Addiction causes difficulties and awkwardness where it doesn’t have to exist. If you had a friend or a family member who was waylaid by any other prolonged illness, you would probably be right there to lend a hand. But when someone you care is about is abusing alcohol or drugs, it can be hard to know the right things to say or do. But that’s precisely the point – addiction is a medical condition, just like other chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure. And, just like those other conditions, addiction must be managed or it can be life-threatening. You, as someone close to the substance abuser, might be the only person who is in a position to talk to them and influence them to seek drug or alcohol treatment. Every day that you wait for risks their life.
What Are Some of the Reasons Why People Don’t Confront a Loved One with an Addiction?
It’s not easy talking to someone close to you about their drug or alcohol use. There is any number of reasons why you might have reservations about broaching the subject:
- “It’s None of My Business” –Put simply, you don’t want to appear that you are telling your friend what to do. They are an adult, after all, so is it any of your business what they put into their body?
YES… And here’s why… Imagine a different scenario… Let’s say you were walking down the street and you saw someone about to absentmindedly step in front of a moving car. Wouldn’t you try to pull them out of harm’s way? Wouldn’t you at least yell at them to try to get their attention to alert them of the danger? Substance abuse IS that moving car. The progressive disease of addiction is just as destructive and as deadly and invariably leads to hospitalization, ruined health, mental illness, destroyed lives, and death. If you would help a total stranger, you should at least try to help those closest to you.
- “I Don’t Want to Push Them Away”– Like it or not, addiction has already created a barrier between you. Substance abusers always suffer from feelings of isolation and alienation. Dishonesty and denial on their part only widen the gap.
The solution is honesty, and it has to come from you. If you sincerely express your concern and your support for your suffering loved one, you may be surprised. Addicts and alcoholics often secretly and desperately hope that someone cares enough about them to offer to help.
- “I Don’t Know What to Say”–Fair enough. It’s never going to be easy to talk to someone about their private disease. Every person’s situation is unique, so there is no line-for-line script that you can follow that guarantees that you will get through to the addict.
Sometimes, though, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. When you try to talk to your suffering loved one, make sure that you are doing it from a place of positivity – love, acceptance, concern, and support. The real message – that you only want the best for them – will get through.
What Else Can I Do to Help My Loved One When I Confront Them about Their Addiction?
To maximize your chances of success when you talk to the suffering addict/alcoholic, there are a few things that you can do to prepare. This can be as informal as just the two of you having a talk over breakfast at a restaurant, or it can be as structured as a professionally-directed intervention with the whole family in attendance. Either way, there are some practical guidelines that you can follow:
- The behavior is bad, not the person –Your loved one is suffering from a disease that takes away their ability to choose or make good decisions. Even if their actions are unacceptable, you are still there for the person.
- Do Your Research –Read everything you can about the disease of addiction. Talk to a professional counselor. Go to a 12-Step meeting. Everything that you learn will help you know what to say and how to act.
- Don’t Talk to Them While They’re under the Influence–They won’t be able to fully grasp what you’re trying to say. They might become unreasonable and you might get angry or frustrated. Take your time wisely – perhaps you can try to talk to them early in the morning before they’ve had a chance to drink or use.
- Be As Specific As Possible–Don’t quote statistics or research. Don’t say vague things like “You’re drinking is a problem.” They already know.
Instead, bring up real things that have happened and talk about how they’ve had a negative impact on either the addict’s life or yours. “When you showed up high at dinner, I felt…”
- Break the Ice With Positive Sentiments–Start the conversation with expressions of love and support. Remind them that you have a positive history, and that is why you feel that you have to say something. “We’ve been friends for a long time, and you know I love you, but lately I’ve noticed…”
- Be Ready to Offer a Solution–Don’t just show up to talk about how bad addiction has been in everyone’s life. Offer your loved one a way out. Beforehand, get information about local drug rehab programs. Have the number of an intake line pre-programmed on speed dial on your phone. Depending upon your relationship, you may even make pre-arrangements, if they are willing to go to drug treatment.
- Remember That You Don’t Have To Do It Alone–Even if you’re not ready to stage a full intervention, it’s okay to bring along some support. Have another concerned friend or family accompany you. If you don’t want to go that route, ask someone from a 12-step meeting to come with you. Even if they don’t know your loved one, they might have a unique perspective that can help.
If you need further information about the disease of addiction or if you need more advice about how to talk to your loved one about their substance abuse, make the call to Northpoint Recovery today. Regarded as the premier drug and alcohol rehab facility in the Pacific Northwest, Northpoint Recovery has a clinical staff with years of training and expertise in the field of addiction recovery, and they can be an invaluable resource when your loved one decides to begin their journey back to sobriety.