consultation Counsellor

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