Choosing Your Time Wisely: How to Talk with Your Loved One About His or Her Addiction
Few situations are more painful than watching a loved one struggle with a drug or alcohol problem. No doubt, you have seen the person you love slowly slip away. You desperately miss that person and are tired, frustrated, and fed up. The time has come to confront him or her about the addiction that has taken hold of all your lives.
The conversation will not be easy. Confronting your addicted loved one will be as difficult for you, as it will be for the person struggling with dependence. To foster an open, constructive dialogue, you have to choose your moment wisely.
With that in mind, here are some tips to help the discussion go as smoothly as possible, to give your loved one the best possible chances of breaking free:
Respect what you are dealing with.
Addiction is powerful. It is very hard to overcome, and most addicts try to quit numerous times before they succeed. Acknowledge the power of what your loved one is facing, and realize the addiction is not his or her fault. To better understand what you are up against, you may want to educate yourself on addiction before the confrontation by attending meetings of a local addiction support group, such as Al-Anon.
Search for a sober moment.
The best time to confront someone about an addiction is not when the person is under the influence. Drugs and alcohol inhibit the ability to think clearly, and a person is much more apt to have an explosive, irrational reaction when he or she is high. Plan to talk to your loved one at a time he or she is most likely to be sober, such as first thing in the morning.
Use an unfortunate incident as an opportunity.
In cases of addiction, side effects that seem disastrous, such as a job loss, relationship break-up, or driving under the influence (DUI) conviction, can be blessings in disguise. Immediately after such wake-up calls, addicts may be more open to facing their addiction and planning how they can avoid similar incidents down the road.
Strike a compassionate yet tough tone.
When you confront your loved one about addiction, it will be just that—a confrontation. But you can make the conflict as positive as possible by emphasizing your desire to help. Express your genuine love and concern for the person while at the same time making it clear you will no longer tolerate the addiction.
Stand your ground.
Unfortunately, addicts often blame their partners and family members for their dependence. Keep in mind that no matter what the circumstances, the addiction is not your fault.
Consider an intervention.
In many cases, the best way to address someone with an addiction is with an intervention. During an intervention, a group of friends and family members come together to confront the addict. Realizing numerous important people in their lives share the same concerns, an addict may be more likely to seek treatment. If you want to stage an intervention, plan ahead; impromptu interventions are more apt to become riddled with drama and fail. Consider using a professional interventionist, especially if the addict has a history of violence or mental illness. Also arrange to have transportation ready and waiting should the person agree to go directly to treatment.
Stay the course.
When it comes to convincing someone with an addiction to seek help, tough love is best. After all, the line between helping and enabling is a slippery slope. If your loved one refuses treatment, prepare yourself to cut ties. You may have to stop giving money, transportation or housing, until he or she agrees. Going to these extremes can be difficult, but you will send a clear message that the addiction will no longer be tolerated.
Prepare yourself for the worst.
People struggling with addiction often react defensively when confronted. Even if you follow all aforementioned guidelines and choose your moment carefully, there’s no guarantee that your loved one will admit the problem or agree to treatment. Realize you cannot force your loved one into treatment; all you can do is explain from a place of compassion why you think he or she should get help.
On a positive note, if nothing else, the discussion will get the wheels turning in the addict’s head and perhaps get him or her one step closer to recovery. In other words, it will not be in vain.
Hope for the best.
As a friend or family member of someone with an addiction, you may feel like you are destined to live with frustration and turmoil forever. But remember: Thousands of addicts enter recovery centers every day, and many of them leave clean and sober. Your loved one has the power to get better, and you can play an important role in helping him or her choose freedom over dependence.