Addiction Recovery
how to talk to a loved one about their addiction
By BrightView
Published: September 29, 2022
Updated: October 21, 2022

Recovery from addiction is undoubtedly one of the hardest things a person can go through. Loving someone in active addiction is also one of the hardest things someone can go through. As a mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, son, friend, you name it, watching from the sidelines can take an emotional and physical toll on anyone. Feelings of helplessness, endless questions of “what if’s” and “whys,”…the constant turmoil of playing every decision over and over in your head can be exhausting. So, what do you do when you know someone you love has an addiction and wants to help them? Learning how to talk to a loved one about their addiction can be daunting.

At BrightView, our drug rehab center and alcohol rehab center may have the answers you’re looking for. Our team of addiction treatment specialists can help you get your loved one the support necessary to heal and make a lasting recovery.

How to Talk to a Loved One About Their Addiction?

Recovery from addiction is undoubtedly one of the hardest things a person can go through. Loving someone in active addiction is also one of the hardest things someone can go through. As a mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, son, friend -you name it, watching from the sidelines can take an emotional and physical toll on anyone. Feelings of helplessness, endless questions of “what if’s” and “whys,”…the constant turmoil of playing every decision over and over in your head can be exhausting. So, what do you do when you know someone you love has an addiction and wants to help them? First, understanding that addiction literally “hijacks” the brain. Hence, anything a person with this disease says or does under the pretext of their addiction is essentially doing so blindly because their addiction drives them, not their sensibility. Now, what do you say to that person? Listening is sometimes more important than speaking. A person with an addiction is more likely to confide in you about what is going on in their lives if you listen without interrupting or criticizing them.

Understanding Addiction and Treatment for Substance Use Disorders

Addiction is already so stigmatized in our society that most people willing to confide in someone else about their addictive behaviors usually expect to be automatically judged, belittled, or even rejected. Compassion and kindness can go a long way, no matter how hard someone has hit “rock bottom.” Focus on building trust by being honest and transparent. Coming from a place of sincerity makes it easier to set boundaries and limits and identify what you will and will not support in your active addiction. For example, you will not expect them to enter treatment by the end of the week, but you will expect them to start researching treatment options. Keep in mind that if a person with an addiction does not know how much their behavior upsets them, they will continue to believe that they have no reason to change. People with addiction rarely change until there is some consequence to their behavior.

Many people who want to confront their loved ones also tend to frame well-intended conversations wrong. For example, when we say, “Why are you doing this?” we mean, “Why are you doing this to me?” Using terms such as “junkie, crackhead, or addict” is also highly discouraged. Taking a less punitive approach and identifying your loved one as a “person with an addiction” or a “person with a substance use disorder” instead of an “addict” can go a long way. Along with negative labels, avoid using threatening statements and do not expect immediate change. Even if that person appears to have “become an addict overnight,” – it is much easier for someone to become addicted to drugs than to acknowledge they have an addiction and take steps to help themselves. It is okay to let someone you love know that their actions are hurting you.

Putting a positive spin on statements can allow for open and honest dialogue. For example, “I can tell you are hurting too, and I don’t hold you personally responsible.” “What’s the best way for me to support you right now?” It is important to remember that if you want someone to change, you might also have to change. As hard as it may be, avoid engaging in addictive behaviors yourself, even in moderation. Showing that you are willing to try can perhaps be the motivation that your loved one needs. This change might be as minor as reading a self-help book or as intense as enrolling in online therapy.

Some of our treatment options include:

  • Telehealth
  • Outpatient treatment
  • Intensive outpatient program or IOP
  • medication assisted treatment

Find the Support Necessary at BrightView

Remember, it is okay to be angry, but it is healthier to direct this anger toward the disease and not the person. It also helps to remember that while you might feel like someone in the throes of addiction is actively choosing the drug over you, it’s important to remember that addiction hijacks the brain, and that person is not making sensible decisions now. Communication and empathy are the two most important factors for helping someone with an addiction.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, we encourage you to contact us today—our friendly and caring recovery center staff answer the phones 24 hours a day at 1-833-510-HELP.