What is the best advice to give to addicts and alcoholics that are still using?
Our natural response is probably something along the lines of:
1) “Get help”
2) “Stop drinking/drugging”
3) “Back off/calm down with your intake”
We might even get a bit more specific and say things like “Go to this treatment center,” or “Go to a 12 step meeting.”
Some of this advice might actually help, but the majority of it will fall on deaf ears. But it’s still a question worth considering, because occasionally the addict might actually ask for advice (even if they are not prepared to act on it just yet).
In those cases, it makes sense for us to think this through and have a solid answer in place.
Problems with giving advice to alcoholics and addicts
There are a couple of problems with trying to give advice to using addicts. Here are the big ones:
1) They are not yet ready to hear the message – sometimes this is true even if they came and asked you for advice.
2) They need specific advice and you have only general encouragement to offer – for example, someone who wants to stop using right now but wants to minimize withdrawal symptoms. In cases like this the best route is professional help.
3) The addict is playing games – acting like they are interested in help by asking your advice, when in fact they plan to continue using/drinking. Their asking for advice is manipulation.
4) Advice offered probably cannot change or motivate an addict directly.
Some suggestions for giving advice
1) Ask them: “Are the drugs and alcohol still doing for you what they used to do for you?” Do they still work?
2) Don’t urge them to change…instead, urge them to stay conscious of how well the drugs are working for them. Are the still genuinely having fun when they get high? Do the drugs really take away the pain?
3) Ask them if they have had enough drugs or alcohol. Ask them if there is really such a thing as “enough.”
4) Let them know that help is out there for them if they seek it.
Ultimately you want to push the addict or alcoholic toward professional treatment services. For most people this will mean “go to rehab.” I would call up local treatment centers and start asking questions. See what it will take to get someone in, what insurance is covered, how much it would cost, and so on. Start taking action. If the person is willing to go to treatment then do whatever you can to get them in there. If they are not willing to go to rehab then your best bet is to use a “hands off” approach until they have endured enough pain in their life that they become ready to change.