People often talk about “respect” in the context of giving addict help – the addict must be encouraged to have self respect – people giving addicts help must treat them with respect.
When we think in terms of respect – we think of words like reverence – and awe – when we say that we respect another person we are acknowledging something about them that we admire. Often when we say that we respect and admire someone else, it is because they have qualities and strengths that we value that we might think are lacking in ourselves.
Admiration is often about trying to be or wishing that we were like someone else – whereas feelings of respect are more about accepting difference. We might admire someone for holding and maintaining an opinion that we fully agree with, we can respect someone even when their value system is different to our own.
When trying to give addict help it is very important to understand feelings of respect, and how they can generate feelings of optimism and give a boost to self esteem.
Usually when talking to an addict, you are placed and put in the position of being “in the right” – the addict, because he is doing drugs is the person in the wrong. It is the addict who has to change his behavior – you see it as your mission to help.
It is all too easy to see the addict as a problem whose behavior you can modify by giving them a lecture about the hazards of drugs, and warnings of dire consequences if they do not change. Every drug user knows about the risks – many choose drug use precisely because of them.
You do not show respect for the addict if you simply moralize and denigrate him. The choice to use drugs might be unwise but they fill an otherwise empty life. Respect for the position of the addict means giving understanding about his choice to use drugs – being prepared to listen – to stand in his shoes – as regards his choice to use drugs.
People giving addict help sometimes want admiration from the addict for their efforts to try and help them. They want to be the one who gets the addict to change – by offering their solutions. When the addict fails to respond in an “appropriate” way – with obedience and gratitude, this can lead to anger and resentment. It shows no respect for an addict if you feel that the only right way is yours. Respect for the addict means that you will allow him to take responsibility for solutions. He has to do the work of recovery – you are only there to help.
To be emotionally available means to be honest about your own feelings. If the behavior of the addict makes you feel angry – it is ok to explain this. Often people don’t realize the effect that their behavior has upon other people. Giving an addict help is about helping them to confront their feelings – not a confrontation with the addict about the way that they behave.
When an addict feels that you can be trusted to be there for them and listen, it helps build their self esteem. Making the addict responsible for the consequences of his choices shows that you have respect. Showing respect for an addict, despite his use of drugs, can help him take pride and respect himself –and start to move away from drug use.