If you have a loved one who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, you know that it can be extremely difficult to talk to that person about their addiction. Addiction involves a number of defense mechanisms that serve to protect the addict and their addictive behavior.
Typically when you confront the person about their addiction you may encounter a variety of techniques they use to avoid focusing on the real issue, their addiction. These can include anger, rationalization, avoidance, guilt, aggression or anything else they can do that might prevent you from having a serious and productive conversation.
Talking to an addict about their addiction requires courage, patience, proper planning, good timing, and honesty. Keep in mind that addiction is a disease, and often treating the addiction will require the assistance of a professional. If someone you love is addicted to drugs or alcohol, here are some suggestions that might help to at least start the conversation:
1) You’ve Changed
Talking about change is one way to broach the subject of addiction, but it is important to be careful here, because being too negative will put your loved one in a defensive mood. Try discussing how happy or friendly they used to be, without saying anything negative about them now. Mention specific incidences where you were there for each other.
If you must mention something negative, be specific, and bring up actual dates and specific events rather than telling the person that they are unreliable, undependable, or bad in any way. This will help to set the mood for your entire conversation, and will prevent an unfocused argument which could stem from too much general criticism.
2) I Love You
Studies show that many addicts are insecure, so pushing them away or using tough love can sometimes aggravate the problem. Telling your loved one that you do love them, and that even if you don’t understand their choices, you won’t give up on them, can give them the confidence they need to move forward and away from their addiction.
At some point you may have to walk away to save yourself, but you can still let them know you love them and will be there for them if they decide they will accept help.
3) You’re Not Alone
Even if you’ve never had a problem with substance abuse, it’s important to show that you care. Data shows that roughly 23.5 million Americans have a problem with substance abuse. Addiction is a common problem, but many addicts feel like they’re alone because they can’t talk to their friends and family. Make sure that they know you will listen without judging them.
4) Everyone Needs Help
Getting help is nothing to be ashamed of. Addiction affects nearly 1 in 10 Americans at some point in their life, but many never seek help. Many more eventually relapse because they fail to continue to look for help. Talk with your loved one and tell them that getting help is the bravest and best thing they can do for themselves.
5) It’s Not Your Fault
Addictions like alcoholism or substance abuse are a disease. No one intends to become an addict. Talking to your loved one to explain that you understand it is not their fault may go a long way towards convincing him or her to get help.
They may ask “Am I responsible for my addiction?” An addict may not be responsible for being an addict, but once they are an addict, they are responsible for their recovery. The first step to recovery is to stop pointing fingers and start taking responsibility for the choices that allow the addiction to continue.
6) Things Will Get Better
Addiction can seem hopeless. If you can take the time to reassure your loved one that things will get better, you can have a huge impact on their life. Addiction is often painful and simply reminding them that things don’t have to remain bad can be helpful and motivating. Tell them there’s a better way to live if they will accept help.
7) Can I Help?
Your loved one might not accept help, but offering to help can make it easier for them to focus on fighting their addiction. While you obviously wouldn’t want to offer money, help might come in the form of taking care of a pet, helping them seek professional advice or treatment, or simply listening to them when they are willing to talk honestly. You especially want to be ready and have resources available when they are ready to seek treatment.
Getting Help for Addiction
Helping your loved one through an addiction is difficult, and the hardest thing to face is often that you can’t help them. An addict must choose to get over their addiction on their own, and while you can try to be there for them, it can be frustrating and difficult simply because you have very little control over their choices.
It can be painful to watch your loved one hurt, but you can’t fix it for them. Your best option is to support your loved one, offer them help when they need it, and be there for them. In time, they will hopefully get the help they need to recover.
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