What is an addiction?
An addiction is a mental illness during which someone becomes dependent on a substance (alcohol, drugs or medication) or a habit (such as gambling, gaming or watching porn). The life of an addicted person mainly revolves around obtaining and using the substance or habit. This is often at the expense of relationships, work, study and friends. An addict is not able to quit the drug for a long period of time or stop the behaviour, despite multiple attempts to quit. The urge (also called craving) for the substance or habit remains strong, making it increasingly difficult for an addict to quit.
What can you do to support someone who is suffering from an addiction?
- Try to listen and be understanding when someone close to you talks about his or her addiction or a relapse into addiction. An addict often experiences a lot of shame and guilt about his/her behaviour, which can make talking about it difficult.
- Express your confidence in them. For example, tell them that you believe they will succeed in overcoming their addiction.
- Ask how you can support the other person in his or her recovery process in the best way.
- Try to remain patient throughout the recovery process. It can be scary for an addict to imagine life without addiction.
- Acknowledge the small steps in the recovery process. Recovering from an addiction takes time. A common phenomenon is that there is a lot of focus on the end goal (being sober for a long time), while the steps in between are also very important.
- Acknowledge your own sense of powerlessness and discuss this with each other.
- Ensure that you also take good care of yourself! It is normal if you are finding it difficult to deal with the complaints of someone in recovery. Keep finding the time to do fun and relaxing things for yourself and keep in touch with good friends with whom you can vent with.
What should you avoid doing?
- Talking or having a discussion with a loved one while they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Having the addictive substance in the house or using it yourself in the presence of an addict in recovery. This can result in the other experiencing a sudden increase of cravings, increasing the risk of relapse.
- Judging the addict in recovery. This will only provoke more resistance from an addict.
- Criticizing them. This can make someone feel insecure.
- Understandably, you will want to help and protect a loved one with an addiction from any negative consequences. However, it is not helpful to keep taking care of the other person while they are experiencing another hangover, for example. Do not make excuses for addictive behaviour and the consequences it may have on other family members.
- Put your own needs aside to help another. Keep your own limits in mind.
If you, as a close friend, need professional support, you can contact Brijder or Jellinek. You can also find more information about addiction on their website.