How to Talk with a Loved One About Addiction

One of the hardest parts of the addiction cycle is talking about addiction, especially to a loved one. It’s never easy to tell someone they need to get help, that’s why we at Direct2Recovery wanted to outline the process for you in some easy to follow tips. 

When Should You Talk About Addiction

Timing does matter. There is no sweet spot for when you should talk to your friend or loved one — it could be one week into their addictive habits, or many years. We advocate for the sooner, the better, but we do understand that this is not always possible. 

When you’re ready to talk with them, plan it out. You should choose a time when they’re not going to be intoxicated or high, as you will want everything to be calm, understood, and clear. 

One approach is to reach out when your friend is hungover or remorseful following a drinking or drug-related incident. While it may seem like you’re kicking them when they’re down, it’s actually the opposite. You would be talking with them when the negative incident is still fresh in their mind and their brain isn’t rewarding them for their behavior. This makes them more likely to be receptive to talking to you about it. 

It may be hard, but you’ll also want to bring up a whole pattern of events that you’ve noticed rather than an isolated incident.

Planning The Discussion

You will always want a plan for this kind of discussion. We recommend consulting with family members and mutual friends to determine how to frame the conversation. They will be able to help you anticipate certain reactions and can help you write a script. It would be a good idea to include them in the conversation as well, especially if the affected loved one trusts them and feels safe with them. 

If you are able, you can enlist the help of a mental health professional or someone who has had this conversation in the past as well. 

Plan The Entire Conversation

Plan everything — right down to where the talk will happen. You will want to talk with them in a safe space. Pick their home, or someplace where it’s quiet, familiar, and offers a chance for them to walk away if they need to. Avoid public places. 

This is not a time to wing it or be spontaneous. Practice what you’re going to say and remember a list of points you want to talk about. And remember that things may not follow your plan directly, but you do have the power to get the conversation back on track if you need to.

Setting the Right Tone

The initial approach is so important as it can set the mood for the rest of the conversation. It’s a good idea to make a distinction between your feelings for them and their addiction. Use phrases like, “I love you and support you. What I don’t support is your drinking/drug use.” 

Always use “I.” Do not try to speak for others and do not say phrases like “you make me feel,” as it adds an accusation that is unnecessary for this conversation. Your tone should always be soft, caring, and non-accusatory, even if the conversation escalates. Your goal is to have an open discussion, not an argument. 

Instead, use phrases like: 

  • I feel like…
  • My experience of your drinking/drug use makes me feel…
  • I worry that…

Be supportive. Addiction is a disease and your friend may not be able to control their worst impulses because of it. Don’t blame them and don’t criticize them. You’re talking to them because you care, not because you want to lock them up. Treat the conversation the same way. 

How To Open The Conversation

Using the tips from above, opening the conversation is the hardest part. Take a deep breath and know you’re in a safe space. To make it easier, you can choose from the following openers: 

  • I wanted to check in with you because you haven’t seemed yourself lately.
  • I’ve noticed you’ve been acting differently lately, and I’m wondering how you’re doing.
  • I’ve been worried about you lately.
  • I’ve noticed you’ve been drinking a lot lately, and I’m wondering how you’re doing.
  • I’ve noticed you’ve been using <drug name>, and I’m worried about you.

You can also use specific examples or stories to start the conversation, like how cancelling plans or how they acted during an event caused you to worry. 

Open the Conversation to Them

Talking about addiction should never be a one-way street. There should be open communication and dialogue between the person, though you should be the one to instigate it. Once you’ve opened the conversation, give them a chance to respond. You can ask if they’re willing to talk with someone about their addiction, if they’re willing to get help, or how all of this is making them feel. 

Don’t make accusations when you’re trying to open the conversation to them, especially if they’re not comfortable talking. We know it’s frustrating, but avoid saying anything hurtful, like: 

  • Do you know how much this is affecting your/our family?
  • Don’t you have anything to say for yourself?
  • Your addiction affects us too. Please say something. 

Remember that you can’t force them to talk to you. Helping someone get on the right track to recovery can take time. Be patient and encouraging. Sometimes that’s all they need to get motivated enough to take the steps toward recovery. 

How to Help a Loved One with Addiction

If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction and is ready to seek help, there are a few reputable affordable addiction treatment centers, such as Direct2Recovery. They’re an outpatient clinic that is different from a typical rehab center. 

At Direct2Recovery, their mission is to passionately help as many people as they can. Their doctor takes the time to get to know you or your loved one to create a treatment plan that works best for them. After hearing your treatment plan, every one of their staff members will work with you as much as you need, because the Direct2Recovery team is truly committed to your success. 

Their outpatient treatments are a mix of carefully planned counseling — the family can be involved too! — and medicine assisted treatment. Direct2Recovery is a suboxone clinic. Learn more about why they use this approach in their recent blog, Why Use Suboxone Treatment for Opiate Addiction.

If you can’t go into the clinic, they also offer telemedicine for select individuals. These virtual visits include supervised drug testing and counseling with a board-certified physician. 

If you are struggling with opiate addiction, Direct2Recovery wants to help you regain control of your life, we’re ready to help. Contact them to learn more.

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