Sometimes being a friend means having to dole out a bit of tough love. Encouraging a mate to get fit, ease off the grog or party drugs, quit that dead end job and aim higher, or give up weed are ways that a true friend shows they care. Friends can be a bit like our guilty conscience and are often far more effective at getting us to change our behaviour than typical authority figures such as parents, teachers or even law enforcers. As a concerned friend though, it can be disheartening when our advice goes down the wrong way and we inadvertently offend or annoy the person we are just trying to help.
When friends don’t want your advice
NCPIC’s recently launched Joint Effort project, where friends nominate each other to join up together and quit weed, highlights the fact that many people are concerned enough about their own or their mate’s weed use to nominate them to join up. Perhaps unsurprisingly, however, some of the people who have been nominated have brushed off their friends’ concern as a joke. Comments like “how about no”, “haha” and “we should all just meet up together and smoke instead” show that they are not ready to accept they may have a problem, and despite their friends’ concern and advice, will not make any steps towards changing, at least for now.
Patience is a virtue
For those worried about a mate or family member who might be addicted to weed and are frustrated by their refusal to change, it’s important to remember that as a friend, patience and encouragement are some of the most valuable gifts you can provide to your friend. Knowing they have your unconditional support means they
feel safe enough to ask for help or advice when they’re ready to make changes. Offering information, encouragement and a non-judgemental attitude, possibly combined with a bit of tough love, are the keys to helping your friend give up weed.
Put yourself in their shoes
Sometimes we get so focused on the solution that we don’t take time to fully understand the problem. For some people, cannabis can feel like their best friend. It’s a crutch they’ve learnt to lean on when they are stressed, bored or even lonely. If you try to make them give up weed and refuse to acknowledge the reasons they use it, it can make them feel unheard, attacked and misunderstood and even a bit afraid. Try putting yourself in their shoes, draw them out a little and realise that too much pressure can be counter-productive.
Imagine if your best mate wanted to take away your smartphone, told you it was dangerous and berated you regularly for using it. You would no doubt be pretty annoyed and resist talking about it or even spending time with them after a while. It’s important to remember that for a person addicted to weed, it starts to feel normal.
Imagining life without their addiction may bring up some uncomfortable feelings. Lecturing and nagging rarely work. Support, acceptance and encouragement often do. Empathising with how hard it is to deal with cravings and withdrawal is useful. Providing distractions, positive reinforcement and mutual goals is the basis of our Joint Effort initiative, and may be some good places for you to start if you’re friend does ask for your help.