Talking to a loved one about their addiction is not an easy thing to do.
You may feel uncomfortable, worried, or confused. Although the conversation might not be easy at first, remember it is a step in the right direction toward getting your loved one the help they need.
Prepare in Advance
Depending on the situation, it may be a good idea to consult with other family members to decide the best way to approach the conversation. Prepare in advance what you are going to say and practice saying it. Ask a trusted family member or friend that knows the person suffering from addiction to role play the conversation with you. Doing this will help to reduce your feelings of stress, nervousness, and anxiety.
Start the Conversation
Now that you are prepared for the conversation, it is time to open the lines of communication. Make sure it is a convenient time for your loved one. Choose a private place to talk where a meaningful one-on-one conversation can take place without interruptions or distractions. Many people find that talking at home is more comfortable.
Begin the discussion by telling your loved one that you are concerned about their behavior and ask them if they are willing and open to hearing your thoughts. Make a distinction between how you feel about your loved one and how you feel about their addiction. For example, you can communicate effectively by saying things like “I love and support you” and “I don’t support what happens when you use drugs.”
Your loved one will most likely respond better to the conversation if you talk with concern and compassion. Try to use words and phrases that are non-blaming.
Use the word “I” as much as possible. Say things like “I worry about you when you do drugs” instead of “You make me worry.” Always stick to the facts and stay consistent. It often helps to talk about specific incidents or behaviors that are related to their addiction and have had a direct effect on you.
Be Mindful of Body Language and Tone
Using appropriate body language and tone are very important while engaged in the conversation with your loved one. Speak in a soft, slow tone and remain seated. Leaning in slightly toward your loved one shows that you are interested in the conversation and it also conveys empathy.
Actions you should avoid include:
- Using a tone that is loud and accusatory, yelling, or cursing
- Crossing your arms
- Pointing your finger in an accusing way
- Banging, pounding, or shaking your fist
- Leaning away from your loved one
- Cocking your head back, which can be seen as being condescending
Listen to Your Loved One
Make sure to let your loved one talk. They will be more likely to confide in you if you listen to what they have to say without criticizing or interrupting them. Ask them guided questions to try to get them to open up about their addiction and what is going on in their lives. Even if your loved one denies that there is a problem or is finding it hard to accept your help, listening to them and opening up a channel of communication may help them to feel less alone in their addiction.
Show Unconditional Love
Regardless of how severe your loved one’s addiction is, tell them that you still love them and care about them whether they get help or not. If for some reason that is not possible or true, let them know that you have their best interest at heart. Let them know that you will be there to help and support them. For example, tell them you will go with them to couples or family counseling.
Always Be Kind to Your Loved One
Show your loved one that you care by your actions and behavior. Always act with compassion and kindness. Society has stigmatized addiction so much that people who have addictions are afraid that they will be rejected by their family and friends. They expect to be criticized, insulted, and belittled by others. By showing you care and accepting them, even though you don’t accept all of their behaviors, you keep the lines of communication open and begin the process of building bridges to forgiveness and recovery.
Support the Process of Change
If your loved one is receptive to your concerns and thoughts, you should ask them if they are willing to get professional help. Be prepared with information on various resources and treatment facilities that focus on the specific needs and situation of your loved one.
If You Encounter Resistance, Seek Help from an Interventionist
Sometimes a person suffering from a substance addiction may become defensive and deny their addiction exists. If this happens, it might be time instead to start talking with other family members and concerned parties to begin planning an intervention. The purpose of the intervention is to confront your loved one with their addiction, its consequences, and persuade them to accept help and get treatment.
The intervention is led by an intervention professional, called an interventionist, who will work with the entire family and guide them through the process. When choosing an interventionist, it is important to make certain that the person is a Certified Intervention Professional and has the letters CIP after their name. Since there are different models of intervention, the professional you choose will know the right method to use for your loved one’s intervention.
Always remember that addiction is a disease, not a choice. By working with a professional interventionist, you have taken the first step toward helping your loved one find the path to recovery and living a clean, sober, and healthy life.