How to Talk to a Loved One in Denial of their Addiction

It’s incredibly difficult to stand by and watch a loved one struggle with a chronic illness, especially a condition like substance use disorder. Many people are in denial about their drug or alcohol problem because they feel ashamed or genuinely believe they can stop whenever they want. Still, those concerned often see a clearer picture from the outside. Although there are highly effective methods for treating addiction, it requires the participation and efforts of the person misusing substances for these therapies to begin. Speaking to someone misusing substances about their habits and the potential need for medical intervention is challenging, but several tactical steps can help open much-needed dialogue.

Avoid accusations. While it’s true the person in question did make the initial decision to misuse substances, once they are in the spiral of addiction, using accusatory tones to admonish their behavior is not helpful. Substance use disorder is a chronic disease that affects brain function, making it unfathomably tough to stop use. Hurtful criticisms and aggressive language will often set them immediately on the defensive and shut down productive discussion, particularly if they are experiencing withdrawals or are under the influence.

Make a personal appeal. Those who misuse substances but think they still have their habits under control often fear being ostracized or estranged from their loved ones if they admit they need help. Starting sentences with “I” statements showing concern for their health and well-being is a softer approach than making broad or vague statements that can easily be swept aside.

Use detailed examples. Sometimes people who are spiraling into the depths of addiction aren’t aware of how their substance misuse can affect those around them because their mind is preoccupied with consuming and acquiring drugs. Sharing specific details of events when their actions, as a result of their substance use, resulted in negative consequences for the whole family or group can help put things into perspective.

Discuss fears. Coming face to face with addiction can be a terrifying experience, which is why so many people deny they have a problem for long periods of time before getting help. Opening a discussion in a safe space to discuss fears of entering treatment can provide an opportunity for a person who needs help to gain the clarity and comfort they need to overcome their worries regarding joining a program.

Ask about the future. No one sets out to become an “addict,” a word that carries a harmful stigma and victimizes people with a treatable yet chronic illness. Speaking about the person’s aspirations for the future reminds them that there is life beyond their addiction and that there’s still time to turn the ship around and seek help.

Hitting “Rock Bottom” isn’t Necessary

Waiting until someone has done irreparable damage to themselves and their life isn’t the ultimate way for them to realize that they need help. Falling into trouble with the law, deep debt, or serious addiction-related illness can make recovery much harder for a person. Speaking to a loved one about their substance use habits is a crucial preventative step that can intercept a painful, long and life-threatening experience with prolonged addiction.

Middlesex Recovery offers effective, outpatient addiction treatment that functions like a regular professional medical office. Specialized medical providers, nursing staff, and substance use counselors offer patients personally tailored, comprehensive treatment programs to give them the ultimate shot at long-lasting recovery from substance use disorder. To learn more, message or call a local Middlesex Recovery office today.