How to Talk to a Loved One about Their Addiction

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It’s true that open communication is the best way to solve most problems. It can be difficult for both parties at first, but ultimately, it’s the best way to break down the issue and create healthy, effective solutions to the problem. Unfortunately, addressing a loved one’s drug addiction is not quite as easy as having an open conversation. Often times, the suffering addict becomes frustrated or resentful, and the person opening the discussion may unknowingly point fingers, place blame and try to force their loved one into treatment.

Since you never want a conversation like this to go wrong, it’s important to prepare yourself before approaching anyone about their drug addiction. Not only should you plan for what you want to say, but also you should know how you will handle your emotions and the reaction of your loved one.

The River Source is familiar with these types of discussions, and we know firsthand that they don’t always lead to where we want them to. But we also know the best ways to communicate with a loved one so that you can share your concerns in a positive, constructive manner.

Be a Friend in Need

As a parent, spouse or sibling, it can be easy to fall in these roles when talking to your family member. But, this approach can also make your loved one feel misunderstood. Instead, aim to be a friend. Walk alongside your loved one as they face their addiction. Don’t try to tell them what to do or how to feel. Show them that you don’t judge their behavior. Friends want us to succeed at life, and in this case, being a friend will help your loved one succeed at recovery with a true friend in tow.

Never Downplay a Problem

In many cases, suffering addicts will admit that their drug or alcohol addiction helps them cope with something going on in their life. What may come as a surprise to you is the problem that has led them here. Even if your loved one uses their substance abuse to help them through a problem that seems trivial to you, you must always remember that it’s a very real problem to them. While you must work toward other coping mechanisms for handling the problem, you never want to make light of something that is very real to another person.

Know What You’re Going to Say

Too often, people get caught up in the moment and bring up their concerns at the wrong time, in the wrong place and with no script in mind. Handling a conversation about dependency is not any ordinary conversation, and you need to know what you’re going to say. It’s a good idea to have a list of observations that you have made and how they have hurt those around you. Keep focused on your points, but remain as cool and calm as possible. Also be sure to leave plenty of room for your loved one to talk. Show them that the conversation is about them, not you. And never, never approach this conversation when you’ve been drinking. Drinking can make us more emotional, more open, and you may say something you’ll later regret.

Talk With, Not To

You’ve probably heard from other avenues in your life that talking with someone is far better than talking to them. Make sure you set aside time specifically for you and your loved one. Don’t squeeze in this time; make a point for the both of you to talk together. When the problem is laid out on the table, don’t point fingers, place blame or try to order your loved one around. This will make them feel misunderstood and less willing to accept your help. Instead, talk with your friend about what problems have led him or her down this path of addiction.

Offer Solutions

Most suffering addicts are terrified of what will happen to them without drugs and alcohol. After using these substances to escape their problems, they’re not sure how to handle life without them. Some addicts need to change schools, move to a new community or start a new job. In addition to these changes, addicts also need some type of treatment program, whether it’s inpatient, outpatient or counseling. These professionally managed programs can offer the support and structure that your loved one needs as they work on their recovery.

Most of us never expect that we’ll have to engage in a conversation about drug or alcohol dependency. It’s often a conversation that we’re not prepared to handle, either. When you’re faced with this type of issue, it’s important to remain grounded, know what you’re going to say and take control of your emotions. Talking to a loved one about an addiction is never easy, but if it’s handled appropriately, you have a much greater chance of having a positive effect on your loved one and an opportunity to seek treatment together.