Helping an addict (SPOILER: you can’t)

Today a college friend sent a group Facebook message to about a dozen of us. My friend was concerned about a fellow graduate (let’s call him TK). My friend asked if any of us knew what was going on with TK, who seemed to be in some sort of distress based on his recent FB posts and a couple of news articles about erratic behavior.

I wasn’t really friends with TK in college. I knew him, but at a college of 1,000 students, you know everyone. Last I heard, TK had a successful career as a radio personality in a major city. TK and Mike were FB friends, so I logged into Mike’s account to see what was going on.

TK’s posts were paranoid and weird. He thought he was being followed and harassed. The news articles talked about run-ins with the police, banishment from local establishments, and included mugshots of a disturbed, wild-haired man (not the jovial guy I remembered from 20 years ago).

At the same time, others who were copied on the original FB message started responding. I pieced together TK’s story – TK’s dad died, leaving TK with a very large inheritance (the kind of inheritance which guaranteed TK would never have to work again). He left his job. He was diagnosed with a mental illness and developed an addiction to drugs (mainly meth). TK cut off ties with almost everyone. TK only communicated with a few people from his past, inconsistently and often incoherently.

I googled TK’s name and found several message boards and posts referencing the articles and FB posts. (Because of TK’s status in the media, “fans” have expressed concerns.)

Where are his friends?

Why don’t the people he’s tagging in the post helping him?
Doesn’t anyone care?

Why isn’t anyone getting TK help?


I wanted to scream – it’s not his friends. His friends are not bad people. It’s not that no one wants to help TK. It’s because no one CAN help TK.

Here’s the thing about addiction and mental illness: no one can help the afflicted, except the person himself/herself.

The intention of the original FB message from my friend was nice – let’s all send TK notes of encouragement – maybe if he realizes he’s loved, he will get the help he needs.

Golly, that sounds lovely, but it’s not the way it works.

You're best intentions

Addiction sucks the motivation from a person. Addiction clouds his/her judgement. He/she becomes unstoppable, paranoid, and thinking he/she is right while everyone else is wrong. Addiction talks louder than any other voice, drowning out any rationale thought. Addiction is right. At least to the addict.

There’s nothing you can do to help. It doesn’t matter how hard you love or how much YOU want the person to get better. It isn’t up to you. And that’s where the difficulty comes in.

As humans, we want to help each other. Solve problems. Make it easier for our loved ones.

But with addiction, it can only be conquered when the addict sees it and acknowledges it.


With Mike, I (finally) saw his downward spiral. I wanted to help him, to save him. I tried every possible way to get his attention, to make him SEE the addiction. To try to make him want to live. All to no avail.

He wasn’t listening. He couldn’t. Addiction was too loud. Addiction won.

And even if we send messages and pray and really really want it not to, there’s a good chance addiction will take TK, also.






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