7 Don’ts for Discussing Someone’s Addiction With Them

How to not to Talk about Addiction with a loved one

All loved ones of addicts reach the point where they need to discuss the problem with the person directly. In doing so, you have a chance to convince them to get them the help they need. But you also run the risk of pushing them away and further isolating them in their addiction. Learning to talk to your loved one about their addiction in a way that feels safe is the best way to get them the help they need. 

Avoiding saying or doing these important “Don’ts” will help you create a safe space and help get the best possible result for your loved one. 

 

 

1. Don’t Berate, Belittle or Blame

 

Accusatory tactics like these will likely result in your loved one feeling defensive, angry, and even storming out. Addicts are in a fragile state and are quick to emotionally spiral, which typically drives them to use in order to soothe their pain. Avoid these three B’s to maintain a safe and constructive environment. 

 

 

2. Don’t Make It All About You

 

Your experience of their addiction is part of this, of course, but right now the goal is to get your loved one the help they need. Try to make sure you’re focusing on them. Have you noticed they seem unhappy? Do they look different than they used to? Is their health declining? Rather than focusing on how you’ve been treated, focus on them. Your relationship to their addiction can be discussed later, once they are safely in treatment.  

 

 

3. Don’t Attempt to Know What They are Feeling or Experiencing

 

It is best not to talk to your loved one as if you know what it is like to have an addiction (unless of course you actually do). Every addict’s struggle is unique. Instead of trying to assume what they are going through, ask them. Opening the dialogue creates a space for honesty, transparency, vulnerability and ultimately, change. 

 

 

4. Don’t Pass Judgement

 

In creating a safe and open space, you may learn things you didn’t expect. If they are telling you things that make you  feel inclined to judge their behavior. Don’t. Whatever you do, do not judge them. Support them, listen to them, offer to help. Know that addiction is a disease that takes people away from their true selves. Their addict behaviors are not indicative of them as a person. 

 

 

5. Don’t Raise Your Voice

 

This is a surefire way to create a heated argument, which is very unlikely to end in a positive outcome. Sometimes a person in active addiction will feel accused by any discussion of their substance abuse. Keep your voice level, even if your loved one does not. Do not engage with any outbursts, stay calm, and maintain the safe space. 

 

 

6. Don’t use this as an opportunity to air all your grievances 

 

You might be angry or hurt over things that have happened during their active addiction. It’s understandable and ok to feel these things, but now is not the time to raise them. For now, do not criticize, express anger, or bring up the past in a negative way. The only things you should be talking about are your concerns for their safety and wellbeing. Again: safe space. 

 

 

7. Don’t Lose Sight of Your Goal

 

Keep reminding yourself of the purpose of this conversation: To get your loved one into treatment. Before speaking ask yourself, will what I’m about to say bring us closer to this goal? If the answer is uncertain, don’t say it. 

 

We hope this helped you learn how not to talk to a loved one about their addiction. However, if you feel you need more help or would like guidance on how best to get your loved one in to treatment, our expert team at Harmony Recovery Group can help. Call us today. We’re here to support you.

Am I Enabling? The Difference Between Helping and Hurting 

Am I Enabling? Learning the difference between helping and hurting

When our loved ones are in trouble, all we want to do is help. It is one of our most beautiful human instincts but unfortunately when a loved one is in the throes of addiction, our well-intentioned help can really hurt. So, it’s important to ask ourselves, “Am I enabling?”

There is a fine line between offering support and enabling, and it is a difficult line to walk. Unfortunately, despite our best intentions, our help can inadvertently harm the addict by making it easier for them to continue using. On our end, we often feel guilt, hurt and betrayal because our help was used to fuel their addiction. 

Understanding what enabling is will ultimately support both you and the addict, as you will only be taking actions that push them towards treatment. However, be aware that this road can be a painful one. We cannot force anyone to change who does not want to change themselves. 

 

What is Enabling? 

Enabling is any action that makes it easier, more comfortable, or financially possible to continue an irresponsible, inappropriate or dangerous behavior. This can be unrelated to substance abuse or addiction, such as letting your child stay home from school because he didn’t finish his project in time. In this instance, you are not helping them, you are allowing them to shirk the consequences of their choices. This ultimately enables them to continue being irresponsible. 

When drug or alcohol addiction is involved, the matter becomes much more serious and can play out in a highly co-dependent manner. For example, a parent gives an addict money for groceries so they won’t “go hungry” but the addict spends the money to get their drug fix instead. The parent has not helped the child, just enabled them to fall deeper into addiction. 

 

Am I Enabling? 

Enabling can constitute more than financial support and occur in a myriad of ways. Ask yourself the questions below.

 

Do I make excuses for the addict’s behavior? 

“He’s just tired,” and “she’s just drinking because she had a bad day,” are examples of excuses we can make to ignore the deeper problem. But pretending the problem doesn’t exist, does not make it go away. Excusing behavior will only hurt both you and the addict in the long run. 

 

Have I ever lied to others in order to cover up their using? 

If you’ve ever found yourself covering for your addicted loved one, you are enabling. Maybe they have gone on a bender and you call their employer saying they are sick, or make an excuse as to why they didn’t make it to the friend’s birthday party. These are all actions which allow the addict to avoid consequences of their using and thus allow them to continue to do so. 

 

Am I afraid to express my feelings or concerns for fear they will react negatively (i.e. they may leave you or be angry with you)? 

Acting out of fear is the opposite of rational behavior. When we act out of fear, we sacrifice our own comfort and wellbeing in exchange for momentary peace and safety. 

The truth is, your fears can and may come true. The addict may leave, they may get into trouble, they could wind up in jail, or they could get angry when you address their addiction. But not addressing what is going just means that the addiction continues in the dark, where it thrives. 

 

Do I constantly blame others for the addict’s problems or addiction to avoid placing responsibility on them? 

Blaming addictive behaviors on outside factors such as a stressful job or drinking buddies who are a bad influence is ignoring the root of the problem. Thinking that if those factors weren’t in the picture, your loved one wouldn’t abuse substances is likely to be inaccurate. It also denies that the person may be in a full-blown addiction which is a disease not a choice. 

 

Am I putting the needs of the addict above the needs of myself or my family? 

Because addicts are typically unable to care for their own basic needs, they often rely on an enabler to help them. This is textbook Codependent Behavior. The enabler feels a personal responsibility to “help” the addict and the addict relies on the enabler to fix their problems so their addiction can continue. Things like bailing the addict out of jail, buying them food, or skipping other responsibilities to go pick them up are all signs of enabling. It also means you are putting their needs first. Can you really afford to pay their rent or is it causing your hardship? Either way, you are helping them use. 

 

Stopping the Cycle

 

 

1. Face your Fears

You may be afraid that without your help they could wind up homeless, hungry, or in jail. Accept that these are possible outcomes of their addiction. Typically addicts must become uncomfortable in order to accept they have a problem and seek treatment. Sometimes they need to hit rock bottom, but not always. Unfortunately you have to be willing to find out. 

 

2. Create Boundaries (and stick to them)

Learn to detach with love. Stop protecting them from the consequences of their actions, do not offer financial support, and do not bail them out of trouble. Keep a schedule and stick to it, for example, they are welcome to 6pm family dinner but only if they come on time. 

 

3. Seek Education and Support

Learn all you can about addiction. Go to Al-Anon meetings. Find a counsellor and take care of your mental health. This is a difficult journey. Understanding the roots of addiction and speaking to others who understand can help with feeling powerless, lonely, or scared. 

 

4. Talk to Your Loved One About Treatment

Wait until they are sober to have a conversation with them about their using. Be honest with them: talk what you see when they are high, tell them how their addiction has affected you and others. Then suggest they get treatment. Be prepared for them to respond negatively or decline, we cannot make someone change until they are ready. 

 

Lastly, contact a professional if you need help or advice. At Harmony Recovery Group, we are here for you.

Reach out to us anytime. 

Rebuilding Foster Care Families in the Aftermath of Addiction

Foster Care and Addiction

It’s no secret that addiction tears families apart, this is especially true in the case of foster care. Studies have shown one in three children in the program were admitted due to parental substance abuse. But what happens when parents are in recovery and their children are able to come home. How do you heal the trauma that tore the family apart? 

 

Communicate 

Talk about what has happened, apologize, listen to their feelings. Depending on their age, this may be the time to have an open discussion with them and communicate honestly. Make sure they know that their feelings are valid, that you hear them, and of course, that you love them. 

 

Create a “New Normal” 

Children and families thrive on consistency. Try to create routines in your everyday life, maybe every night you have dinner at 6pm together. Or every morning you listen to the radio. Small things can make a difference in creating a feeling of consistency. Consider creating new traditions. Maybe every Saturday morning you take a walk together as a family or every Sunday you make pancakes. Making traditions make ordinary days feel special and make memories that last. 

 

Be Patient and Don’t Play the Guilt Game

Just because you’re in a different place now doesn’t mean you can expect things to change overnight. You may feel closed out or be frustrated by how your relationship building is going, but remember to be patient. This process takes time, particularly with older children. Don’t guilt them for holding a grudge or not responding the way you want them to. With time and consistency you can rebuild, but don’t put your expectations onto them. 

 

Keep Showing Up

It might be hard to face the circumstances, and new requirements such as supervised visitation however no matter what, continue to be there for them. It might take weeks, months, or even years for them to recover, feel safe, and accept the “new normal.” Regardless of how distant they may be, even when they act out or misbehave, stay with them. They need you and are likely testing your limits to see if you are here to stay. Be truly there for them. Show up, every day, in whatever way you can. 

 

Every scenario looks different. The ultimate goal is to heal, and let go of resentments and the shame. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction and their children have been placed in foster care our case managers might be able to help. Contact us below or click here.