Watching a family member or friend struggle with drug or alcohol addiction can be heartbreaking and overwhelming. Of course, you want to help, but you’re not sure how to go about it. What if you make a mistake and say the wrong thing at the wrong time? While there’s no formula for talking to an addict, these tips will help you communicate more effectively.
Wait Until They’re Sober
The most effective way to communicate with an addict is to do it when they are completely sober. If they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs during the conversation, they’re less likely to be understanding and receptive. Set aside a time where you can have a private conversation. It’s okay to discuss your worries and concerns, but it’s equally important to remember that the conversation should go both ways. The goal is to increase their awareness, not to accuse them of doing something wrong.
Give Specific Examples
Sometimes a specific scenario will explain your concerns perfectly. For instance, maybe you and your friend went to a party where they drank or took drugs. As the designated driver, you were responsible for getting them home safely, and you saw the negative effects of their drug and alcohol use. Be honest; tell them how fun they are to be around when they’re sober, and how they change when they’re abusing substances.
Show Love and Be Supportive
Let your family member or friend know that you’ll always be there, no matter what. Your unconditional support and love will show them that you have their best interests at heart. However, all the love and support in the world is useless if you don’t back it up with action. Set firm boundaries, and refuse to be around them when they’re using. Explain how the addiction makes you feel; if their drug use is ignored or condoned, they will see no reason to stop it.
Be Consistent With Your Actions and Words
When discussing a friend or family member’s addiction, it’s crucial to keep your message consistent and clear. For example, don’t discuss how their addiction concerns you, then watch as they abuse alcohol or drugs. By doing so, you’ll send a mixed message and make things worse.
In addition, be sure to avoid criticizing them and making accusations. Instead of jumping to conclusions, empathize with their situation. Saying “You made a mistake” will only put them on the defensive. Instead, use phrases such as “I noticed that you’ve been having trouble lately” or “I’m worried about you”.
Encourage them to Seek Help
Lecturing your relative or friend on the negative aspects of addiction will only make them more anxious and resistant to change. Rather, talk about the benefits of sober living and treatment. Offer to help them research their options and learn about community resources such as a drug and alcohol treatment center. Be supportive when they attend meetings, see a counselor, and use other recovery services. In recovery, an addict needs a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on. By taking an active role in their long-term sobriety and recovery, you will encourage them to stay the course when things get difficult.
If your family member or friend is ready to overcome an alcohol or drug addiction, there are options available. As an important person in their life, it’s your responsibility to stand by them in good and bad times. A strong support system can make all the difference in an addict’s recovery and the rest of his or her life.