When we put ourselves in the shoes of a person whose loved one battles addiction, we’re compelled to respond. And just in case you need one additional morsel of motivation, consider this: Kindness does not equal condoning. Kindness translates as love. So move forward in love.
1. Ask “How are things going?” Tone is everything here. Ask the question in a way that communicates your openness to listening and your understanding if they prefer to answer casually. When the door opens to more personal conversation, walk on through.
2. Openly show your acceptance. Parents in particular deal with loads of guilt surrounding their child’s addiction. For many parents, peace comes only from realizing that addiction is a disease. You can help by stating upfront and often that you find no fault in your friend’s parenting — or, for that matter, her role as a wife, sister or daughter.
3. Do your homework. Read up on what addiction does to families as well as the specific struggle your friend’s loved one is up against. You may want to start with the fact that, for most people, the risk of relapse never goes away.
4. Invite her along. Yes, her world and her priorities have shifted. And sure, she may decline your offer. But if you’re getting together with friends, headed to the park for the afternoon or simply running out to grab coffee, ask her to come too. The opportunity to feel normal will be a most welcome gift.
5. Point your friend in the right direction. Let’s be clear. You don’t want to show up at her door with an attitude and a plan. And there’s no need to forward her every article you come across that might just kinda-sorta relate.
6. Provide some breathing room. Look for practical ways to allow her some margin — so she can attend to pressing issues or take a much-needed break. You might purchase and put away her groceries, send her out of the house while you clean up or watch the kids for the afternoon.
7. Treat her like you would any other person whose family member received a difficult diagnosis. Because she did too. Drop by with a favorite meal, call to check in on a regular basis and ask not “What can I do?” but “When can I do this?”
8. Speak kindly and minimally about your friend to others. In the turmoil of addiction, trust holds special value. Stay trustworthy. Watch what you say about your friend and her loved one’s struggle, if you say anything at all.