Approaching a family member about their addiction problems can be challenging. While you have good intentions and want to help, the backlash may be painful. Yet it’s often a necessity for someone to take this first step in assisting an addict and you know that person is you. How do you approach your family member in a loving, concerned way without triggering a negative response? There are multiple steps to ensuring a successful engagement when approaching an addict.
Understanding the facts in regard to addiction is the first step to helping your loved one. AddictionCenter.com states, “Addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease defined by a…dependence on drugs, alcohol or a behavior. When an addictive disorder has formed, a person will pursue their toxic habits despite putting themselves or others in harm’s way.” Being an addict is not a choice. One may become addicted to a multitude of things including alcohol, illegal substances, pharmaceuticals or even overspending money. Genetics, mental health disorders and even simple curiosity can open the pathway to addiction and lead someone down this road.
Symptoms of addiction run the gamut from changes in sleep and energy levels to behavioral shifts. Changes in appearance, loss of interest in hobbies, and even trouble in the workplace or school are signs of addiction.
Recognize that your loved one may not realize they have a problem. Many addicts refuse to acknowledge there is an issue with overindulgence in drugs, alcohol or other substances or behaviors. Before broaching this topic with your loved one, you may want to talk to a substance abuse counselor for more knowledge about your loved one’s particular form of addiction. Check out https://www.amethystrecovery.org/heroin/heroin-addiction-statistics-symptoms-and-effects/ for more information.
While a group intervention may be needed, you should start with a one on one approach. Instead of being overwhelmed by a group of people interjecting their voices into the mix, this ensures that you will hopefully be heard and that the addict will not immediately put up walls. Healthline.com suggests, “Try to use non-blaming language and avoid raising your voice or getting angry. They will likely respond better if you communicate from a place of compassionate concern.” Again remember—no one chooses to become an addict.
As addicts may be in denial of their behavior, you will want to gently remind them of past incidents that have occurred in regard to their addiction. Choose your language wisely and discuss the addiction, but do not attack the addict. Instead of “Your actions make me feel…”, start sentences with “I feel…” This takes the onus of blame off the addict and will help ensure active listening.
Ensure you also take the time to listen to your loved one. When the conversation feels near completion, suggest speaking to a professional for help with their addiction. Do not push the issue as this may trigger a negative response from an addict. If at any time, your loved one becomes angry, defensive or starts to push back, step away from the conversation. At this point, you may want to move towards a group intervention.
The Mayo Clinic defines a group intervention as, “a carefully planned process that may be done by family and friends, in consultation with a doctor or professional.” Now is the time to call friends and family members to help confront your loved one about the issues they are having with addiction.
Ensure you consult with a professional first as interventions may be emotionally charged ordeals. Pick a quiet place to stage the intervention and preplan what everyone is to say. This is not the time to improvise. Instead take the time to formulate your plan to ensure the highest chance of success.
You will want to discuss and agree upon your end goal with your team before going into the intervention. Whether it’s going to outpatient meetings or attending a private rehabilitation center, you will want to unanimously support a treatment plan when confronting your loved one. You will also want to agree on consequences if the addict refuses to seek care.
Finally, you will host your intervention with your team and your loved one. Team members should take turns discussing the impact of the addict’s behavior and their feelings. Remember to not use blaming language and stay calm throughout the intervention. Do not engage with anger or other negative emotions the addict may exhibit. Suggest the agreed upon treatment plan and lay out the consequences if the behavior continues.
Approaching a loved one about addiction is never an easy task. Yet following the guidelines suggested in this article may help you engage with the addict successfully and set them upon a path towards recovery.