Five Tips For Talking To A Loved One About An Addiction
While the Marchman Act, which allows for the involuntary commitment of people who have become a danger to themselves or others because of their substance abuse, is usually used as a last resort, there are many lesser measures that you can take to help protect your loved one before such a crisis point has been reached.
For instance, if things have not yet escalated to the point where you fear for their well being, you could try simply talking to them about the possibility of voluntarily undergoing substance abuse treatment. Here are a few tips to give you a framework for how you should approach such a conversation.
1. Don’t Be Afraid To Reach Out At All
While confronting a loved one about something as weighty as an addiction may be daunting, that doesn’t mean you should be afraid to reach out. The earlier that an addict gets treatment, the more likely they are to recover, as the addiction will simply get more entrenched the longer your loved one engages in it.
Adding to that, the risk that your loved one could suffer an overdose or another fatal or otherwise irreversible consequence if they continue along their current path should outweigh your fear of experiencing discomfort during the conversation or damaging the relationship by confronting them.
For someone whose substance abuse problem has not yet escalated into a full-blown addiction, it’s possible that they actually haven’t realized they have a problem, and they may be able to get back on the right path after you point out to them the extremity of their behavior without formal treatment.
For others, realizing a loved one is concerned enough to step in may be the wake up call they need to consider professional treatment, and they may even be relieved that you have reached out to them and that you no longer have to bear the burden of their addiction alone.
2. Be Prepared For The Conversation To Be Difficult
However, none of the above is to say that such a conversation will be easy. A loved one may become defensive when confronted about a drug problem that they are too afraid or ashamed to admit to, and instead may make excuses, try to wheedle out of the discussion and deny your accusations, or react with outrage.
Even if they do have that kind of negative reaction, your willingness to talk to them may open the door for them to reach out down the road when they are more comfortable if you make it clear that you are a safe person to come to.
To minimize reactivity and turmoil during discussion of such a fraught topic, try to approach them while both you and they are in as calm of a state as possible. Ideally, you also should not approach them while they are intoxicated, but as some addicts may be in the habit of getting high almost constantly, confronting them while they do not have their full faculties available is better than not confronting them at all.
3. Emphasize Facts Rather Than Your Emotions
While it is reasonable for you to feel all kinds of negative emotions in reaction to a loved one’s substance abuse problem, they are not likely the best thing to bring to the table in a discussion with someone who is struggling.
Instead, you should make an argument to them by bringing up specific incidents that illustrate why you are concerned: raising examples of things they have done that are illegal, dangerous, or out of line with the moral values of their sober self, or of relationships that they have damaged or opportunities they have lost because of their drug use.
You could also lend credence to your argument by either confronting them with another person who is also concerned or mentioning that others in their life share your concerns around their substance abuse.
4. Show Support And Concern As Opposed to Judgement Or Shaming
While addiction can sometimes make it difficult to relate to a loved one, you should never lose sight of the fact that they are a human being deserving of respect, dignity, and empathy rather than a problem to be solved.
Thus, you should make it clear that you are having this conversation with them because you love them and are concerned about their well-being, not because you have a moral objection to their behavior or think they are a bad person.
You should also avoid using stigmatizing language like “addict” or “junkie,” and try asking them open questions about what they are experiencing that show that you care about their perspective and experience rather than only pursuing the agenda of getting them into treatment, however important that goal may be.
To prepare for this conversation, you may also want to educate yourself on addiction, which will help you to direct any negative emotions you do express to the disease of addiction and not the loved one themselves. You should also try to be positive about the future and the fact that full recovery is possible, offering examples of role models who prove just that.
5. Offer Concrete Next Steps
Even if your loved one is able to hear your concerns and agrees with you that treatment is needed, they may say that they are not ready for treatment yet and offer reasons they need to delay getting help that may not amount to anything but excuses. While you don’t want to push your loved one too hard and risk burning a bridge, you should also be aware that condoning a drug addiction can be a slippery slope to enabling one.
Depending on your relationship with the person and their mental and emotional status, you may arrange a time to check back in so that you can confirm they have begun the process of seeking treatment, or you may proceed directly to helping them through the process of securing a place in a treatment center.
You should also make clear that you will be supportive to them throughout their recovery—for example, you can promise to visit them or talk to them on the phone if they are entering an inpatient program, or offer to drive them to and from their outpatient appointments.
Get Through To A Loved One With The Help Of A Skilled Intervention Counselor
If an initial attempt to talk to a loved one about their addiction didn’t go as well as you hoped, don’t despair. The help of a professional like one of our skilled intervention counselors may be the bridge you need to get through to your loved one, and they can also assist you in filing a Marchman Act petition if an attempted intervention remains unsuccessful.
If you have talked to a loved one and found that they are amenable to treatment, you should also feel free to contact us for help with finding a treatment center appropriate to your loved one’s needs and answering any other questions you may have about addiction and recovery. To learn more, reach out anytime by calling 833-497-3808 or contacting us online here.