Step-by-Step Guide to Connecting With Your Addicted Family Member
Drug or alcohol dependence has devastating effects on both the individual and the family. Unfortunately, the negative impact is often very clear to everyone except the addicts themselves. You may have years of family history of failed attempts to convince your loved one there is a problem, but don’t lose hope. Sometimes the key to breaking through is having a concrete plan of approach. With your encouragement and support, your loved one has the power to overcome addiction and to build a satisfying life free from dependence on addictive substances.
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Here are some things you can do to get your family member on board:
You don’t have to go it alone; support is important when it comes to convincing your loved one to seek treatment. Talk to a therapist or counselor, preferably someone with experience treating addicts and their families. Close friends, family members, healthcare providers and people from your church or synagogue can also provide a great deal of support. Backed by a safe, strong, compassionate and supportive community, your loved one will have the best possible environment for growth and personal discovery.
Come from a position of strength.
Before you confront your loved one, take care of yourself. Remind yourself that you did not cause the addiction, you can’t control it and you can’t cure it. In other words the addiction is not your fault. You deserve to live a life free of the turmoil of drug and alcohol abuse. Keep the focus of the conversation on the addict and on your concern for their health and wellbeing. Set clear boundaries for the discussion and keep it compassionate and solution-focused while avoiding blame and shame on both sides.
Choose your moment.
There is a right and wrong time to confront someone about addiction. If possible, approach your loved one when he or she is sober, such as first thing in the morning. Drugs and alcohol cloud judgment and make a person more likely to become unreasonable or lash out.
Speak up as soon as you can.
The earlier an addiction is treated, the better the chances of recovery. So don’t wait for the person to hit rock bottom to voice your concern.
Approach the situation with love and fairness.
Offer help and support without judgment. Don’t attempt to punish, preach or bribe. Doing so will only make your loved one more defensive and less likely to seek help.
Point out the potential risks.
Alcohol and drug abuse is a serious issue that, if left untreated, can lead to health problems, trouble with the law or even death. Remind your loved one of the dangers he or she faces by continuing to be dependent. Speak openly and honestly about your concerns, and don’t sugarcoat.
Explain that addiction is a treatable disease.
Addiction is a disease of the brain, but the good news is, it’s a treatable disease. Your loved one is not a helpless victim. Through therapy, exercise and other treatments, he or she can get better.
As someone who is trying to convince a loved one to stop using drugs or alcohol, if you use (even casually), you may want to consider abstinence for yourself. Lead by way of example.
Make the substance abuser accountable.
Taking over the addict’s responsibilities will only enable the substance abuse and take away the person’s dignity. Do not cover up or make excuses for negative consequences of your loved one’s behavior. Actions, such as lying to a boss about the reason behind a missed work day or lending money when funds have been misspent, only enable further damaging behavior.
Show tough love.
If your loved one resists treatment, be prepared to stop providing money, housing or transportation until he or she agrees. It can be difficult to go to these extremes, but they may be necessary to send a clear message that you will no longer tolerate the addiction.
There’s power in numbers, and in many cases, the best way to confront someone with an addiction is with an intervention. During an intervention, a group of friends and family members join forces to address the addict and explain how the addiction is negatively affecting various parts of the addict’s life. Faced with numerous important people in their lives who share the same concerns, addicts are often more likely to seek help. If you want to stage an intervention, plan ahead and consider using a professional interventionist, especially if the addict has a mental illness or history of violence. Arrange to have transportation available at the intervention in the event the person agrees to go directly to treatment.
Encourage your loved one not to give up.
Recovery from addiction is a long road. In many cases, addicts seek treatment several times and experience numerous relapses before they finally quit for good. If your loved one has tried treatment but failed in the past, remind him or her it’s not a lost cause—they can ultimately find freedom from dependence.