How to Help People With Addictions, Advice From A Substance Abuse and Recovery Specialist

How to Help People With Addictions, Advice From A Substance Abuse and Recovery Specialist.

Friends and family gather to celebrate the union of a happy young couple. Most guests excitedly anticipate sharing in the festivities, but going to weddings and other celebrations can be a trying, even dreaded, experience for people struggling with addiction or in recovery.  Temptation abounds from a rehearsal dinner with wine and beer on tap, to a cocktail hour followed by dinner and dancing with an open bar and champagne at each table for numerous toasts.

Drinking games played by friends and fraternity brothers led a sibling to reflect, “I’ve been sober for three and a half years, and I generally avoid all bars and exposure to drugs or alcohol. I stay away, but I have to live a normal life as well. There was no question that I would be there for my brother’s wedding, but I didn’t realize how much people would be drinking. For them it’s the norm. It’s how they let loose, and as non-addicts, it’s not a problem. Most of these guys are extremely successful. Their drinking doesn’t derail their lives. I understand all that, but at one point, I needed to step away for a while.”

Narconon Louisiana New Life Retreat is a treatment center dedicated to helping people overcome addiction for good. Their centers provide the stability and comfort to help people get free from addiction and rebuild their lives. The staff at Narconon are with clients every step of the way.  Donations to their YouHelp Drug Free for Good campaign go directly towards funding scholarships for people in need of treatment.

From alcohol to opiates, experts recommend that those struggling with addiction stay away from any substance that can trigger their using until they are on solid ground with their recovery.  AA, NA and other 12-Step programs suggest 30 meetings in 30 days to get started, and then continuing with several meetings a week – preferably for life. At what point can people “risk” being exposed to alcohol, drugs and other addictive substances that they might be exposed to at happy family functions?

Narconon has a wonderful article on their website with tips for lasting sobriety.  (

Nonprofits, government agencies and businesses in the field can find grants for their mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment programs in the database, and if you don’t find a grant you’re eligible for or until you get a grant, a great option while you continue to look for a grant is to be proactive like Narconon and put up your own crowdfunding campaign on

Here is on grant of many, currently listed on GrantWatch.for Alcoholism Prevention and Education Programs for USA Nonprofits, Deadline: Ongoing

Grants to USA nonprofits for programs in the area of alcoholism prevention and education. The Foundation seeks to encourage prevention programs and activities with an emphasis on high-risk populations. Additionally, the Foundation’s mission is to focus its efforts on educating the public that alcoholism is a respectable, treatable disease from which people can and do recover, and to continue fighting to reduce and eliminate the stigma that is associated with the disease of alcoholism.

How does one hold on to their abstinence and stick with their program in the face of bottles and bottles of alcohol flow so freely for days on end?

The best course of action, before going to a wedding or event and facing any of that is to shore up one’s resolve by attending meetings and/or counseling sessions. If possible, have supports in place in advance like a friend or sponsor on call who you can speak with if you start to feel that you can’t cope with all the temptation you’re facing.

Tracey Shipley, a youth and family counselor specializing in addictions and family communication, recommends honesty and openness, facings one’s addictions head on and getting to the root of the problem. A strong advocate for 12-step programs, including Al Anon, Shipley warns in her article, “Addiction and the Five Stages of Grief”  that people will often be in denial or think that they can “bargain” and choose a drug that’s not as destructive. Instead of drinking vodka, they can have a beer. Instead of opioids, they can have marijuana, but that’s not the case when it comes to addiction.

“As drug counselors have discovered, the abuse of drugs may begin as a way to fit in with peers and have a good time but is often exacerbated by the desire to escape from feelings of sadness, incompetence, lack of purpose, insecurities, guilt, shame and other negative emotions.”

The Five Stages of Grief:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

“Mourning our ability to control our impulses that lead to unhealthy behaviors and lifestyle both for ourselves and our loved ones can feel devastating. But the moment we allow ourselves to go through the stages of grief we begin to accept that there is life beyond addiction.

“The first step for avoiding or dealing with addiction is finding Truth. Finding our inner truth and what makes us truly happy in life keeps us balanced and able to live our lives in healthy ways.  Secondly Love.  Feeling compassion for ourselves and others gives us a sense of purpose and security. We are not alone. Next is commitment toward another person.

A policeman whose jurisdiction was the San Francisco Bridge explained that he managed to convince 200 out of 202 people perched on the bridge planning to jump to change their mind by reminding them of their commitment to their loved ones.  An extension of the latter two necessities is community.  Surrounding ourselves with healthy people supports our healthy life choices.  It makes it easier for us to tolerate and even work through our pain.

“What is our job in supporting our loved ones struggling with toxic behaviors? How do we support them and assist them in finding their true path to recovery. Begin by understanding that they are struggling.   No one wants to be an addict.  Human nature is the desire to be in control, not to be controlled.  Certainly not to be controlled by destructive behaviors.  Addiction happens when one loses connection to their inner as well as their outer world.  Be their anchor!  Let them know that it is never too late to turn it around and that you will be there throughout their journey.”

Tracey Shipley began working in a drug rehabilitation in 1989. More of her articles appear on her website.

Find grants for mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment programs in the database, and if you don’t find a grant your organization is eligible for or until you get a grant, be proactive and put up your own crowdfunding campaign on

About the Author: The author is a staff writer for