When you have a loved one who is dealing with substance abuse, it takes a toll on your mental health.
You want what is best for them, and watching someone ruin their lives with drugs or alcohol can be very difficult. Additionally, when someone in your life is in active addiction they can make poor decisions that affect you as well.
People with addiction often lie, steal, cheat, insult, and more which often leads to a strained relationship with the people in their lives.
If you want to approach your loved one about addiction treatment, but aren’t sure how to go about it, here are some tips for making sure your message is received positively.
Approach With Kindness
When your loved one has a substance abuse problem it can leave you feeling angry and resentful, but it is important to push these emotions aside when you are discussing treatment with them.
Today, addiction is very stigmatized so your loved one is probably expecting you to belittle, insult, and criticize them. It is very important to be clear that this is not your intention or how you feel, and that you understand where they are coming from and just want to help.
You want to steer away from language that makes them feel bad about themselves. For example, instead of saying “you should be ashamed of yourself for using drugs” you should say something more like “you don’t have to be ashamed, everyone needs help sometimes”.
If you are having a hard time with this, try to view it from a different perspective.
Many addicts abuse substances because they are dealing with underlying mental health issues, and these substances are a form of self-medication. While you may be angry with the addict in your life, you have to put this aside so that they can get the help they need.
Before approaching them it is important to accept their behavior, so as they go through treatment you can begin to build forgiveness.
Choose the Right Words
What you say and how you say it are both very important for a conversation like this, and you want to make sure that you are choosing your words carefully. It is important to avoid any words that could emphasize negative stereotypes or make your loved one feel bad about themselves.
When you promote the idea that addicts are bad in this conversation, you might make your loved one feel like you are criticizing them and they could become defensive.
For example, people often use the word “clean” to describe someone who has gotten sober. However, for some people, this can invoke negative feelings about what they are if not sober.
Your loved one could become defensive and think that you are implying that by using drugs or alcohol they are “dirty”, and that can quickly make the conversation unproductive.
For the same reasons, words like “addict”, “junkie”, or “a drunk” can make it feel like you are making that their entire identity. Your loved one is a person with or without their addiction, so you want to emphasize that and not their habits.
First-person language is helpful in situations like these, so phrases like “a person with an addiction” is a much better choice than “addict” because it puts your loved one before their vice.
Jenn Walker is a freelance writer, blogger, dog-enthusiast, and avid beach goer operating out of Southern New Jersey.