conversation about addiction

How to Have a Productive Conversation About Addiction

Addiction can cause extreme pain for the person struggling, as well as everyone around them. When someone you love is living with addiction, you may be feeling a host of emotions you don’t know what to do with, and it can feel overwhelming to balance your emotional needs with the desire to help your friend or loved one recover.

To help you see the disease of addiction more clearly and be as effective as possible in starting a conversation that convinces your friend or family member to seek treatment, read on to learn more.

How to Bring up the Topic of Addiction

When you realize someone you care about has developed an addiction to drugs or alcohol, you may be wondering what you can do or say. It can be embarrassing to start the conversation, and difficult to find the right words to say – and that’s OK. Of all the ways to help a loved one living with an addiction, your first step should be putting yourself in a compassionate mindset.

Unless your friend or family member mentions their addiction problems without being prompted – which is unlikely, due to the denial that characterizes the disease – broaching the subject might be complicated. How do you tell someone you’ve noticed a significant problem in your relationship without making them feel attacked? As a start, frame your conversation in positive, “I” statements. These are some examples of how to open the discussion.

  • “I’ve been a little worried about you lately.”
  • “I’ve noticed you’re acting withdrawn, and wanted to know how you’re doing.”
  • “I know you’ve been having a tough time at work recently, and I wanted to check in and see if you’re OK.”

Notice how all these statements shift focus to your desire to help, rather than blaming the individual for their behavior and demanding an apology or an answer. Use your genuine concern as a starting point to frame the conversation. Addiction frequently changes how people respond to what they may perceive as a challenge or accusation, so you’ll want to stay positive to avoid the conversation turning into an unproductive argument.

What to Say About Addiction

One of the biggest roadblocks stopping friends and family from reaching out is not knowing what to say to someone living with addiction. When it feels like every word out of your mouth has unpredictable or unintended consequences, it can make you want to procrastinate on starting this important conversation. Here are three things you can bring up when you’re not sure how to comfort someone with addiction:

  • They are not alone, and you’re here for them.
  • It is possible for them to make a full recovery with proper treatment.
  • You care about their well-being, even if you don’t understand precisely what they’re going through.
  • Above all, remind your loved one that they matter to you. Their feelings of worthlessness and guilt may make it hard for them to accept help, but your insistence can prove invaluable in the long run.

Any phrasing that suggests addiction and substance misuse is your loved one’s fault or that they’re not doing enough to help themselves can be counterproductive. Do everything you can to let them know you have their best interests at heart, and are here to offer your love and support as they seek recovery.

Getting Your Loved One the Help They Need

It’s understandable if you feel uncomfortable talking to your loved one about how addiction is affecting your relationship. To ensure the conversation goes as smoothly as possible, and that you can achieve your goal of getting someone you care about into treatment, consider enlisting the services of a professional interventionist. Over a 30-year career, Rich Whitman has built a national reputation as an expert in leading drug and alcohol interventions. Reach out today to learn more.