Addiction is without a doubt one of the hardest topics to talk about, especially if you are watching it unfold in front of you with a loved one. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed when you see a loved one struggling with an addiction, but don’t forget that there is always a way that you can help them. Never forget that the first important step is having the conversation with them.
Below are some dos and don’ts when it comes to talking to a loved one about their addiction.
Be upfront and clear: Always be honest and clear when you communicate with anyone, not just when someone is struggling with addiction. It’s usually good to start by communicating your own feelings, but make sure you do so in a calm manner. Let them know how their addiction is hurting you and that you fear for their wellbeing. Your loved one may react negatively or strongly toward what you say, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to say it. Your words can help them lean closer to recovery.
Let them respond on their own: Don’t pressure your loved one to respond right away. You can explain how you want to help, but pressure will often be met with resistance. If they need time, any negative emotions may dissolve, and they can think about what you said before they respond.
Set boundaries: Help your loved ones, but don’t let them overstep any boundaries you have set. If an addict has become dependent on you, it can be very mentally draining. Always remember that it is okay to say “no,” and explain yourself when you do so that your loved one will know how you will respond if it comes up again.
Take action: By taking action, you can show your loved ones that you care about them and are willing to help them along the way. You can help them by attending AA meetings with them or helping them look for a treatment center.
Talk when you’re both clear-headed: There is never a perfect time to have a difficult conversation but talking while you and your loved one are clear-headed is a good start. Waiting until your loved one is sober to talk can have a positive impact and help them think about treatment in a clearer way.
Ignore the addiction: Acting like your loved one’s addiction doesn’t exist will not help them make positive changes in their life. Addicts can put themselves in risky situations, and addiction is a disease that only gets worse as it progresses. Though you may think that talking to your loved one won’t change anything, it can still plant a seed for them to think about down the road.
Enable negative behavior: Do not give your loved one a space to continue their negative behavior in. Enforce the boundaries you set and do not lie to cover up their behavior. Do not supply them with addictive substances. By enabling your loved one’s negative behavior, you become a problem by furthering their addiction.
Talk about your concerns while they are under the influence: Nothing can be resolved while someone is under the influence. Your loved one won’t be thinking clearly and can easily become overwhelmed with your concerns. If you are trying to talk to them, you’re better off waiting until they are sober.
Give threats or ultimatums: Threatening a loved one who is not ready to change will usually be met with resistance. Keep in mind that there is a fine line between setting expectations and threatening someone, so make sure you stick to something realistic. A good example of this would be don’t give your loved one money if you know that they will spend it on substances.
Point fingers: Do not blame yourself or your loved one for their addiction. It can be easy to find blame in somebody during difficult times, but placing blame on yourself or your loved one only adds more pain to the situation.