Why Shaming Addicts Doesn’t Work

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It’s incredibly frustrating when a loved one refuses to get help for their problem. In fact, you’ve probably taken their decision not to seek treatment personally. Maybe you became so frustrated that you tried shaming your loved one into rehab. Unfortunately – and understandably – you cannot shame someone into treatment. Not only is it not effective, but also you can do more harm than good.

Let’s look at why shaming addicts does not work and how to resist doing this to your loved one.

Shame and Addiction Don’t Mix. Here’s Why.  

Addiction is not a character flaw. It is a disease of the brain. Still, the stigma surrounding addiction remains prevalent in our society. In other words, people tend to think that the addict has control over their choices. If they can make their loved one feel bad enough, the person will stop. However, an addict does not have control over their addiction.

In fact, research shows that the more shameful an addict feels, the more likely they are to relapse. If you treat someone like they “are bad,” they will think they are bad. We know how much you love and care for your loved one, so refrain from placing shame on them. It can make things worse.

Tips to Prevent Shaming 

It’s normal to feel angry, resentful and frustrated. Still, it’s crucial that you remain in control of your emotions. Sometimes family members don’t realize they are shaming their loved one. Here are some tips to prevent shaming an addict.

  • Educate yourself. Learn about addiction and how it affects the brain. You can gain more compassion for your loved one by understanding how the disease presents itself.

  • Avoid blaming language. Blaming language involves phrases that sound like this: “You wanted to hurt me” or “You threw all your hard work away.” Instead, use “I” statements. For example: “I felt sad when I learned you had used again.”

  • Practice empathy. Addicts need empathy. Take time to learn some of the ways you can show more empathy, such as by being a good listener or understanding why the person reacted in a certain way.

  • Enlist professional help. If your loved one doesn’t respond well to you, enlist help from a professional counselor or addiction specialist. Having a mediator to help guide the dialogue can be helpful early on. As you learn how to better connect with your loved one, the conversation will come more natural.

Communicating with an addict is not easy. However, the last thing you want to do is shame them into getting treatment. It doesn’t work, and it can make things worse. If you would like to talk more about the situation you are dealing with, call The River Source. We may have suggestions to help you manage your relationship with an addict more effectively.