One of the most difficult battles that humans can face is, without a doubt, conquering their abuse of addictive substances. From the time they wake up until they rest their head for the night, the idea of getting their next fix wracks their minds and encourages them to dismantle their lives for their next hit.

As onlookers, we want to reach out and extend a helping hand, but we’re often afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. Whether you’re a loving family member or a partner who wants to see their lover lead a productive a substance-free lifestyle, here are the steps you can take.

Step 1: Be Understanding and Choose Your Words Wisely

Many times, confronting an addict about their behavior produces the opposite effect of what you intended. Although you were taking proactive steps to unravel their addiction, the way you approached it may have triggered a relapse or a series of self-destructive behaviors.

And, to be fair, you may be at your wit’s end; dealing with someone who’s addicted to a substance can be tiring, frustrating and rage-inducing. However, the best way to start a conversation about becoming sober is to be understanding and willing to forgive their past actions.

When you first sit down with your loved one, refrain from unloading months and years of emotional turmoil you’ve been storing. Instead, hear their side of the story and explore the underlying cause of their addiction.

Is there a particular event or setting that causes them to spiral out of control? Is there a toxic person in their life who encourages their usage? Even though you may feel these questions are trivial, the answers you receive give clues on how to reverse their addictive behavior. As a rule of thumb, listen more than you talk.

Step 2: Define Your Boundaries

One way that addiction spreads is through unrestricted access to resources and lifestyle arrangements. Parents, if your child is struggling to stay sober and you feel like you’re fighting a losing battle, it’s time to set boundaries and stick to your guns.

For example, many parents won’t have a serious discussion with their children while they’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Moreover, some parents have a strict rule of not allowing their adult children to enter the home while they’re intoxicated. While your mileage may vary, addiction can be locked into submission when confined to strict guidelines.

If you feel this step is too difficult or cold-hearted, reach out to a trained professional who specializes in setting boundaries with patients and their families.

Step 3: Be Gentle and Encourage Incremental Change

Addiction is an issue that can take years to defeat, so learn to be patient during the process. As people who care deeply for the person addicted to drugs and alcohol, we want to see an immediate change in their lifestyle choices. However, this isn’t realistic, and in some cases, may cause more harm than good.

Instead, verbally communicate when they do something positive and beneficial for their long-term health. At the moment, you may think your words are falling on deaf ears, but you would be greatly mistaken. Years from now, when your loved one becomes sober and healthy, they’ll tell you how much those words meant to them. When they’re ready to get started on their journey towards a substance-free life, let them know you’re willing and waiting to get going!