If you have a loved one who struggles with substance abuse, you may be afraid to bring up the subject. You might worry that the person could lash out or that your relationship could be forever tarnished. However, starting this important conversation is the first step toward getting your loved one the help they need. Here’s how to talk to someone who may need substance abuse treatment.
Ease into the Topic
First, wait until your loved one is sober to initiate a conversation. Then, gently bring up the topic by sharing an observation, such as:
- You haven’t seemed like yourself lately. Are you okay?
- You’ve been acting differently the past few weeks, and I’m worried about you.
- It seems like you’ve been drinking a lot lately. How are you doing?
- I’ve seen you using drugs recently, and it has me worried about your health.
Be prepared for your loved one to deny that there’s a problem. If they refuse to speak, don’t press the matter. You’ve planted a seed that could get them thinking, and that’s a good start.
Ask Guiding Questions
If your loved one opens up to you, keep the conversation going with non-accusatory questions. You may want to write down what you plan to say so you’re prepared. Here are some examples:
- How long have you been feeling this way?
- Are you using drugs/alcohol to help you cope with something?
- Do you think your drug/alcohol use is a problem?
Avoid the urge to try and fix the situation. Your job right now is to listen and give support by saying things like:
- You’re not alone—I’m here for you no matter what.
- I love you, and I want to help in any way I can.
- What can I do to support you right now?
Tactics to Avoid
To increase the chances of a positive outcome, avoid certain tactics during your conversation about substance abuse:
- Don’t threaten to kick a teen or young adult out of the house if they don’t stop using drugs or alcohol.
- Don’t force the addiction to stop by confiscating all drugs or alcohol.
- Don’t lecture about the importance of sobriety.
- Don’t accuse your loved one of being an alcoholic, drug addict, or junkie.
- Don’t blame the person you’re worried about or try to guilt-trip them into quitting.
- Don’t justify harmful behavior or make excuses for your loved one.
The main takeaways when talking to someone about their substance abuse are to listen, show your love, and offer support. If you reach the end of your first conversation, and things seem to be going well, ask your loved one if they have considered getting treatment for their addiction.
Wyoming Recovery is an addiction treatment center in Casper. We focus on helping people get back on the right track with flexible, evidence-based programming. To learn more about substance abuse treatment, please call us at (307) 265-3791.