How to Talk to Your Loved One About Their Addiction?

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If you have a loved one who is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, you likely know how difficult it can be to confront them about it. Perhaps you’ve tried having a conversation in the past that was met with avoidance, anger, guilt or other deflecting behaviors that prevent you from having a constructive conversation. With empathy, patience and planning, you can ensure a productive discussion.

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Know where to direct your anger.

The anger that’s directed toward your loved one and the anger that’s directed toward the addiction are two separate things. Once you’re able to recognize that, the way you perceive addiction will shift, and you’ll change your approach to talking to your loved one about it.

The truth is, your loved one is still there. They’re just clouded by addiction. It’s okay to be angry at addiction, but don’t let those emotions take over.

Talk when they’re sober.

Don’t try to have a conversation when your loved one is drunk or high. They’re not in a state of mind where anything you say will sink in, and their volatility could make the conversation take a turn for the worse. If it seems like they’re always under the influence, try talking in the morning when they’re most clear-headed.

Stay calm.

It’s easier said than done, but go into the conversation calm and collected, and try your hardest stay that way. Don’t let your loved one’s agitation or anger get to you. Instead, calmly explain that you don’t want to argue; you want to have a discussion.

Be straightforward.

People struggling with addiction are usually aware of how their actions are affecting the people around them; they just don’t know exactly how. Trying to hide the pain they are causing you by putting on a good face doesn’t help the situation. Instead, tell your loved one how their actions affect you in a simple, honest non-accusatory way.

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Don’t be judgmental.

When someone is approaching rock bottom, it’s tempting to want to lecture them on the consequences of addiction, but lecturing will only drive them deeper into addiction. Remember that addiction is a disease and that while it’s a disease that’s a result of your loved one’s choices, it’s still tough to break free from it.

Your loved one might even want to quit, but quitting isn’t as easy as it sounds. The physical and psychological side effects of withdrawal require a lot of work to overcome. Approach the conversation from an empathetic place and be understanding of what they’re going through.

Show your support.

It’s important to tell your loved one that although you love and support them, you don’t support their addiction. Setting this boundary indicates that just because you have their back during recovery doesn’t mean you’re going to be complicit and enable them.

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Consider an intervention.

Don’t be surprised if your conversation doesn’t result in your loved one getting help. Denial is a symptom of addiction, so don’t take it personally. If you’ve tried having conversations in the past to no avail, consider a professional intervention where family and friends confront the person struggling with addiction together and offer options to get help. Staging a successful intervention that leads a person toward treatment can be difficult, so having the help of a professional can be extremely beneficial in keeping the conversation on track and defusing tension.

Guardian Recovery offers professional interventions for addiction and substance abuse, eating disorders, and mental health conditions. With a 98% success rate, we’re able to create an intervention strategy that communicates with your loved one in the most effective way. Contact us at 877.831.2533 to learn more about how our intervention services can help someone you care about.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

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Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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