How to Talk to a Family Member About Addiction

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When someone you love, whether it’s a family member or a friend, struggles with addiction to drugs or alcohol, you naturally want to help. As addiction progresses, it tends to have a devastating effect on physical and emotional health, personal relationships, and professional goals. You’ll want your loved one to seek help, but it’s common for the addict to resist. By learning tips for talking to a family member or friend about addiction, you can help them to work toward recovery.

As you observe a loved one’s behavior, you might wonder whether you’re overreacting or if there really is a problem. People struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol tend to exhibit common symptoms; noticing these signs can be key to catching and addressing an addiction. For instance, you might have concerns about how often your loved one drinks; watch for patterns of use that extend over days and weeks. They may behave in ways that make you feel hurt or embarrassed, and you may find yourself making excuses for their actions under the influence of narcotics or alcohol. An addict can also let responsibilities slip: You may need to come to the rescue when they fail to take care of a necessary task. You may also notice financial problems caused by the amount of money they spend on alcohol or drugs.

It’s perfectly normal to feel nervous as you plan to approach your loved one. Preparing ahead for your talk will help you touch on the important points. Study a few statistics, signs of abuse, and effects of using so you can share them, if necessary. Choose your time carefully. You don’t want your loved one to be under the influence when you talk, and it’s also best to choose a time when everyone is calm, well-rested, and unstressed.

Strive to focus on your concern for your loved one’s well-being, sharing how much you care. List the behaviors you’ve noticed, and tell your loved one that you are concerned about the effects of their drinking or drug use. As you talk, ask open-ended questions to get a dialogue going. This will help prevent your loved one from feeling like you’re lecturing. If your loved one tells you that there isn’t a problem, ask if you can revisit the issue again in the future. The goal is not to convince the person there’s a problem but instead to show that you think there’s a problem based on what you’ve observed. Avoid judging or speculating on motives because this can create defensiveness in your loved one. If your loved one responds positively, have a plan for how to proceed to get help. You might suggest counseling and treatment center options that would be covered by your loved one’s insurance. Keep in mind that quick fixes for achieving sobriety are rare; even with treatment, it’s common for addicts and their loved ones to struggle for months or years.

Visit these websites for help and support as you prepare to approach a loved one dealing with addiction: