If you haven’t had a drug addiction yourself, you may find it challenging to communicate with a loved one who is actively struggling. People struggling with drug addiction are generally sensitive, emotional, and defensive about their situation, especially in their early stages. There are so many thing that you should and shouldn’t say to a loved one who is addicted.
Loving an addict can be exhausting and challenging. Often, people end up hurting their loved ones because they don’t realize that some of their comments and statements cause more harm than good.
Here are some tips on communicating in a healthy way.
What to say and what not to say to a loved one who is addicted
Re-learn Your Communication Skills
No one automatically knows how to talk to someone living with an active addiction. You want to help, but you don’t know what to say to an addict. Why do they refuse to listen? You may even believe that – if they loved you– they’d quit taking drugs.
To better communicate with a loved one struggling with addiction, you have to re-learn communication skills. An essential part of this process includes learning what not to say.
Here are the five things you should not say to someone with drug addiction and what you can choose to say instead:
“I never expected you to fall into addiction. You’re smarter than that.”
Like any other disease, many factors lead to drug addiction, and it can happen to practically anyone. The stigma associated with drug addiction and then with rehab is the primary reason why it becomes so difficult for someone to address their substance use, seek treatment, and talk about it.
Instead of making them feel bad about their situation, validate the problematic experience your loved one is facing with phrases like, “There is nothing shameful about what you’re going through” and “I’m here to support you.” Your loved ones don’t need someone to remind them of their past mistakes that led to this situation, but it’s helpful to instill hope for a better future for them.
“Why can’t you just stop doing drugs once and for all?”
Everybody is unique. Something that may be easy for you to accomplish is not easy for your loved one in addiction. They are not just struggling physically, but mentally and emotionally also. Try to understand that nobody wants to live miserably with alcohol and drug dependence forever. You should realize that, if they could, they’d gladly choose to walk away from drugs or alcohol.
It would be wonderful if all addicts in the world could suddenly quit drugs and become abstinent overnight, but most need help. You could tell them, “I know you didn’t want to fall into addiction, and I don’t hold you personally responsible.” Instead of suggesting they quit cold turkey, you can offer to help your friend or loved one get enrolled in a rehab program when they’re ready to accept help.
“Enough is Enough. I give up. You will never beat this addiction.”
People tend to feel horrible about themselves when they’ve suffered a relapse. It’s natural to feel frustrated and agitated when someone you love returns to their old habits. Expressing rage towards your loved one doesn’t do any good though, you’ll only be adding to the pile of guilt and self-hatred the person may already be feeling.
If your loved one relapses, they should be encouraged to embrace their strengths. Remind them that they were able to stop using before, and they can do it again. Do not give up on them; instead, tell them, “I know this is hard; I’m proud of the effort you’re making. You can beat this again. I believe in you.” There are thousands of recovering addicts out there who are leading happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives; they can be one also.
“You’re not going to the right therapy. This isn’t working for you.”
Therapy takes time, and you may have to fall to get up again in that time.
While you may have the best of intentions for your loved ones and you only want the best treatment for them, telling them straight that their therapy is not working is highly insensitive. Downplaying their treatment program right away will crush their confidence and make them feel broken or hopeless.
Be empathetic that the map to sobriety isn’t set in stone. Instead of trying to dictate the recovery plan for your loved ones, encourage them to keep with it or offer to help find a different program that feels right for them.
Verbally acknowledge that recovery is challenging and that getting treatment for substance use disorder is incredibly important and brave.
“Let’s grab a drink. One time won’t hurt.”
You should never hint at drinking or smoking in front of a loved one going through recovery, let alone trigger their shortcomings. A reminder of their past behaviors can attract them back to their old harmful habits. Remember, you may be able to control your drinking habits, but for an addict, once they start, this becomes a slippery slope.
Instead of offering them to join you in for a celebratory drink, think of other healthy ways to connect with them. They are in the process of building a new life, so offer them some options to help. Instead of getting intoxicated, you can offer to go for a hike, play a game (like golf or basketball), paint or do a craft, binge-watch a new show on Netflix, or even just offer them some words of encouragement. Boost their self-confidence and encourage them to stay away from their old life.
If you want to learn more about how you can help your loved ones in addiction or recovery, visit our website or call us at 949-264-0191. Our health professionals will guide you about all the right things you can say and do to make the path to recovery easier for your loved ones.