If you live with or love a person in active drug or alcohol addiction, you may have had your heart broken by the disease.
Being a friend or family member of someone who struggles with addiction is excruciatingly painful. While drunk or high on drugs or pills, your addicted loved one will behave in ways that leave you angry, devastated or confused. While under the influence, your addicted loved one may say things that cut to the core. You’ve been lied to. You’ve been cheated on. At some point – or many points, you’ve found yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually broken. You’ve trusted and been tricked. Helped them, and then been hurt by them. Anyone who has ever loved or cared for someone in active addiction knows how addiction looks, sounds, and feels. The fear; the stress; the arguments; the letdowns; the financial struggles; the guilt. You may wonder if it’s even possible to have a conversation with your loved one where these feelings don’t come pouring out in one gigantic, overcharged, emotional outburst. Confronting a person – especially a person that you love and care for – is difficult. Think about it: confronting a person who isn’t addicted can be challenging enough. No one enjoys expressing disapproval, distrust or disappointment in anyone they care about. Few people take pleasure in conversations that tend to lead to arguments. When addiction is involved, all of your emotions are heightened. And the risks of a poor conversation are much higher than those over “non-addiction” issues.
Before confronting a person who is actively addicted to any illegal drug, prescription pill or alcohol, there are a few points you need to keep in mind.
- Don’t Be Afraid. So often in life, fear can paralyze us from taking action. Fear has a way of making us bury our heads in the sand and hiding from our problems. Fear has a way of making us wish everything would go away without any effort. However, this is a conversation that needs to happen. Your loved one isn’t going to just come back to you on his own without help. It takes courage to help the addicted person whom you love. We can’t tell you exactly what type of reaction your loved one will have upon confrontation. We can’t tell you what he or she will do or say. What we can tell you, however, is if you don’t have this conversation – he or she will run the risk of losing everything. Things will not improve without action.
- Be Prepared. One of the best ways to reduce your fear and dread about this conversation is to be prepared for it. Keep these points in mind: A. Know why you are confronting your loved one about addiction. What is is about his or her actions and behaviors that is causing your concern? B. Have your facts straight about the drug or alcohol addiction. Be prepared for an informed conversation with your addicted loved one. C. Outline your thoughts ahead of time. Don’t just wing it. You’re going to be highly emotional and so is your loved one. Having an outline – or even a script, will help you to be more assertive and effective in your discussion. D. Simply stating that there is a problem may get the ball rolling, but it doesn’t actually fix anything. Check into recovery options and insurance coverage before talking with your addicted loved one. That way, you’ll be able to offer them a plan for the next step.
- Have Compassion.It’s crucial to approach your addicted loved one with compassion. Think about it: if there was something you didn’t want to talk about, and someone else was insisting the conversation – you would likely be angry and resistant. Be prepared to be met with this type of anger and resistance. Keep in mind, your loved one is not resisting you. He or she is resisting the conversation and what may come from it. Talk to your loved one with care and compassion. They do love you. Express your feelings, but make sure to speak in a way that makes them understand that you want to help them – without judgement. Coming across accusatory or with a negative tone will only cause more anger and resentment – and good fuel for lying. Chip away at their denial by opening up dialogue about your concerns. Use “I” sentences – instead of “You”. (Also, note – this is a conversation that needs to be substance-free. Don’t confront a loved one just because they’re high on Xanax or drunk and you are upset.)
- Hold Your Ground. This isn’t going to be an easy thing to do. However, giving your loved one the option to go into drug rehab treatment will save his life. When you confront a drug addicted loved one, you must lay down hard boundaries and be willing to stick to them. You need to be stronger than your loved one’s addiction – because if you’re not, the addiction will win. By confronting an addicted person, you take a stand against the disease – and with your loved one. The stand lets him or her know that something has to change. That change will either be their behavior, or your reaction. Lay down consequences, such as kicking them out if they are drunk or high; not calling in sick when she’s hungover; withholding visiting rights to their child. Their actions must have a reaction.
Regardless of the relationship you have with the individual you are confronting – whether it be your parent, sibling, child or spouse – your role in getting him or her help, is important. Even if your words don’t get through immediately, know that your actions, words, and support will potentially bring them one step closer to recognizing the addiction, getting into an addiction treatment facility, and regaining control of their life. Standing up to addiction and confronting your loved one won’t be easy, but it could save their life.