We all have a number people close to us who we can call close friends. We have shared great times with these people, perhaps been to concerts or special events with them, or just hung out, talking and laughing. You believe that you will have lifelong relationships with them. Then, for some reason, you stop seeing them as much as you used to, and they don’t contact you as often. You wonder why this is happening and suspect they may be experimenting with drugs or abusing alcohol.
What to Look For – Warning Signs
First, you will want to take note of their physical appearance. Do they smell of alcohol or have bloodshot eyes? Have you noticed changes in their appearance or grooming habits? Has the person gained or lost a dramatic amount of weight?
Other Questions to Ask
- Has this person stopped doing any sports or activities they previously enjoyed?
- Have they asked you for money?
- Are they irritable or do they seem depressed? Other personality changes?
- Are they running with a new group of friends?
- Are they isolating or hard to get ahold of?
- Have they already lost existing relationships they previously valued?
If you answered “Yes” to any of the questions above, there is a good chance that your friend may be in too deep or already addicted.
One of the first things you will want to do is get educated. It’s a good idea to talk to a local addictions counselor. Many addictions take hold in college, and most schools have someone you can talk to. They have a wealth of addiction counseling training and can help you plan a course of action.
It is important to understand that addiction is a brain disease and most addicts are unable to stop on their own. You might consider taking an addiction counseling course yourself to get further educated. They will need love and support. Don’t ignore yourself either, if you are experiencing anxiety or grief, talk to someone and let it out. Don’t hold it in.
Talk To Your Friend
Most people appreciate when others are direct with them. Catch them when they are sober, and tell them that you are concerned. Let them know if you are missing the old friend they care so much about and want them back. Do your best to listen. It is extremely difficult for someone to admit they might have a problem, and you want to do everything in your power to make it a comfortable environment for them. Encourage them to talk to an addictions counselor, either on their own, or tell them that you would be happy to go with them. They could also talk with other people they might trust, such as a relative, coach or religious leader. Finally, they could consult with a doctor that has specifically had addiction counseling training to get help.
Give Them Ongoing Support
Addiction never just fixes itself. It requires knowledge about addiction-related behaviors, and sometimes takes a long time to change. If you are truly a good friend, you should be there for the long haul. Your friend needs ongoing love and support – someone they can share their fears and anxiety with, but also someone they can share their victories with. Sometimes recovery can go smoothly, but more often than not there are going to be hiccups in the way, which may include relapses. See if you can take some addictions counseling courses together to learn more. Stay in touch with your friend to see how they are doing and with your addictions counselor often and keep them up to date on what’s happening. Most importantly, don’t ever give up on your friend, you wouldn’t want someone giving up on you. Ultimately, it will be up to them to decide to stop, but you can be a big part of helping them to recover.