How To Talk About Addiction To A Family Member
Addiction in the family can be very delicate, but when approached correctly, you can help avert a great amount of tragedy and find an opportunity to help your family member onto a path of recovery long before things hit rock bottom. Learning how best to talk about addiction to that family member is important to provide help and not push them away.
Learn More About Addiction And How To Talk About Addiction
The first thing to do is sit down and read up on what may be going through your loved one’s head. There’s no way to know or understand exactly what your loved one is thinking, but many resources are available to people who have never gone through addiction and want to know what it might feel like.
A physical and emotional dependency on a substance can be soul-crushing, depressing, and difficult to deal with alone. Addiction is often tied to mood disorders like depression and other mental disorders such as anxiety, and an addiction’s struggle can worsen the symptoms of such disorders. On top of that, the sheer emotional pain of addiction can further fuel it, creating a cycle that takes a lot of willpower and support to break.
Offer Support, Not Judgment
When discussing addiction, it is important to remember that one of the most important tenets of proper intervention comes from a place of support, not judgment. Do not think of it as a confrontation – think of it as a conversation.
By coming on too strong when you talk about addiction with an air of judgment and intent to argue, you’re creating a toxic situation wherein your loved one will pull up a set of barricades, denying any productive conversation. Some people may begin attacking each other, letting the situation devolve into purposeless word-slinging. Others may go silent, avoid the topic, act annoyed, or even leave, abandoning all conversation.
To get anywhere, you must keep things going. When you talk about addiction, don’t say anything that might cause the other person to quit talking to you. No matter how angry you might be at them for their behavior, it’s important to let your love for them shine through instead. If it’s a toxic situation with an unreasonable and dangerous family member, then sticking around to help them may not even be an option – but if it’s someone you love, who loves their family, then don’t give up on a proper conversation to talk about addiction with them.
Understand The Rules Of Engagement
No one is saying it will be easy. There is no telling what will happen if you talk about addiction with someone in your family and know they’re struggling. If you’re lower in the familial hierarchy – for example, if you must confront your father or mother – try to get more family members on your side to help, to help talk about addiction and convince your loved one that they need help.
Most of the time, the response to the first discussion around addiction may be surprising. Many people do not realize they’re addicted until it is pointed out to them, and while a little resistance to the idea is normal, it does not take too much convincing to make someone realize that they have a problem. In other, more unfortunate cases, people may get defensive or completely break down around the subject.
There are rules of engagement meant to eliminate – as much as possible – all the problems, misunderstandings, or sources of emotional friction when you talk about addiction. It’s important to:
- Always talk about addiction when they’re sober. Most drugs have a reality-changing effect on people, limiting their inhibition, cognition, and ability to use logic or reason.
- Prioritize the safety of your loved ones and yourself. Someone with destructive behavior while addicted can be potentially dangerous, even to their own family – keep everyone else safe and away from a dangerous situation.
- Create an opportunity without distraction. You do not want to begin a conversation like this with only minutes to spare or out in public at the supermarket cashier. Be sure to take an hour or more out of your day, make sure they have that kind of time, and sit down in private to talk.
- Begin by making it clear how much they matter to you. Be honest. Sincere in every way.
- Take note of suspicious or destructive behavior, and explain why you suspect addiction. Insist on giving each person time to air out what they’re thinking so the conversation does not end up sounding like an interrogation.
- Do not make assumptions. If you’ve made inexplicable observations, stick to them. Remember that the main point here is to help your loved one concede that they have a problem and look for a solution together. Badgering, judging, or insulting words all have no place in a conversation like this.
- If your loved one denies the addiction, then don’t push them. Take note of their behavior, and convince others in the family if you need support. Be sure that you’re coming from a basis of fact, not conjecture and paranoia (for example: if you’ve observed rampant and common drunken/high behavior, found drug paraphernalia, etc.)
There’s no point in waiting for things to get worse if you’re sure there’s something wrong. Proper communication is the key to keeping a family together in any situation, but it is even more vital in addiction recovery, where sticking together and offering earnest support can save a person’s life. With the right tools, resources, and help from a Houston IOP treatment center or another Houston addiction treatment program, you can help your loved one today.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. Understanding Drug Use and Addiction DrugFacts. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Published June 6, 2018. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/understanding-drug-use-addiction
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. Introduction. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Published April 2020. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/common-comorbidities-substance-use-disorders/introduction
- Mayo Clinic. Intervention: Help a loved one overcome addiction. Mayo Clinic. Published July 20, 2017. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/in-depth/intervention/art-20047451
Last medically reviewed October 15, 2022
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