When someone close to you is dealing with an addiction it can be hard to find a way to cope with it. No one wants to intrude in someone’s personal life or tell them that they are making bad choices especially if you have a complicated history with them. When a family member has an addiction, everyone around them may know that something is wrong but they simply don’t know what to say or do to help them.
As you witness an addict’s behavior it may be painful to watch and it may even harm your family. When no one chooses to confront the person, their addiction becomes the elephant in the room. It is something that is on everyone’s mind but no one dares to speak up about the situation in spite of what they are going through.
Although it may be difficult and uncomfortable to bring up the subject, talking to an addict about their behavior and how it affects others is an important job. Without some perspective about their substance abuse they may continue to go down a path of denial and retreat further into their addiction. Instead of continuing to avoid dealing with the problem, family members who feel genuine concern should make a plan to talk to the addict and get them some help.
Leaving an addict alone to continue their abuse is dangerous for their health and well-being. It is only a matter of time before an addiction starts to impact their job, their physical and mental health and their relationships. Getting an addict help early on can help prevent some of the negative consequences that often occur when people are left to their own devices.
Understanding a Family Member’s Problem
Before you decide to speak with your family member, it is a good idea to research addiction and learn as much as you can. You can look into the signs and symptoms of addiction to a particular substance and see if you notice any of them in your loved one. Observe their behavior closely and try to evaluate them objectively before you choose to confront them about their abuse.
You can also share your observations with other family members and close friends to see what their insight is into their problem. They may have a different understanding of the disease and have an idea of how to approach things. If everyone agrees that they need to get help for the person then you might reach out to a substance abuse professional for more information about what to do.
In the process of dealing with a family member’s addiction, it is important first of all to take care of yourself and make sure that you are emotionally stable. When you have more clarity and awareness about the situation it will be easier to handle whatever issues come up with your loved one. Talk to a therapist about what you have been going through with the addict and about your decision to get help for them.
How to Talk to an Addict
When you feel ready to discuss the issue and address the elephant in the room you need to be careful when you approach the subject. If you are in a good place yourself and are able to express real concern and love rather than anger or resentment then you are more likely to be successful in the discussion. Although you might be frightened of the consequences in bringing up the problem, if you are well-prepared the conversation might actually be quite productive.
There are certain guidelines to follow when talking to a person with an addiction. Firstly, never talk to them when they are under the influence but instead wait for a moment when they are sober and can take in everything you are saying. You should wait for a good time to talk to them when you are both alone and not busy so that you can spend some time discussing things.
It is a good idea to emphasize how much you care about this person and that you only want the best for them. Try to avoid being judgemental or condescending so that they don’t become defensive. Use open ended questions so that the conversation is a dialogue and they don’t feel that they are being lectured.
By the end of the conversation you can try to discern if you have made some progress with them. If they seem open to it you can suggest treatment or support group meetings that might help them. If they seem like they are not ready to confront their problem then you can regroup and perhaps stage an intervention at a later time.
If you are not sure how to approach a discussion with an addict then you can talk to a substance abuse professional about what strategies may be the best to take.