A TRUSTED PERSON
❝ the foundation of recovery from addiction ❞

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You cannot overestimate the importance of being a trusted person for someone in recovery from an addiction problem or someone needing help.

What can you do?

Being an active trusted person for someone with an addiction problem is known to help with getting into treatment, staying in treatment and sticking to the treatment plan, as well as having a better chance of a good outcome. Whether you are part of a network or an individual supporting a friend or family member, you might wonder what a trusted person should do. It is all about positive support for change. This means: i) helping to avoid situations where drinking and drug use is taking place; ii) helping to deal with feelings that increase the desire for drink or drugs; iii) helping to find alternative distracting and enjoyable activities; iv) being on the end of a phone or present in person when support is needed. It involves having discussions to explore new ideas for coping and improving life.

If you have a heavy drinking or drug use habit, or if your mental health is unstable then you are not going to be in a position to help. In these circumstances you might want to seek help for yourself. Also where you have a distressing relationship with the person you would want to help, then again this will prevent you from being able to give the kind of support that is most needed.

The type of help you give is best based upon mutual respect and understanding, negotiation of the way forward that is agreed between you, rather than one imposing on the other. Learning to listen to each other, and to give each other a chance to put points of view, being able to receive constructive criticism – these are important principles. Always remembering that you are on the same side and if you have different ways of seeing or doing things, then agreement needs to be able to be reached. Your role as a trusted friend involves a commitment on your part, to be consistent and constant in your support.

What is the evidence?

To have but one good friend
Key point :: find one truly supportive trusted person
A North American addiction scholar presents the literature on positive and negative aspects of the structure of problem drinkers’ social networks, the impact of the social network on problem recognition, social network predictors of treatment outcomes, treatments that involve the social network in treatment, and changes in social network structure and functioning.

Getting support yourself

Being a trusted person can bring pressures and you might want support yourself: there may be a local carers’ group you would find helpful; there are organisations like Adfam and mutual aid groups like Al Anon that give support to family and friends or It may be that support for you comes from a trusted friend or family member of your own. The same principles outlined above will apply. People often find it easier to be supported by someone who also cares and is concerned about the person with the problem. Always try to make sure that any group you join shares your ideas of how to go about things. We would not advocate approaches that involve distancing yourself from your loved one or friend - the evidence shows this is not an effective coping style and does not help them to get better.