You've tried talking to them, maybe even begging, but nothing seems to help. Just like over 20 million people in the U.S., your loved one is on the path towards a dangerous addiction.
Whether you've approached the subject with your loved one or not, talking to an addict isn't easy.
On one side of the conversation, family members, friends, and loved ones don't understand the powerful grip of addiction. They often feel betrayed, but they're also scared of saying the wrong thing.
On the other side of the conversation, the addict experiences frustration and confusion. They might struggle to accept their addiction and hide what they feel.
Without proper, healthy communication between these two parties, the conversation can turn to anger or avoidance.
It's time to stop avoiding the issue and talk to your friend, spouse, or relative. They're not going to be able to do this alone--they need your help.
Knowing how to talk to a drug addict could save your loved one's life.
7 Tips for How to Talk to a Drug Addict
Addiction is more than a problem--it's a medically proven disease, like cancer or diabetes. And it can be as life-threatening if it's left untreated.
Even if it's hard to talk with a loved one abusing alcohol or other drugs--this is the time when they need you the most.
Whether you're staging an intervention or trying to get your loved one into rehab, here are a few ways you can encourage healthy communication.
1. Listen as much as you talk
When you're touching on a sensitive topic like addiction, it can be tempting to view the conversation as one-sided.
Keep in mind that you're not lecturing or criticizing the addicted person. As much as you're talking to them, you have to let them talk to you.
Make sure that you're listening to what they have to say. They will be more likely to confide in you about what's going on in their lives if you listen without interrupting, judging, or criticizing.
2. Be specific
One of the goals of this conversation should be to share your side of the story. Explaining the impact of the addicted person's behavior can help you get through to them.
Use details when you talk. Try to bring up specific incidents of how the addicted person's behavior has hurt you or others around you.
Make sure that you're using personal "I" statements. For example, instead of saying "You never keep your word," say something like "I feel hurt when you canceled our plans last week."
3. Don't bring up the past
When an addict is moving forward with recovery, they don't want reminders of past mistakes or choices.
Not only is it emotionally damaging, but it can be harmful to the recovery process.
Try not to dig up old issues if they're no longer relevant to the addict's recovery process. Allow them to decide for themselves if they're ready to engage with the past.
4. Be consistent
Addicts aren't always predictable in their words and behaviors.
They may lash out or seem irrational--and what they say one day might not be the same the next.
Set a good example and be consistent with both your actions and words.
Stick to the same message when talking to your loved one so that they know what you want and expect from them. For example, don't tell them that you're worried about excessive drinking and then offer them a glass of wine over dinner.
5. Set clear limits
It's always important to be kind and supportive, but if the addict seems unwilling to change, you have to put your foot down.
Your own wellbeing is still important. If you feel that you can't live with your loved one while they're dealing with their addiction, or some of their behaviors have hurt you, let them know. Don't judge their past behavior, but be honest with them about the impact it's had on you.
If you're not comfortable doing this alone, you can seek out counseling as a way to start the conversation.
Giving the addict an explanation of how much their behavior affects you will help set them on the path towards meaningful change.
6. Do it their way
Even while you should be firm about what is acceptable or unacceptable in an addicted person's behavior, don't go overboard.
It's up to your loved one to make the changes necessary to move towards recovery--be flexible in how they make these changes.
Offer to help in any way that they would prefer, without dictating exactly what they have to do.
If your loved one develops their own strategy for change, there's no harm in letting them lead the way.
7. Always be kind
Above all, your goal is show through your words and behavior that you care about the addicted person.
Always speak with kindness and compassion. Because of the way society stigmatizes addiction, your loved one may expect you to react by criticizing or belittling their struggles.
By accepting them--even if you don't accept all of their behaviors--you can show that you still love and care about them and their health.
The Bottom Line
Helping an addicted person isn't easy. It's vital that you take the right steps to learn how to talk to a drug addict--so you can give them the help they need.
With honesty, support, and unconditional love, you can get your loved one on the path towards recovery.
Are you ready to talk to your loved one? We're here to help you.