When loved ones face addiction, it almost always ends up affecting the whole family. Addiction is a difficult disease for families and friends because of how much it can hurt others, antiquated notions about what causes addiction, the associated tragedies that seem to follow addiction like a shadow, and an oftentimes unwillingness for the addict to speak about their problems due to shame, the nature of addiction itself, and other factors.
How To Talk To A Loved One With Addiction
For these reasons it can be quite difficult to have effective conversations about addiction with loved ones about their disease. There are no magic combinations of words that can convince someone you love to get help or enter treatment. But there are some strategies that are more effective than others when speaking about issues as difficult as addiction.
Below, we’ve compiled a short guide on how to talk with your children, family members, and friends experiencing addiction, how to broach the conversation, what not to say, and what might be helpful. Remember, addiction is a treatable disease, and with proper help you can have your loved one back.
Educate Yourself On Addiction
Before even attempting to have a serious conversation about addiction, you should familiarize yourself with the facets of the disease— and it is a disease. Addiction is not a failure of willpower, a moral failing, or something the addict wants. It is a disease like any other. It can be treated.
This disease is a particularly difficult one to reckon with because of all of the hurt it causes to families and addicts themselves. It is tempting to lead with anger when speaking with someone who is facing addiction, but it is helpful to understand the current thinking on where addiction comes from, why it happens, and factors leading to its appearance.
It is also helpful to know what treatment options are available for your loved ones, current insurance information and financial status, and what options might be available in your area. This will help get your loved one into treatment as fast as possible, and have less time for your loved one to relapse.
Choose The Right Time And Place
Conversations about addiction are almost always difficult. Choose a time and place that is calm where you will have ample time to discuss the issues without being rushed. You’ll want a place that is relatively private, because strong emotions are possible during these conversations.
You’ll also want to choose a time when your loved one is sober and not in a state of withdrawal, as much as possible. The influence of psychoactive drugs and alcohol can dilute or block your message from getting through, and withdrawal can be a painful and occasionally dangerous process. Sober is always best.
Think of this conversation like any difficult conversation, and choose your place and time appropriately.
What Not To Say to an Addict
Many people will want to lead with anger when talking with an addict. After all, it is upsetting to be hurt by people, even in the throes of addiction, and it can be heartbreaking watching loved ones harm themselves. But understand serious addicts generally cannot help themselves without treatment. At least at this stage, this is a problem to be dealt with, rather than a moral judgment.
Try not to shame your loved ones for their addiction. Understand this issue for what it is, a disease, and focus on trying to get the person you love help. This does not mean you can’t talk about your feelings and how your loved ones have hurt you— especially using “I feel” statements. A huge part of the healing process When dealing with addiction is making amends to those they have hurt, and addicts must be clear about the damage they are causing. But it’s more important at this stage to lead with love and focus on getting your loved one help.
In the same vein, try to remain calm. Don’t yell. This can make people put up walls to your message. And remember to listen. This should be a conversation rather than a lecture. Finally, don’t make excuses for your loved ones, don’t enable their behavior, and don’t blame yourself or anyone else for what your family is going through.
What To Say To An Addict
Like any other serious conversation, the same rules apply with speaking with an addict. Be clear about your needs, intentions and what you would like for them. Listen to understand— you can understand without acceptance. And set boundaries and enforce them.
“I feel” statements are often helpful in these cases, because they are non threatening and leave people open to your message. Saying, “I feel hurt and scared when you drive under the influence” is more receptive and effective than, “You are an awful, unredeemable person for driving under the influence.” Remember, the goal is to get your loved one help and get them into treatment.
Tell your loved ones you’ll support them in their journey to recovery. Tell them you’ll be there for them, without enabling them. You can attend meetings with them, help with costs if that is an option, and help to research treatment.
And remember, listen, and lead with kindness. Addiction is a disease.
Help Is Available
If you’re looking for help for addiction with your loved ones, Transformations Care is there for you. Give us a call today, or send us a message, and we can help you discuss treatment options and get your loved one on the path to recovery.