How do I help somebody who is living with an addiction?


Looking addiction in a new way, one would realise that the idea of “tough love” makes little or no sense. If it were so easy for a person to stop an addictive behaviour, after “a good talking to” there would possibly be nobody with an addiction in this country. Furthermore, if addictions were some bad habit or even some form of moral weakness, it might make sense to give the person “a good talking to”. In fact, this becomes sensationalist television in the US. One only has to look at YouTube to find various “fly on the wall” documentary series of families of people with addictions, trying to help them. Indeed, one could say this is the worst form of sensationalist television. If a person was lazy or unfocused giving them a good kick up the back side may work, but unfortunately doesn’t a great many times.

If I could ask, you take a different view of addictions a look at this, not as a bad habit, a moral weakness, genetic fault, or some personality trait but looking at addiction as a psychological compulsive behaviour.

Indeed, traditionally, addictions are never considered as a compulsive behaviour, such as compulsive washing of hands, cleaning, exercising or even compulsive shopping. However, looking on these, forms of actions, as emotionally driven behaviours in an effort to manage particularly challenging feelings, may shine a different light on how one can help someone with an addiction.

Dr Lance Dodes MD, director of substance abuse treatment centre at Harvard Maclean hospital, suggest that our traditional view of dependencies needs to change if we were to help someone struggling, with an addiction. Furthermore, he suggests that the psychological drive to be free of pain and be liberated from the sense of helplessness, is a driver behind all addictive behaviours.

This blog originally appeared in counselling directory