How to help a friend who’s an addict

pumpkin asks: My best friend is using illegal drugs. He once went to a rehab and was successful in overcoming his addiction. But few days back we had a big fight and he started doing drugs again. When I got to know this I tried my best to make him get out of this, but I’m no use to him. I have become hopeless. I don’t know what I should do to make him clean. He too, for me, tried to get rid of this addiction but he has become powerless. He has lost his strength. He now has no power over his addiction and he has admitted this thing! So he tries no more for it! He often thinks of suicide now. He can’t stand how he is hurting his loved ones. His heart is pure, but these drugs are ruining his life – and mine too! He does not want to go to rehab again; he says he’ll become mad over there if he has to stay for six months! I can’t see my best friend crying daily in front of me. He had good plans for his life, but now he has become hopeless. I want to do something for him. Please help me through this?!

Hi pumpkin –


This is a universal problem.  I heard someone say recently that, in my country at least, one out of every ten people suffers with some sort of addiction. This is simply awful.


You see, people often miss the point about addiction.  They say it’s fun to go have a drink, and so there’s nothing wrong with having fun.  I agree with that (as any dog would!).  But addicts don’t take their substances for fun – they take them because they lose their ability to not take them – even if they don’t want them.


So, for example, I love chicken broth.  I’d eat it every day if I could.  But that’s not an addiction.  But if I found out one day that eating more chicken broth would put my life in danger, would make me do awful things, and hurt or even damage those I love – and I still lapped up that broth, because I couldn’t keep myself from it… THAT would be an addiction.


Your friend is living through Hell on Earth, pumpkin.  And it is impossible for that to not be affecting you and anyone else who loves him.  This situation is so incredibly sad.  I am so very very sorry.


Your friend also gives a perfect example of the insanity of addiction, when he says that he’s thinking of killing himself because he feels so bad about how he’s treating his loved ones, but he won’t go back to rehab because he hates it there!  This makes no sense.  But addiction, by its nature, overrules the part of a person’s brain that cares about making sense.


So you are in this horrible position, and are asking me what to do, “to make him clean.”  I hate to do this, but I have to give you the worst answer in the world:

You can’t.


No one can make anyone else clean, or sober.  The person has to do this themselves.  They have to want it more than they want anything else in their lives.  Addicts who achieve sobriety and keep it up are, I think, the strongest humans in the world.  I respect them more than just about anyone else.  It is so hard – on them and on those around them.


So here’s what you can do.  You can be strong for him.  You can tell him that he’s right, that the six months in rehab will be really hard – but that it’s his greatest hope.  You can tell him that his current behavior will kill him, either slowly or quickly, and that that will ruin your life and those of everyone else who loves him.  You can tell him that if he goes to rehab, you’ll be his greatest support.  You can tell him that you will do anything to help him through this.


And you can also be tough.  You can tell him that, if he doesn’t go to rehab, you might have to cut off contact with him.  You can arrange to get a bunch of other people in his life to meet with him at one time and talk him into going back (this is what’s called an Intervention).  You can scream at him for using drugs again.  You can go through his home and find any drugs there and flush them down his toilet!  Yes, you can be THAT friend!


Of course, we don’t want him to harm himself.  But we also don’t want to keep him protected from feeling bad.  There’s a thing addiction workers talk about called “a bottom,” which we kind of want him to hit.  Your “bottom” is when you reach a point where things are so bad that you can’t live that way anymore, and so make a change.  For some addicts, their bottom comes when they crash their car, or when they hurt a loved one, or when their family leaves them.  Maybe your friend can hit bottom without one of those things happening.  But he has to hit it.


There are lots of groups to help people in your situation.  One of the most famous is called Al-Anon.  It’s a group like Alcoholics Anonymous, but for friends and family members of alcoholics, to help them deal with what’s going on around them, and how it affects them.  You might want to do a web search for support groups in your area, for people like you.


I will be glad to help in any way I can.  So feel free to write me again, with any specific questions about what to do.


But for now, I can only urge you to understand this to the core of your soul: that you cannot save your friend, or get him clean.  All you can do is to be strong, and supportive, and tough – to help HIM work to save himself.


pumpkin I don’t often push this, but if you have any sort of religion, I’d also suggest that you pray.  Pray very hard for your friend.  You’re learning how big a foe Addiction is.  To battle it, your friend needs everyone in his life who possibly can fight it to be behind him.  And if you can pull in some powers from beyond this world, that’s all the better.  Most addicts find that they need those powers to beat it – if they can.


So here’s one pooch who’s sending you every bit of wishes and good energy and strength I can.  If your friend can live through this, his life can be beautiful and powerful and meaningful, more than he currently can imagine.  But my wishes are going to you.  You who are so full of love and compassion.  I want you to be strong.  For him, and for yourself.


With all my heart,


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