Ralph Waldo Emerson echoed and expanded upon Dickens, saying that, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
The First Two Things You Must Understand to Be Able to Help
Wanting to help an addict and being able to help are entirely different things. Failing to understand two issues almost inevitably leads to frustration.
- You can only help people who want to be helped. Just because you see someone in need – even desperately in need – does not mean that he or she consciously wants help. You are not responsible for another person’s recovery, regardless of how much you care. The truth is that an addict is responsible for his or her own recovery. You may be willing to reach out, but the addict may not be willing to accept your help.
- You must be equipped to help. That does not mean that you need to be an expert. However, it does mean that
- You will need to be prepared to point your potential care receiver to expert help.
- You must be healthy and whole yourself. This experience will tax your mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical strength. You do not have to be perfect, but you will not be successful unless you are able to see things in the right perspective, including your own strengths and shortcomings.
6 Other Things You Must Understand
- Help by Empathizing. Addicts are in a dark place – darker than either of you may realize. Empathy understands where they are and the need to show them the way out. It also means always attempting to understand how they feel, while not sitting in judgment for how or why they became addicted.
- Help Addicts See You as a Safe Place. You cannot help if they are not confident that they can trust you. In some cases, it may be more difficult for addicts to trust family members because they already know you and your imperfections. Family member or friend, you must be able to gain their trust and confidence. Their confidence begins when you can assure them that you will keep the things they share confidential. A time will come when you may need to share with experts some of the confidential things they have shared, but that may be far down the road and you should secure their permission before sharing with others.
- Help by Being Patient. Do not expect instantaneous results. Timing can be everything. In some cases, all the pieces may fall into place rather quickly, but do not expect that to be the norm. If your expectations are unreasonable, your ability to help can quickly evaporate.
- Help by Removing Their Rearview Mirrors. More than likely your addicted friend or loved one became a victim of addiction because of an inability to cope with some problem(s) in the past. Looking in rearview mirrors is great for safe driving, but God did not create humans with a set of rear-facing eyes attached to the back of the head. Keep your eyes focused on the road ahead.
- Help Them to See the Road Ahead for What It Is. The road to recovery is under construction. It can be difficult to navigate at the best of times. Prepare them for the reality of what lies ahead. This is where, having gained their confidence and trust, you assure them that you are willing to travel that road with them, shoulder some of the load, and help navigate them to the highway of a better life.
- Help Them to Believe They Can Do It. Help them to see that there is always hope. Do not just tell them. Let them see that hope in you. If they know that you believe they can do it, eventually, they will believe it also.
One Final Thing to Understand
You must learn to be an encourager without being an enabler. Encouragers are people who cheer others on despite difficulties and failures. Enablers are those who rush to offer sympathy when someone fails. Enablers focus on the pain of the failure. Encouragers understand that the pain is necessary to reach the goal.
Your desire to help someone break the bonds of addiction is a lofty and admirable goal, but it is a goal that requires preparation to achieve. One of the first things people see on our website when seeking drug rehab in Washington State is the proclamation that “We’re here for you.” That means that we are here for both you and your addicted friend. Contact us now and let us show you how we can help.