If you have a loved one who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, you know how challenging it is to talk to that person. When you try to confront him about his problem you may encounter any number of deflecting techniques: avoidance, anger, guilt, aggression or anything else that prevents you from having a serious and productive conversation. Talking to an addict requires patience, good planning, honesty and sometimes the assistance of a professional. If you need to confront your loved one about his addiction, here are some tips to get you started:
- Talk to your sober loved one. It may seem as if he is always inebriated or high, but there has to be an occasional time when your loved one is sober and that is the time to talk to him. Many addicts are at their most clear-headed first thing in the morning. Catch him when he first wakes up and before he gets that first hit of the day.
- Stay cool. It is easy to lose your temper when trying to talk to an addict. Addicts have a way of infuriating even the most patient people. Go into your discussion with a calm and clear head and be determined to be patient and to not explode despite your frustrations. He will likely lose his cool, but don’t take the bait. Tell him that you didn’t approach him to have an argument and that you want to discuss the situation like adults.
- Resist the urge to judge. The temptation to be judgmental when you see someone sliding downhill will be strong. The urge to lecture him about how to shape up will be tough to resist. Being too harsh won’t help, though. It will only drive him further into his addiction. Be honest without using judgment. Remember that he has a disease and that, while his initial choices led him down this path, it is now very difficult for him to give up his habit.
- Be honest about your emotions. Addicts often don’t realize just how much their actions impact those around them. Tell your loved one in a simple and straightforward way how his actions make you feel. Sometimes the loved ones of addicts want to act stronger than they feel. Trying to protect him from the pain he is causing you is helping no one. Be calm when you tell him and maintain empathy, but don’t hold back.
- Consider an intervention. When you have given communication your all and your efforts continue to fail to bring about any changes or productive responses in your loved one, it may be time to turn to a professional for help. An intervention is a gathering of family and friends to confront someone with an addiction and to give him options for getting help. There are professionals who are experienced in organizing and leading these events. Interventions can be intense so it helps to have either an addiction specialist or a therapist on hand to decompress the situation, to answer questions and to help lead the event. When you have been unable to talk to him with any success, he may need several people to get the message across.
Talking to your loved one about his problem with drugs or alcohol is not an easy task, but it is necessary. He needs you and as much as he may resist having a discussion, it is important that you push for it. Addiction is a disease that no one can conquer alone and that cannot be ignored. With the right attitude and preparation, you can talk to your loved one and make a difference.