Starting That Important Conversation with Someone Struggling with Addiction

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Most people are unable to get help and start the treatment and recovery process from their addictions on their own. It often requires the intervention of loved ones and friends to start the process. While this first conversation with that addicted loved one will be difficult, here are some general and specific guidelines on how to make it a fruitful one. In reality, the process of preparing for this vital conversation starts with you and an understanding that this is not about how the addict makes you angry or affects you. It’s imperative to leave your own biases and emotions out of it and be a friend first. This sets the stage for making it easier for the person to listen.

You must first know why you’re confronting them in order to articulate how their behavior is causing them problems. You also need to have an understanding of the particular addiction so that you can have an informed conversation with them. It is imperative to explore the treatment and recovery options as well as the ways to pay such as through insurance. This way you’re not left in a position where the loved one wants to get help but has no options on how to proceed. Time and place is an important aspect of this conversation so be sure that the place is appropriate. Places of security for the addicted loved one may include the home and at a time when the addicted person does not have an upcoming appointment or needs to go to work. It is of course, imperative that they be sober during this important conversation and that it happen at a time when their stress level is low and they are not too tired. Your first step in starting the conversation is to remember that you’re doing this based on love, so it’s imperative that you not be accusatory or embarrass them. Start by telling them how much you care about them and what they mean to you. It also helps to let them know what you appreciate about them. Confrontation is about presenting the truth in love and in the right way. The next step is to show your loved one how the addiction has changed them. Provide detailed facts about the time your friend was under the influence and specific examples that describe their destructive behavior. These should be first-hand experiences of how the addiction has affected your loved one. Your examples should be objective, nonjudgmental, brief and recent.

It’s important to keep their dignity intact by not being accusatory. Instead, let them know how their behavior worries and scares you for their safety and wellbeing. Remember this is an extremely sensitive topic, and you need to approach the conversation in a way that keeps your emotions in check. That can mean not getting angry or showing emotion when they relate something shocking. Keeping this even keeled demeanor and listening carefully and sympathetically allows them to open up, which sets the stage for their treatment and recovery. It can be easier and more effective to have this conversation with a small group of the addict’s closest friends and loved ones taking part in what is called an intervention. All of the same rules of preparedness and approach still apply in this type of scenario. It is not uncommon for the addicted loved one to lash out emotionally, but once again, it’s imperative that you stay calm emotionally in demeanor and in response. In addition, they may try to downplay the problem and not take you seriously. One way to confront this behavior is through the verbalization of consequences for the addict if they refuse to seek help. These consequences may include any number of things, such as letting them know that that you will no longer cover for them when they miss work due to their addiction. Letting them know that you will no longer enable them in any of the ways that you have shielded them from the consequences of their actions is the point.

One of the most important things behind detailing these consequences is to show that you’re taking a stand against their addiction and not against them as the person that you love and care for. This means letting them know that they must change or things will only get worse, which is the message behind conveying future consequences if they do not get help. It is difficult in almost every way to confront a friend or family member about drug or alcohol addiction. Just keep in mind that the alternative is watching them continue to destroy their life. Always stay emotionally focused on the long-term picture. The goal of having this necessary conversation is to start them on the road of recovery where they can begin to replace the destruction, sadness and anger of addiction with the love and joy of a full and addiction-free life.