When a loved one suffers from drug or alcohol addiction, approaching the subject can be a tremendous challenge. Addiction affects not only the person who has become dependent on substances, but also friends and family. This is especially true if you have a spouse struggling with substance abuse, and talking about the issue may feel almost impossible. For that reason, it’s important to be prepared when talking to a loved one about addiction. Here are five things to consider to start the conversation:
1. Understand the problem
Substance addiction is an extremely complex issue physically, psychologically and emotionally. When initiating a discussion with your loved one, having an understanding of addiction can make a big difference. The Addiction Blog notes that you should treat drug or alcohol addiction the same as any other disease. In other words, if a spouse, family member, child or other loved one were diagnosed with a chronic ailment, odds are you would research the disease or condition in depth. Supporting your loved one in recovery requires the same deep understanding and knowledge.
2. Discuss the addiction
It’s often easy for both a person suffering addiction and those close to him or her to minimize the problem. By rationalizing or ignoring a loved one’s addiction, you’re enabling that person and perpetuating the problem. When you start to notice a problem, don’t avoid talking about it until it spirals out of control. Instead, discuss addiction as soon as possible, even if the subject makes you nervous. Addiction Intervention advises finding a time when you have adequate privacy and won’t be interrupted.
“Staging a formal intervention might carry more weight than talking on your own.”
3. Find support
Remember that you don’t have to face a loved one alone when talking about his or her addiction. Gathering support from friends and family or staging a formal intervention might carry more weight than talking on your own. Moreover, recruiting a support network will help you build confidence and address the addiction candidly. Showing your loved one that many people are concerned and affected by the situation may also carry more power. Addiction Intervention recommends arranging treatment prior to staging an intervention.
4. Make treatment a priority
Talking about addiction won’t have the same impact if you haven’t considered treatment options. Before sitting down with a loved one, make sure to research recovery centers and have steps already in place to give the person you care about the help he or she needs. For initially addressing addiction, residential treatment centers are the most robust option. Such facilities provide 24/7 support and utilize a wide range of methods to address the physical and psychological effects of addiction. Spending time in residential treatment is the first step toward continuing care and can help pave the path toward long-term relapse prevention. When you initiate a conversation about addiction with a loved one, a plan should already be in place to provide the person with help.
5. Address co-dependency
Understanding your role in a loved one’s addiction is imperative to his or her recovery process. Psych Central notes that honesty is pivotal when discussing addiction, but being truthful requires recognition and understanding of any co-dependency. In general, co-dependent behaviors can enable a person’s addiction, and if these behaviors are not changed, it could lead to relapses. Altering your own co-dependent tendencies will help your loved one after he or she returns from residential treatment, and is necessary to continuing the recovery process. When your loved one comes home, make sure to stay supportive and cognizant of the dynamic of your relationship.