No one ever expects that someone in their family will become addicted to drugs or alcohol.
When you find out that someone you love is living with an addiction, it’s not an easy subject to talk about—even if your goal is to try to get them into treatment.
Let the Situation Sink in Before Approaching Your Loved One
If your first instinct when you discover or realize that your loved one has a substance abuse problem is that you need to do “something” but you aren’t clear about what that is, stop and take a breath.
This is a serious situation and no one is suggesting you should ignore it. When you approach your family member, however, you don’t want the conversation to be led from your emotional side. It’s important to stay calm, if you can.
Choose a Time for the Discussion When Your Loved One Is Likely to be Sober
When you decide to sit down to talk to your loved one, pick a time when she is not intoxicated or recovering from using her drug of choice. You’ll be more likely to have a productive conversation if she’s thinking clearly.
Ask open-ended questions about what is going on in her life. Share your concern about her drinking or using drugs, focusing on concern for her safety. This tactic is a good way to avoid getting into becoming judgmental about negative aspects of her behavior.
Be Prepared for Resistance
More than likely, your loved one will either deny that he has a problem with substance abuse outright or will lie about getting clean on his own. If you hear something like, “I’ll stop drinking or using when…,” then you can pretty much count on whatever comes after the “when” not to happen. If it does, the marker for your loved one to stop will have moved by that point.
Set Consistent Rules and Expectations for Your Home
It’s important to communicate to the person living with an addiction in your life that you have certain expectations for them if they are going to be in your home. Tell them exactly what the rules are if they are going to visit or stay with you. If you don’t want them to drink or do drugs in your home or to come to your house when they are intoxicated, be clear about this.
Be Predictable with Consequences
Once you have set your rules and expectations, you need to follow through with consequences. This needs to happen every time. If you’re not consistent with your limits, your addicted loved one won’t believe you when you explain what you expect from him.
Show Concern for Your Loved One
Let your loved one know that you love and care about them, and that your feelings are separate from her addiction. You still want the best for her.
Get Help for Yourself
It’s very difficult to deal with an addicted loved one without support. You may want to consider joining a support group like Al-Anon. Its members are people who have experience with a family member’s drinking. Through sharing and support, members help each other cope. All communication is held in the strictest confidence.
Consider Contacting a Professional Interventionist
There is never a perfect time to get help from an interventionist. The longer your loved one lives with an addiction, the more challenging it will be to treat his condition. This is a situation that won’t improve if you try to wait it out or give your loved one time to decide for himself to seek help.
Most people don’t decide on their own that they are ready to go to a drug and alcohol treatment center. If given the option, they will prefer to continue in their present lifestyle.
The advantage of working with an interventionist is that the experience forces the situation to come to a head. The family says to their addicted loved one that it will support his efforts to get well, but won’t support the addiction. In many cases, the family member agrees to get help, either on the day of the intervention or at a later time.