Once you have decided you want to start the conversation, there are a few ways you can help improve the outcome of your interaction. While you cannot control how your loved one will respond, you can be sure that your words and actions convey exactly the message you intend to.
How to Speak to a Loved One About Treatment for Addiction
Being clear, assertive, and showing that you care are all important elements of a difficult conversation. There are some actions you can take to ensure your motivations are clear, including:
- Be Willing to Listen
As much as you may want to communicate how you feel about the situation to your loved one, it is important to allow them for them to speak as well. Even if you do not agree with what they are doing, it is important to not be openly critical or constantly interrupt them when they try to express themselves to you. Although you may not approve, it is better to have a relationship where you can communicate about difficult topics and may have the opportunity to discuss what is really happening without them immediately shutting down. Keeping the door open can improve the likelihood of them becoming more receptive to receiving help.
- Be Consistent in Your Message
It is important to make sure your actions match the words you say. Any discrepancy can lead to a misinterpretation of what you will or will not tolerate. If you have expressed that you do not approve of specific behaviors or actions, you cannot express thoughts or take action that would enable those same activities. This can send a mixed message to your loved one and they may not take your concern as seriously.
- Establish Boundaries
No matter how much you want to help your loved one, you cannot force them to change. Because their decision to accept help is outside of your control, it is important to establish boundaries to protect yourself. Be clear and upfront about what your boundaries are. If they are unwilling to change or if you feel you cannot continue to be part of the situation as it stands, it is okay to make that clear to your loved one. You must be willing to protect your own physical, mental, and emotional health.
- Support the Process
Be sure to let your loved one know you support them and will help them change in any way you can. Whether this means going to counseling with them or helping them start looking into treatment options, showing that you are willing to put in work with them can help the process. Their desire to change may not be as strong as yours and it may take time for them to realize the benefits of changes they make. In the meantime, you can also model the behavior you want to see and try to make changes for yourself as well.
- Be Encouraging
Recovery can be tough and it may take a few failed attempts before changes stick. It can be easy to become discouraged or frustrated, but keeping an optimistic outlook can be helpful. When a loved one is struggling with addiction, they may feel hopeless or unmotivated to seek help. Encouragement and support can make it easier for them to become more optimistic about recovery as well.
How to Start the Conversation About Addiction and Treatment
Even when keeping all of these things in mind, knowing exactly what to say can still be challenging. You may find that they are unreceptive to talking about it or deny that there is a problem, but this should not stop you from attempting to initiate the conversation. The more you can engage with them, the more likely you are to help them realize their addiction may need more attention than they want to admit.
Some ways you can help start the conversation is by using “I” statements. It is important to avoid accusations or comments that can be interpreted as confrontational. Some examples of things you can say include:
- It seems like you have not been yourself lately. How are you doing?
- I noticed you are acting differently and I wanted to ask if you are doing okay.
- I’m worried about you.
Use Open-Ended Questions
If these statements begin to open up a conversation, it is important to listen and not pass judgment. Some open-ended questions you can use to move the conversation forwarded could be:
- When did you start feeling this way?
- Do you feel like your drug/alcohol use is causing problems?
- Have you thought about getting help?
- Why do you think you are using?
Show Your Support
No matter how the conversation goes, it is important to remain supportive and open. Let your loved one know you are there for them and you want to help. You can express this by saying:
- I am here for you and am willing to help you in any way I can.
- I may not understand what you are going through, but I am here for you.
- I love you and want to help.
- I want you to know you are not alone, even if you feel like you are.