Talking about addiction is never easy, no matter which side of the issue you happen to be on. How to ask for help with addiction, or trying to bring up rehab with a loved one is a veritable minefield. But communication is the road that leads to effective healing and restoration. If an addict is a significant person in your life, or your addiction is too much to bear, it’s time to open the doors to talking about addiction.
Communicating With Recovering Addicts
For the person with an addict in their life, nothing can be more difficult than addressing the situation. Avoidance is not solely the tool of the addict. Loved ones can also choose to avoid the situation, acting as if it does not exist, in hopes that the problem will solve itself. Sadly, this never happens. Only by communicating with addicts and convincing them to take the necessary steps to change, will you ever be able to live without fear and dishonesty.
Before barrelling in and confronting your loved one who suffers from substance abuse, you need to realize some facts and determine to approach the situation correctly. There is much that you can do to completely ruin any chances that your loved one will ever seek help. Flinging accusations and being defensive will bar the door against you ever helping your loved one.
Accept that Addiction is a Disease
First, you must be aware that substance addiction is a disease. Although your loved one has made choices and practiced deliberate behaviors that led to their addiction, the problem is a medical problem that requires a multifaceted response. Regardless of how it began, they need help to get out.
Substance abuse affects everything, from mental and emotional responses to physical reactions. No part of a person is immune from the ravages of substance abuse. This disease is so pervasive that it literally takes control of your loved one’s life. Consequently, they will lie and manipulate in every way possible in order to cover it up and continue the addiction.
Realizing that your loved one suffers from a disease removes the stigma and allows you to release negative feelings you may harbor toward them. Would you be angry and resentful toward a loved one with heart disease or cancer? Of course not; you would react with compassion and concern. This is exactly what your loved one who is an addict needs from you.
Refuse to Use Labels
Language is powerful, for both healing and harm. Calling your loved one by derogatory names or referring to them negatively is a sure means of alienating them from you for good. When you come to grips with the fact that addiction does not totally define your loved one, but is simply a complex challenge they are facing, you can choose language that connects rather than erects more barriers.
The language and tone that you use when addressing the situation and your loved one are just as important as your actual message. Using language that stigmatizes, shames, or points the finger of blame erects a wall of resistance and undermines any motivation they may already have to change.
Focus on Collaboration, Not Confrontation
Your attitude and language should be totally focused on understanding and coming alongside to walk through recovery with them. This is different from enabling them to continue destructive behaviors. There are times when difficult choices must be made to cut off resources in order to stop addictive practices or actions. Even then, you must communicate a desire to work together and not be a bully.
How to Talk About Addiction
For the one suffering from substance addiction, it is an enormously difficult task to reveal that you suffer from an addiction. Various stigmas are attached to substance abuse that only make the task of talking about addiction that much harder. If you are an addict who is searching for help in how to admit your addiction, you are to be commended.
If you are unsure if you are truly an addict and need help, perhaps you could use some basic guidance at this point. How can you determine if your alcohol or drug use is simply recreational or is truly an addiction? Here are some signs of an addiction:
- You rely on alcohol or drugs to cope with stress
- You don’t have time or money for healthy pursuits because of using drugs or alcohol
- You black out from using or drinking
- You have missed school/work/family gatherings because of drugs or alcohol
- You have lost friends because of your addictive habits
- You use or drink more than your friends
- The thought of giving up drugs or alcohol makes you nervous
- You are unable to have fun without drugs or alcohol
- A DUI or arrest hasn’t convinced you to cut back
- You drink or use more than you plan to, even when you set a goal
- You “borrow” from family or steal to buy drugs or alcohol
These are all signs that your substance abuse is out of your control; rather, these actions indicate that the substance is controlling you. When you are ready to be honest with yourself and admit that you have an addiction, you have taken the first important step toward making a successful recovery.
But talking about addiction to yourself is not enough. You cannot conquer your addiction alone. You must reach out and begin talking about addiction with those who can help you. This may be a family member, close friend, or your doctor. But you must be honest with someone about your addiction in order to find help in overcoming it.
Just Say It
There is no easy formula for talking about addiction. Don’t be fooled into thinking that your loved ones have no idea of your struggle. In most cases, they already know, but struggle themselves with how to address it. They may feel enormously relieved when you take the ball and simply admit, “I have a problem.”
Tell them that you are ready to be completely honest, and then do so as best you can. Share about your addiction and what it has cost you in terms of money, time, career, family, and other issues. Be upfront about how your addiction has affected school, career, trust, and other relationships.
Caution is warranted here about sharing every explicit detail that may be part of your story. Details that may be hurtful or too shocking to some loved ones should be avoided. It does no one any good to heap hurt upon hurt. It is enough for them to understand how your addiction has harmed your life and the lives of those whom you love.
Ask for Help
After focusing on being honest and admitting the facts of your addiction, ask for their help. Realize that conquering addiction is impossible alone. You need a supportive base and the professional services of medical and rehabilitative specialists who are trained in helping people just like you.
After asking for help, submit to the process of becoming sober. Undergo the prescribed treatment and pour yourself into recovery. This will include learning new habits and conquering old ones. It will also mean breaking off old associations and making new, supportive ones. Talking about addiction may be a painful process, but it is the only path that leads to complete recovery and productive living.