It’s Not Easy: Talking to Your Brother, Sister or Cousin About Addiction
If you’re like most people, your brother, sister or even your cousin might have been your very first friend. These are people you grew up with, people you played with, and people you’ve come to trust as actual friends now that you are all adults. One of the hardest things to come to terms with is when someone who is a close family member has an addiction. If you have an addicted sister, brother or cousin, you may feel as though the responsibility of saying something to them about it rests on you.
Addiction in families is certainly nothing new. In fact, it’s a serious problem in the United States that is only getting worse. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2013, it was estimated that about 24.6 million people in the U.S. had used an illicit drug within the last month. This means that 9.4% of Americans are currently using drugs. That number was up from just 8.3% of the population in 2002.
The number of people who abuse alcohol on a regular basis is just as staggering. During that same year, 30.2% of men and 16% of women reported binge drinking, and many of these individuals admitted to frequently participating in heavy alcohol use.
Here at Northpoint Recovery, we know how hard it is when addiction strikes a little too close to home. It can be terrifying to know that someone you love is battling an addiction, and you need to know the best ways that you can help your loved one to conquer it. That’s what we would like to present to you today.
Talking with Your Cousin, Sister or Brother About Addiction: Make a Plan
The conversation you’re about to have with your family member is a tough one for anyone to have. However, you know the importance of it, and you’re determined to do it. Still, you want to be sure you’re prepared with a plan before you begin.
The first thing you’ll want to plan is when you’re going to have this conversation. It’s important to choose a time when your loved one will be sober, because you definitely don’t want to talk with him or her when intoxication is a factor. It might be a good idea to have the conversation right after your family member wakes up in the morning. That way, you can be sure that he or she is sober and able to listen to what you have to say.
Next, write down on paper what it is that you want to say. You don’t have to write out an entire speech, but it can help to really take some time and think about the points you want to hit and write those down. Take the paper with you so you don’t forget what you want to communicate.
Substance Abuse is a Difficult Subject – Stay Calm
There’s no denying that addiction is a very hard subject to talk about, but because it’s your sister, brother or cousin that is involved, it’s one that you’re very passionate about. Sometimes that passion can come through in what you say and how you act when you’re saying it. That means that while you’re talking, it will be very easy for you to raise your voice and get angry. This is something you want to avoid because it will only turn your loved one off.
Take some deep breaths before you even begin to have this conversation with your family member. Know in advance that your words are probably going to be met with resistance, denial, or even hostility. Even if your loved one gets upset with you and starts to verbally lash out, avoid reacting in kind. Stress that you want to have an adult conversation, but that you don’t want to argue about what it is that you’re saying.
Setting Boundaries With Your Addicted Family Members
It’s possible that you might be concerned that you have become an enabler for your addicted family member. This happens to the most well-meaning people, and it’s not something that you probably thought was the wrong thing for you to do. Still, it’s vital for you to stop enabling your loved one so that you can truly start to help him or her. To do that, you have to be able to set boundaries.
You may be in a situation where you offer to do things for your cousin, brother or sister, such as babysit the kids when they’re not able to watch them because of being drunk or high. You may have offered to run to the store, cover rent payments, or pay bills. These are all the actions of an enabler, and in order for them to stop, you need to make the new boundaries known during this conversation. Again, this is likely to be met with resistance and anger, but stand firm. You’re doing the right thing.
Honest Discussions About Drug and Alcohol Addictions are Always Best
Above all, when you’re talking with your family member, be honest about the addiction and the effect it is having on you. Honesty is always the best policy in these situations, and sugar-coating how you feel isn’t going to change anything. Your loved one’s addiction is disruptive to you and your family, and it’s dangerous for him or her. Don’t be afraid to talk about painful situations that occurred because of the substance abuse, but clearly indicate your willingness to help your loved one get help.
Refrain from Placing Blame or Judgment When Talking About Substance Abuse
It’s so easy to get into a pattern of placing blame on your sister, brother or cousin because of the addiction, but doing so isn’t going to get you anywhere. Blaming him or her will only cause resentment, and it’s likely to make your loved one shut down and refuse to listen to anything else you have to say.
What you need to remember is that addiction is a disease, and it’s a dangerous one. Just like heart disease, diabetes or cancer, those who struggle with addictions need to get ongoing treatment, and if you approach this conversation with an attitude of wanting to help rather than one of judging, you’re much more likely to get the response you’re hoping for.
Considering an Intervention: When Conversations About Addiction Don’t Work
Even though it is important for you to talk with your loved one about the addiction, it’s also crucial for you to understand that talking about it might not change anything. This is something you need to be prepared for, just in case. However, if talking about it doesn’t do anything to change the addictive behaviors, please know that there are other options you may want to consider.
Many drug and alcohol treatment centers offer intervention services, and this is a way for you and other members of your family to come together and talk about the addiction with your loved one. The meetings usually take place in the presence of someone who specializes in this area, and you’ll receive coaching about what to say when the meeting starts. Your loved one will be invited to the location, but the actual intervention itself will be a surprise.
Sometimes addicts are not aware that there are so many people who are concerned about their well-being, and that fact alone is enough to get them to realize that something needs to change in their lives. If your loved one chooses to get help, arrangements can be made for that to happen immediately.
Drug and Alcohol Treatment for Families at Northpoint Recovery
Right now, you’re facing one of the biggest challenges you’ve ever faced. You have an addicted family member, and when it’s someone who has always been really close to you, it can be so difficult to know what to do, what to say, or how to respond. If your brother, sister or cousin is showing signs of an addiction, it’s so important for you to know what you can do to try and encourage him or her to get the help that’s needed to recover.
At Northpoint Recovery, we’re all too familiar with the situation you’re in right now. You want nothing more than to encourage your loved one to get help, and even though you can see how it would benefit him or her, it’s common for the addicted individual to be blind to those benefits. If your family member is interested in getting effective rehab, we offer some of the best drug and alcohol treatment services in the country. If you need help convincing your loved one to get help, our intervention services might be just what you need.
Are you looking for assistance to get a brother, sister or cousin into addiction treatment? We can help you here at Northpoint Recovery. Please contact us today to learn more.