This is the all-important first step in helping someone overcome his or her addiction. Most addicts won’t seek out treatment on their own, so friends and loved ones must be the ones to starts the conversation.
Make no mistake. This will be a difficult conversation to have, but it is vitally important. These guidelines will help you start a conversation that makes it easier for the addict to listen.
Remember that this isn’t about you
It’s important to keep your own emotions and biases out of the conversation. This isn’t about how the addict’s behavior angers or frustrates you. It’s about helping them get the treatments they need and empowering them to seek treatment. Articulate how the addiction is causing them problems. Also, educate yourself on the addiction so you can have an informed discussion. Explore treatment and recovery options, and how to pay for them.
Select the right time and place
Make sure the conversation is someplace where the addict will feel comfortable. Starting the conversation when the addict has to go to work or has an upcoming engagement should be avoided, as it will cause additional stress for the addict. It is also important that they are sober.
Try not to attack the addict
The conversation comes from a loving place, so make sure that love is communicated. Do not be accusatory or try to embarrass the addict. Start off by telling them how much you care, what they mean to you, and what you appreciate about them. Do show them how the addiction has changed them. Be sure to include detailed facts and cite specific examples of moments when your loved one’s addiction has led to destructive behavior. The examples should be objective, truthful, nonjudgmental, brief and recent.
Always be generous with your encouraging words. You may find they inspire others to be the best they can be.
Preserve their dignity
We cannot stress the importance of avoiding accusatory language. If your loved one’s behavior worries you and scares you for their safety and wellbeing, tell them so. But keep your emotions in check and allow them to open up by staying calm and listening carefully to them. This is crucial when it comes to getting them on the path to recovery. Having an intervention with a small group of the addict’s close friends and loved ones can make the process easier and more effective.
During the conversation, the addict may either lash out emotionally or try to downplay the problem. Counter this behavior by letting the addict know the consequences if his/her behavior continues. Let the addict know you will no longer cover for them for missing work, nor will you enable the behavior by shielding them from the consequences of their actions. While maintaining a calm demeanor, let your loved one know you are taking a stand against the addiction, not the person. Let him/her know that if the behavior persists, things will get worse for them.
Above all, keep the conversation on the big picture. Let them know that the road to recovery, while long and difficult, will ultimately lead to a long, happy, addiction-free life, and that you will support them every step of the way.