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How to Talk to and Help Your Aunt or Uncle with a Drug or Drinking Problem

In many families, aunts and uncles take on the role of secondary moms and dads. If this is the situation in your family, and you have an aunt or uncle that has an addiction, the pain that this has caused you is probably unmatched. It's so difficult to watch someone you love so much go through the pain that addiction can cause, and you might feel powerless to do anything to help.

You may want to find a way to bring it up to your aunt or uncle, but honestly, you just don't know where to begin.

You're not alone if this is how you feel, and with the right guidance, you can have a conversation with your loved one about his or her addiction. There are a number of things you'll want to keep in mind when you do, and it's also important for you to know that there are other options available to you if your heart-to-heart talk doesn't seem to make a difference in the addictive behaviors.

At Northpoint Recovery, we have seen so many families who were struggling and even battling with each other because of the presence of an addiction within one of their family members. We know the heartache that addiction can cause, and we also know how desperate you are to find a way to help. Please know that there are many things you can do and steps you can take to help your aunt or uncle realize a need for substance abuse treatment.

Aunt and Uncle Addiction Information

Addiction Vs. Abuse: What is Your Aunt or Uncle Struggling With?

The very first step you need to take is trying to determine whether or not your aunt or uncle has an actual addiction, or if it is substance abuse. Sometimes people tend to look at addiction and abuse as being terms that are interchangeable, but that is not the case at all. They are actually two very different situations.

For someone who is participating in drug or alcohol abuse, they generally don't feel a need to use their substance of choice. They may drink too much on occasion, or they may use illegal or legal drugs when they shouldn't. However, they don't feel compelled to do so, and they don't suffer from any serious withdrawal symptoms when their use comes to an end. For someone who is an addict, they do experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using, and they often feel as though they need to use just to feel normal. Some other signs of addiction you might want to look for include:

  • Symptoms of anxiety or depression.
  • An unkempt appearance.
  • Changes in your aunt's or uncle's behaviors.
  • Problems sleeping at night, and fatigue during the day.
  • Increasing tolerance levels, which means it takes more of the drug or alcohol in order for them to feel the same effects.
  • Financial difficulties because of spending money on substances.
  • Health issues that may be linked to the drugs or alcohol.

Choosing the Right Time to Talk About Substance Abuse with Your Loved One

If you believe that your aunt or uncle does have an addiction, or even if you think that they are demonstrating a dangerous substance abuse pattern, it's important for you to choose the right time to have a conversation with them about it. The best times are when everything in their life seems to be going well, and there isn't too much outside stress. You should also opt for a time when they are sober, and not under the influence of anything.

Sometimes people who have addictions will use right after they wake up in the morning, and they may spend the majority of the day impaired. This might be the case for your loved one as well, and if it is, the best time to have a discussion with them would be first thing in the morning, right after they wake up.

Preparing to Discuss Your Family Member's Drug or Alcohol Use

Before you choose a time to talk with your aunt or uncle about the drug or alcohol use, it's best to know what you're going to say. This is a conversation that is very likely to make you nervous, so having a plan will help you as you begin it. It might helpful for you to write down your thoughts on paper ahead of time. This will give you some time to really think about what you want to say and how you want to say it.

Also, you need to prepare yourself for the possibility that your discussion with your aunt or uncle might not end on a happy note. Sometimes people are willing to listen when a concerned family member comes to them about their addictions, but most of the time, this is not the case. He or she might become angry, refuse to talk with you anymore, or react in other negative ways. This to be expected, and if it does happen, do your best to remain calm and loving.

The Need for Alcohol and Drug Treatment: Presenting Your Concerns

During your conversation, and even when you're trying to decide what you need to say, make sure that you're honest about everything. It will not help your aunt or uncle at all if you sugarcoat your words, and they need to know the truth. For example, if your loved one's addiction has caused you to have to take time off from work to help care for them, it is a big problem that causes you financial stress. This is something they need to be made aware of.

It's OK to be blunt when you're talking with your family member. Try to maintain a loving attitude, but let them know how the addiction and the behaviors that go along with it has impacted you and made you feel on a day-to-day basis.

It's also important for you to set some boundaries in place, and while this might be difficult for you, it's crucial to both encourage treatment and for your own health and mental state. Let your aunt or uncle know that you will no longer be tolerant of certain requests, such as offering money to help with expenses around their home. The last thing you want to be is an enabler.

Options for Rehab: Senior Rehab, Detox and More

You may be curious about the different options that your loved one will have for treatment. If he or she is older, senior rehab might be an excellent option, and this type of targeted treatment will provide exactly what your family member needs. Depending on the type of addiction your aunt or uncle has, it may be recommended for them to receive drug or alcohol detox treatment as well. This will specifically address the withdrawal symptoms that can occur when substances are stopped abruptly, and if it is necessary to wean your loved one off of prescription medications, that can be done safely in a controlled, supervised environment.

While your aunt or uncle is getting addiction treatment, there are a number of different treatment methods that he or she will be exposed to. These include:

  • Group therapy to ensure that peer counseling takes place.
  • A 12 Step Program, which has shown to be among the most popular types of group therapy in the country because of its effectiveness.
  • Individual therapy, which will allow for treatment of any co-occurring disorders that may be a factor, and that could be contributing to the addiction.
  • Medical treatments that will help with bodily pain or other issues.
  • Therapeutic exercises and treatment, such as Yoga and art therapy.

What to do if Your Aunt or Uncle Refuses Addiction Treatment

Once you talk with your loved one about the idea of going to substance abuse treatment, you may find that you're met with a lot of resistance. It's typical for addicts to make excuses as to why now is not the right time for them to think about getting help for their addictions. If this is the case, there is still another option for you. You may want to consider hosting an intervention.

Interventions are held by drug and alcohol rehab centers, and they offer a platform for the family and friends to talk with a loved one about a need for treatment. Participants are encouraged to share about how the addiction has affected them, and how they can see it has affected the addict. This type of meeting is a surprise to the addict, but the good news is that they will often choose to go and get help immediately.

Interventions are incredibly powerful when they are done the right way. Your aunt or uncle may be in denial about the presence of an addiction, or he or she might not realize how many people want them to get the help that's needed to recover. An intervention can change both.

Get Help for Your Aunt or Uncle's Substance Abuse Problem at Northpoint Recovery

You love your aunt or uncle so much, and it's so painful to watch the downward spiral they are currently on because of the addiction. It's possible that they have become addicted to a drug or alcohol without meaning to, or without even realizing that addiction could be a possibility for them. Even if that is the case, getting professional treatment is the most important thing they can do. You might be feeling nervous about having such a major conversation with them, and it's normal for you to feel that way. However, someone has to be the one to bring it up. You are someone your aunt or uncle loves very much, and it's possible that they will listen to what you have to say and choose to get the help they need to recover.

Here at Northpoint Recovery, we have worked with a countless number of families. We understand how difficult this has been for you, and we also understand the seriousness of your aunt or uncle's addiction. Our goal is to provide them with the absolute best drug and alcohol treatment they can find, and whether they are in need of senior rehab or traditional inpatient rehab, we're confident that they will reap the benefits of being a part of our program.

Do you have aunt or an uncle who suffers from an addiction? We want to help you both. Please contact us today.