28 Nov How to Talk to a Loved One about their Substance Abuse Issue
One of the most heartbreaking revelations can be to recognize that someone you love may be battling an addiction. The ups and downs associated with loving someone in active addiction is painful and exhausting. Not only is this person impacting the lives of the people around them, but they’re hurting themselves in the process, and this is never fun to witness. Whether or not you decide to sit back and watch your loved one continue on the path to self destruction is entirely up to you. At some point, however, you may very well hit your breaking point and when this happens, it’s probably time for a conversation. This could be easier said than done, but in our experience, there are some approaches that are more effective than others.
You can’t force someone to stop drinking or using. This can be a tough piece of information to accept when we’re emotionally entangled with someone who’s hurting themselves, but it’s good to keep top of mind if you decide to have a talk. Make sure to use “I” statements when confronting someone about their substance abuse issues. Describe how their behavior impacts you personally, and be as specific as possible while recognizing that you can’t change the person. Ultimately, your loved one’s decision to get clean must be their own, but you can certainly cite what you’ve witnessed. Are they violent toward you or others? Have they crashed cars while under the influence? Do they frequently come home at odd hours in the night smelling of alcohol? Has their behavior led to things like late mortgage payments, job loss, and other things that have a negative impact on you and your family or household? All of these things are worth addressing.
Don’t blame, threaten or criticize. Hardly anyone responds well when they feel like they’re being attacked. By blaming, threatening, or criticizing a loved one who’s struggling with addictive behavior, you’re automatically putting them in defense mode which likely won’t end well. No one likes to be put on the defense, particularly where addiction is concerned. Be firm when confronting your loved one, but also make sure you’re coming from a place of love and concern. You’re far more likely to make an impact this way, or at least have your voice be heard, even if this person isn’t ready to get clean right away.
Be clear about your boundaries. Setting firm boundaries as soon as humanly possible when you begin to notice negative addictive patterns sets a great foundation for all communications now and moving forward. Be clear on what you’re willing to put up with and what you absolutely won’t stand for. Make sure to establish what the outcomes associated with any boundary-crossing will be as well, without making blind threats. For example, “if you continue dipping into our mortgage savings for your drug habit, we’ll need to separate our bank accounts.” Or, “if you don’t stop making verbal threats toward me, I’m going to ask for a divorce.” These things may sound harsh, but they’re also very reasonable requests. If someone is impacting your life in excessively negative ways, you need to take care of yourself at the end of the day.
Try to confront your loved one when they’re NOT under the influence. This may not be possible for everyone, as some people who are in the throes of active addiction can almost always be under the influence. But if it’s possible to sit your loved one down while they’re sober, the likelihood of you getting through to them about needing help is going to be much greater. If they’re drunk or high, they probably won’t remember anything you’re telling them later on. Things could also end up very messy and potentially violent if they’re not sober.
Addiction is a disease. Remember this. Keep this one in mind because it’s very important. Your loved one is not their addiction, and they’re more than likely not trying to hurt you. It’s easy to feel hurt, offended or angry by an addicted loved one’s behavior, but separating the disease from the person can help you approach their situation with compassion. If you’ve gotten this person’s attention and you’ve successfully begun an open dialog, they’re probably feeling very scared and vulnerable. By sympathizing with them, your words are far more likely to have an impact.
Be prepared to offer treatment option ideas. First things first – you may and/or may not get through to your loved one right away, or ever for that matter. While the idea of not getting through can be a tough pill to swallow, it’s important to minimize your expectations when having the very difficult conversation about addiction recovery. Hopefully you will get through to this person, though. And if or when you do, it can be good to have a few treatment options available to suggest to them on the spot. If they decide to move forward with treatment, be supportive and help them determine what the best plan is for them. Doing a bit of research ahead of time is a great way to be prepared with options in the moment before they have a chance to change their minds. Offer to make treatment phone calls, check on insurance options, and make travel plans if needed so that you can get them into treatment right away.
Kembali Recovery Center is Here to Help
If your loved one is ready to enter treatment for drug and alcohol recovery, then Kembali Recovery Center is here for you. Contact us right away to find out about our four week treatment program. Our next intake is right around the corner. All calls with us are completely confidential and commitment free, but our counselors can answer any treatment related questions so that you can make an informed decision for your loved one.