What is the Best Way to Communicate With Someone Who Has an Addiction?

What is the Best Way to Communicate With Someone Who Has an Addiction?

Published on February 18, 2020 by First Responder Wellness

If you suspect that someone you love is abusing substances and developing an addiction, you probably feel worried, stressed, and unsure of how to best to help them during this difficult time.  You may want to talk to your loved one about their behavior or about seeking professional help, but you may be unsure of where to start or how to approach them. Every situation is different, so it is important to take individual circumstances into consideration before deciding what to do next.

However, there are certain methods of communication recommended by experts that have been shown to lead to more positive outcomes than others. When communicating with someone who has an addiction, it is best to find a balance that allows you to support your loved one while also avoiding enabling or codependent behavior. 

Show Compassion

It is easy to tell someone to be compassionate to individuals who are struggling with addiction, but when you are in the middle of the chaos that addiction brings to a family, it can be difficult to remain calm and avoid angry outbursts.  However, keeping in mind that addiction changes a person’s brain chemistry in a way that makes controlling their own behavior exceptionally difficult, try to bring as much kindness and compassion to the situation as possible.

People with addictions will surely be looked down upon, ridiculed, and rejected by people they encounter along the way during their journey to recovery, so try to show them some love and support instead.  Refrain from using hurtful titles and insults such as calling them a “drunk” or a “junkie”. These terms are heavily associated with a problematic stigma society tends to attach to those with addictions, and tearing someone down with belittling words won’t encourage them to seek the help they need.

Be an Active Listener

While you may have a lot to say to someone with an addiction after watching them engage in self-destructive behavior and, perhaps, behavior that has hurt you and your family, it is important that you are willing to listen to them as well. Communication is a two-way street, and your loved one isn’t going to want to hear what you have to say if you aren’t willing to hear them out as well.

You may find that listening to their perspective gives you some insight as to why they feel they need drugs or alcohol to cope with life, and an open conversation about these underlying issues can help the two of you brainstorm ways in which to start working towards a solution.  

Express Concern While Setting Limits

It is important that your loved one knows how much you care about them and that you are coming to them about this problem because you want to see them happy and healthy.  Let your loved one know that you will always care about them no matter how severe their addiction becomes, but that you will also need to set healthy boundaries to protect yourself and others. 

For example, if your brother has a drinking problem and is not ready to seek help, you can let him know that you will continue to love and support him, but you will not allow him around your children while he is drinking.  If you have an adult child with a drug addiction, you can continue to be there for them by cooking them meals and spending time with them, but also by cutting them off from financial help.

Everyone’s limitations are different depending on the circumstances, but setting boundaries should be seen as a way to show that you respect yourself as well as the friend or family member you wish to help recover from addiction.  

Be Patient

Talking about addiction with a loved one is unlikely to be a one-time conversation.  You will probably go on to have many discussions about the issue, some of which will be painful and tense, while others will be hopeful and exciting. 

Recovery from addiction is a lifelong process that will inevitably have its ups and downs, so it is important to be patient with your loved one while they figure it all out and learn to adjust to a sober lifestyle. 

Additionally, be patient with yourself and your ability to trust that person once they are in recovery. None of these changes happen overnight, but you can make the process go as smoothly as possible by remaining communicative, open, and honest with each other the entire way through.

Get Help

One of the best ways to create open lines of productive conversation between yourself and someone you love who is struggling with addiction is to seek professional help.  Addiction counselors and family therapists are a great resource for helping all parties involved learn how to communicate better with each other during recovery, as well as how to maintain those important life skills going forward.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, now is the time to reach out for help. The First Responders Treatment Program at Simple Recovery uses trauma-informed strategies to cater to the unique needs of law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, and other first responders with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental illnesses. We recognize that first responders encounter job-specific barriers and obstacles that come with the culture of their careers, and that existing stigma may make seeking help for addiction and mental health issues especially difficult.

Addiction does not have to mean the end of your career or a lifetime of struggling with your health and relationships. By taking a holistic approach to treatment and addressing the underlying causes of addiction, Simple Recovery makes it possible for first responders to regain control of every aspect of their wellbeing.

First responders dedicate their lives to protecting their community, and at Simple Recovery’s First Responder Treatment Program, we believe in dedicating our time and expertise to helping these strong and compassionate individuals find a path to lasting sobriety and mental wellness.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, call us now at 888-743-0490.