How to Help a Friend.....Who is an Addict

It can be really difficult to help a friend who is addicted to something. We are not just talking about being addicted to alcohol or drugs either. Many addictions are in the form of spending, shopping, eating, gambling, relationships, sex, and even hoarding, just to name a few. Sometimes it is hard to know what is helping and what is actually feeding into the addiction. Here are a few tips to help:

Approach the person when they are not "using" or under the influence It truly is impossible to talk to someone about their addiction when they are under the influence of it. Talk to them when they are not shopping, drinking, or actively gambling. Talking to them when they are "drunk" truly is like trying to rationalize with a 2 year-old. Their judgement and ability to hear you is clouded.

Don't be judgmental There are ways to say things without sounding judgmental. Many addicts already have their own lens of judgement on them, so if you say something judgmental, it can even make it worse. Use words like "I am concerned for you" vs. "you smoke too much pot". Talk about your feelings and how it effects you and your friendship with her.

Assist them with getting help but don't do all the work It is great to encourage your friend to get help. It can be helpful to them if you provide a list of therapists or treatment options. This shows your support and willingness to encourage. However, don't do it for them. They need to be invested in their treatment, too. Encourage them to make the phone calls and set up the appointments. This will help them feel more invested and give a higher probability that they will follow thru.

Offer support and help If she has children, volunteer to babysit while they undergo treatment. If they are nervous about going alone, offer to drive them and sit in the waiting room for the initial appointment. It is important to only offer what you are able to provide. You don't want to offer too much and be resentful at them for needing so much. Ultimately, they have to figure out things for themselves, feel the pain of their addiction, and ask for additional help. It's okay to not "do it all".

Be willing to make changes to support their new life If the two of you always go shopping together and she is getting help for spending, try going out for coffee or going to a movie. If she is recovering from alcohol, don't sit in the same bar where you always meet. Suggest going to the mall or to see a show. Do things that are not a part of the addiction. Don't assume that you will be there to keep her sober. It's not about that. It's about a new way of life and thinking for this person. They need to get used to doing different things and you can encourage this by participating differently as well.

If you have a friend who is struggling with an addiction, alanon is a great resource. They can give you help on how to help yourself when you are in a relationship with an addict. Find them at

Tomorrow Joleen will tell you know how to help a friend who is depressed. Thank you for reading and have a great week!

Source: “How To Help A Friend…” By Nancy Comiskey from O’s Guide to Life; The Best of O, The Oprah Magazine p. 260-262

Written by Natalie Chandler

Natalie Chandler, MA, LMHC is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Natalie enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, and couples counseling.  We also specialize in family counseling, child, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Westfield, and Zionsville