“Most addicts need to struggle for a long time before they can accept they have a problem; people who love addicts are no different. It may seem obvious to an outsider, but the situation is different when it involves you and someone that you love and trust.”
~ Heather O’Hara, So You’re in Love with an Addict
Few things in life are more difficult than loving someone who is actively addicted to alcohol or drugs. Somehow, your life gets taken over by the other person’s disease. You’ve tried everything that you can think of—reasoning with them, begging, arguing, crying, threatening, searching the house and throwing away their stash.
When nothing you’ve done is working, maybe it’s time to get professional help.
But if you can’t get your loved one to change their other behaviors, how can you possibly get them to check into a rehab program?
Here are some tips that will help you plan what you should—and shouldn’t—say when you finally have that important conversation. And don’t talk to them while they are under the effect of the substances.
Focus on the REAL Message
After all of the lies and the hurt, you probably have a long list of grievances. But right now is NOT the time to bring them up. Your entire focus at this moment should be on getting them into treatment.
You want to keep your message brief, but as direct and strong as possible.
Give Specific Examples
If course, your addict is going to deny having a problem, or maybe they’ve fooled themselves into thinking it’s all under control. So, calmly, you have to be able to point out some specific instances that support what you are saying. Practice what you are going to say with a supportive friend or family member.
For example, you could remind them of times when they overdosed, or wrecked their car, or lost their job…ANYTHING that can convey how serious the situation really is. You want to clearly communicate what this terrible disease is doing to them and to YOU.
That last part is key, because most substance abusers live in a bubble where they only focus on acquiring and using. They barely notice the consequences to themselves, let alone the pain it causes their loved ones.
When listing these examples, be sure to also mention how they made you feel. You want to pull out all the stops in an effort to reach them.
Talk about Consequences
You also must let the substance abusers know that if they DON’T get professional treatment, things will have to change. Things simply cannot continue the way they are.
For example, you might tell them that if they don’t accept help, you will:
- Kick them out of the home
- Stop supporting them financially
- Break off contact
- Call the police
- Deny visitation
NONE of these are meant to be cruel or for the purpose of “getting back” at the other person. These suggestions are meant to spur them into to taking a positive step. When addicts and alcoholics must truly face the negative natural consequences of their addiction, they usually find the motivation to change.
But if they still refuse, you MUST follow through.
Stepping back and detaching with love puts some much-needed distance between you and THEIR disease. It allows you to regain YOUR good mental health, whether they are sober or not.
Stay on Point
At first, your addict may react very negatively—they’ll deny, accuse, get angry, blame, or even try to turn everything around and make it all about any mistakes YOU have made.
Don’t fall for these distractions, and don’t engage them. Instead, calmly stick to YOUR message.
One Example of What You Can Say
It is a good idea for you to write down what you want to say.
“I need to talk to you about your drinking/drug use. I am concerned about what it is doing to you and to us. I’m even more worried about losing you, either to prison, an accident, or overdose.
You may not know it, but your problem affects ME, too. Every time you drink/use drugs, it hurts me terribly, but there are some times that really stand out.
Remember when you (mention a specific incident)?
Well, that made me feel (talk about your feelings).
It also was difficult because (mention any consequences to YOU…lost money, embarrassment, stress, etc.)
(Give no more than 3 or 4 examples like this)
I’ve talked with you and argued with you and begged you, and you’ve made promises, and then broke them. Your disease is in control.
I love you and want you to get better. You need professional help right away, before it gets even worse. I’ve already made arrangements, so all you have to do is say yes.
But if you choose to not accept this help, things are going to change. I can’t stand by and do nothing while alcohol/drugs continue to hurt you and our family. It’s too painful and dangerous.
If you say no to treatment, these will be the changes I will have to make, for my own peace of mind:
(List the consequences)
I love you and only want what’s best. It is your choice. ”
Be Ready to Act
Hopefully, they are already just as sick and tired of all of this as you are. Your honest and straightforward conversation may be just what they needed to motivate them to seek professional help. You have to be ready to take full advantage of this opportunity.
Prepare in advance by having the number of a reputable treatment program. You can even offer to make the first phone call for them.
Do NOT delay and give them a chance to change their mind.
Addiction is a DISEASE
Given the history, you may be angry, resentful, and ready to blame your addict for everything that has happened. But keep this in mind—they are not bad or weak, they are sick. They are no more to blame than if they had any other chronic disease, such as cancer or diabetes.
When you can differentiate between the person and the disease, it’s easier to understand that this is still the person you love, and they need your support to help them get better.
Loving someone with a Substance Use Disorder isn’t easy, but if you live in San Diego, Carlsbad, Escondido, Chula Vista, La Mesa, Carlsbad, El Cajon Encinitas, Oceanside, or Poway, you can get the help you need at Lasting Recovery, a premier outpatient drug and alcohol rehab program in San Diego. With award-winning and evidence-based treatment, it IS possible for your addicted loved one to safely regain their health and sobriety.
To get more information, contact Lasting Recovery TODAY.
Lasting Recovery—“Where Wellness Begins…”