If someone you care about has developed an addiction to drugs or alcohol, you may be feeling at a loss about how to talk to them about getting help.
It’s a difficult subject to bring up, especially if you aren’t sure how your loved one will react. You may have concerns that talking to them about their addiction may make the situation worse, which makes it tempting to avoid bringing up the issue at all. But ignoring the problem is not a solution; it will only lead to more serious problems.
Addiction is not a disease that takes over someone’s life overnight. It creeps in slowly and develops over time. Family members and friends may see signs that something is amiss with a loved one but not realize that substance abuse is to blame. Someone who is using chemicals may well be in denial about the extent of the problem.
Preparing Yourself to Talk to Someone you Love About Addiction
Before you approach your loved one to talk to about their addiction, it’s a good idea to take some time to think about the conversation in advance. It’s fair to say that most people never picture themselves having to deal with this situation. It definitely doesn’t feel comfortable, and may even be a little scary.
If you have concerns that talking to them about getting help will somehow “push them over the edge” and make their addiction worse, put those concerns out of your mind. Your loved one is the only one responsible for their actions, even if they have made statements or threats otherwise.
How to Talk to an Addicted Loved One About Getting Help
- Set aside time to talk. Choose a time for your conversation when your loved one is not high or drunk and when neither of you will be distracted or interrupted. You’ll want them to be able to focus on what you are saying. Since you don’t know how much time it will take, it’s best not to have anything scheduled afterward.
- Start with a statement of love and caring. Tell the person you are speaking with that you love and care about them, but that you are concerned about their behavior. At this point, use “I” statements to share a couple of examples that you have seen or noticed connected to their drinking or drug use.
- “I’ve noticed that you seem less interested in work and family lately…”
- “Lately, I’ve seen that you’ve been drinking through the week and not just on weekends…”
- Follow up your observation with an open-ended question. Refrain from asking your loved one whether they are using drugs or alcohol, which could result in a firm “no” and shut down the conversation. Instead, ask this open-ended question: “What’s going on?” Then wait for an answer. It may take some time before your loved one says anything.
- Listen without judgment. This isn’t always easy to do, since we tend to put ourselves into situations that someone is describing to us and think that we would handle it better or differently than they did. If your loved one decides to confide in you about their situation, the best thing you can do is just listen. People don’t start to use substances in a vacuum; there is always an underlying reason behind it. They are using the chemicals to mask emotional pain.
- Offer to help your loved one find a treatment program. If your loved one confides in you that they are hurting and self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, offer to help them find a treatment program. Make an appointment with their primary care physician, since they may need to be evaluated by a doctor for insurance purposes before going into treatment.
If Your Loved One Isn’t Ready to Talk About Treatment
Your loved one may not be ready to talk about getting professional help. Tell them you understand, but ask if it would be all right if you checked in with them at another time to see how they’re doing. You’ll want to keep the lines of communication open.
In another conversation, ask your loved one about their objections about going to treatment. Some people may think that going to treatment may mean having to go through detoxification (detox) “cold turkey.” This is not the case. Great Oaks Recovery Center offers medically supervised detox in an environment designed to keep clients comfortable. Supportive therapy is provided, along with medications, as necessary, while clients get free from the influence of chemicals.