One quality I have learned to appreciate in myself, even through all of the terrible decisions I have made in life, is the fact that I have always been mindful of others. I have done what I can to help other people, whether it’s donating my last couple of dollars to a donation box or buying a bum a cup of coffee. I try to keep in mind that we’re all just people struggling to get along. In my early recovery, I stayed away from other addicts, including my friends, because I knew that it would be a dangerous road to travel and I would be risking my sobriety. It took a lot of understanding, discussion and time before I was able to identify the positive ways I could help fellow addicts without worrying about falling back into the vicious cycle of addiction.
Avoiding Face to Face Contact with Other Addicts
I make a personal choice to always avoid face-to-face contact with other addicts, regardless if I am wanting to lend a helping hand or not. I do not involve myself with people or places that expose me to where or with whom I have used drugs. I want to be fair to those who are still sick and suffering, because they were people I spent every single hour of every single day with, so I do give them the time of day if they send me a message. If you’re in recovery and are concerned about meeting an old friend to talk, the best route to take is to speak with them online or on the phone. You can still do your part by lending a listening ear and offering your advice upon request. Sometimes all people need is someone to listen to what they have to say, so your advice may not be necessary. If the person asking for interaction is persistent about meeting in person, remind them that the path you have chosen to take is different than the one they are on and that you’d feel more comfortable on the phone.
Supporting vs. Enabling an Addict
One of the tools I learned during my active addiction was the art of persuasion. I taught myself how to tell the perfect sob story or lie that would score me enough money from friends or family for my next fix. I had lost all of the friends who had a positive effect on my life due to my drug use. When I did come into contact with them, it was only to feed them some bull story in order to get money. Of course my old friends caught on after a while and those relationships ended, but I had conned many people into giving me a handout. I had even conned strangers on the street or people I had befriended just to get money from them.
One of the best ways to help out a fellow addict or friend is to not enable them by giving them money. Providing a way to get their next fix is counterproductive and may make you look like a doormat rather than a helping hand. If you’re not in recovery, but have friends who are, it’s okay to take them out to lunch or buy them some clothes from the secondhand store. These may be better options than giving them money or gift cards, as those can be used for something other than what we had intended.
Learn about Addiction
A great way to help someone who is in recovery is to learn about their addiction. As a recovering addict, we don’t have much left to learn, so this tip is for those who are not as knowledgeable about addiction as we are. Read about what addiction feels like, looks like and acts like. This can help give you clues as to what sort of physical and emotional problems your loved one is going through, as well as some insight into what kinds of things they have to look forward to if they continue to use. Knowing what you’re talking about is helpful, especially if you have a tendency to lecture. My parents were great at lecturing me, but they never understood what I was going through or what it felt like to withdraw from drugs. Talking with people who have been through it or know what is going to happen if you stop using is more beneficial because they speak from experience or knowledge rather than guessing what’s next for you.
Helping Addicts Get Treatment
Depending on how close you are to the person who is suffering from addiction, financially helping with treatment can be a great opportunity for you to lend a hand. If you don’t want to help fund the treatment, making a list and finding treatment options that are suitable for your friend can be a step in the right direction. One of my consistent excuses was that I never had time to look up rehabilitation centers for treatment. Though I didn’t stay sober after my first rehab, I actually did go to rehab the first time because someone looked up the information, scheduled my interview and appointment and drove me there. It may not have worked that first time, but it put me on the right path because I am sober today. If you are no longer involved with your fellow addicts or are unable to help in this manner, look for rehab information in your local area. There are programs and centers that are funded through donations, so making a generous donation is a great way to extend your help.
Helping fellow addicts doesn’t necessarily mean you have to risk your sobriety by socializing with them. Helping other addicts is no different than reaching out to your community because, in a way, the sober recovery fellowship is a community of its own. If donating to rehab centers isn't right for you, put a couple of extra dollars in the A.A. donation basket—the program works on donations alone.