Like many public health issues, there is, unfortunately, still a stigma around substance addiction. But it can be helpful to know that 1/3 of American adults deal with substance abuse when alcohol and tobacco are included in the figures, so chances are very good that you know and care about someone who is currently battling addiction. If you feel like they’re at a point where they’re putting their health and the safety of others or generally in need of an intervention, it can be hard to know what to say.
While there isn’t always a need for a sit-down intervention, a supportive and loving conversation is a great place to start and could be all they need to seek treatment. If you want to discuss someone’s addiction with them but don’t know where to start, keep reading to learn some helpful things to say to your loved one.
I Love You
One of the most important things to lead in your conversation about addiction with your loved one is to remind them of how much they mean to you. It is essential to begin the conversation with “I love you” and say it several more times. Most addicts deal with insecurity and feeling like people don’t care about them. Do not use this time to interrogate them; as an addict, answering difficult questions is challenging enough; your love is all they need now. This gentle reminder is key to giving them the confidence that they have people who will support and love them through recovery.
You Aren’t Alone
Addiction can be an isolating condition, but even beyond the socially isolating aspects, many addicts may think they’re in the minority in their inability to control their substance abuse. Reminding them of the above statistics about addiction in America can be helpful. It would be best to remind them that you will be there throughout their recovery process. 1 in 10 people will battle addiction at some point in their lives, and everyone needs help, so remind them you’re here for them, they are not alone, and things will get better.
Have a Plan in Place
For some people, these emotional conversations can spur them into action after feeling the love and support you and others present are offering. Knowing the treatment options available to your loved one ahead of time can help them feel even more supported. Whether that means being ready with a list of groups and the times they meet, online resources like samhsa.gov, NewDirectionsForWomen.org, or AA.org. There are also helpful resources for you as a family of someone struggling, like al-anon.org. Luck favors the prepared, so chances of reaching and maintaining a sober life are easier for your loved one with the right resources and preparedness. But it takes more than luck; it takes hard work and perseverance.
Remind Them it Gets Better
Nobody wants to be facing addiction, and when you’re in the throes of a substance abuse problem, you may think things will never get easier and that you’re better off continuing down an unhealthy path. Reminding your friend or family member that things will improve is a huge comfort to them. Gently remind them of how they’ve changed and how their life was fuller and happier when they weren’t battling addiction. Let them know how much richer their life will be after they recover and can live a life free from the chains of addiction. Don’t stop doing this beyond the initial conversation, though – commit to being their cheerleader throughout the recovery process; rehab is no small feat, so let them know it gets better, and you’ll be there every step of the way.
Ask How You Can Help
After you’ve had the conversation, make sure you conclude it by asking what would be most helpful for you to do if they decide they’re ready to get sober. Micromanaging won’t help; it could cause a relapse, so ask how you can best help them overcome their addiction. Whether that’s providing meals, offering to cover the cost of their treatment, or just being a supportive shoulder to lean on.
Helping your loved one recover from addiction will be hard for both of you, but this is one of the hardest things they will ever do. Don’t take things personally if they lash out or get frustrated when struggling. Only they have the power over their recovery, but igniting the conversation with the abovementioned ways could be the first step to their health and healing.