Wasatch Recovery Treatment Center

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How to Talk to a Loved One About Their Addiction

Addiction is a complex chronic illness that affects millions of people in the United States at any given time. Addiction to drugs or alcohol is especially common — according to a recent survey, nearly half of Americans say they know someone living with a substance use disorder or has grappled with one in the past. 

If your loved one struggles with alcohol or drug addiction, you may find yourself in the delicate position of wanting to help but not knowing exactly how to put the topic on the table.   

For many people who seek help at Wasatch Recovery Treatment Center, the road to recovery began when a partner, relative, or close friend expressed their sincere concern and steadfast support. Here’s how you can do the same for someone you love. 

First, educate yourself

Understanding what addiction is and isn’t can help you get into the right frame of mind before you talk with your loved one. This means learning the facts about addiction and identifying any misconceptions you may have about the disease.   

When you acknowledge that addiction is a complicated, brain-altering disorder rather than a basic lack of willpower, character flaw, or moral failing, you can empathize with your loved one and approach them in a supportive, non-judgmental way. 

Pick the right time and place

Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements whenever possible. In addition to setting a gentler, more caring, and less judgmental tone, “I” statements ensure you retain ownership of your feelings instead of projecting them onto your loved one. 

It’s imperative to avoid “you make me feel” statements, which are more likely to make your loved one pull away or feel stressed, angry, emotional, or overwhelmed. 

Instead of saying, “you seem to drink a lot — aren’t you worried about your health?” you might say, “I’ve seen you drinking a lot lately, and I’m concerned about you.”

Watch your word choice

An intensive outpatient (IOP) program offers the same support, therapy, and education as a residential program. But instead of staying at the rehab center, you attend treatment, classes, and therapy sessions for several hours each week as you continue to live at home. 

IOP treatment can be ideal for people who have a solid support network at home and don’t require 24/7 care during medical detox. Like inpatient care, IOP offers a custom rehab plan to help you achieve sobriety along with a community-based program to help you maintain it.   

At Wasatch Recovery, IOP programs are offered three nights per week for up to six months, so you can continue going to work and meeting your personal obligations during the day.   

Offer unconditional support

You may feel the urge to try and fix your loved one’s situation, but that’s not your place. Your role is to offer your full, undivided attention and unconditional support. Listen to what they have to say and let them know that they’re not alone — that you’re there for them today and you’ll be there for them tomorrow, no matter what.  

And if they don’t have much of anything to say, don’t push the issue. Your loved one may feel embarrassed or awkward or may not be ready to admit they even have a problem. If that’s the case, your unconditional support may be the lifeline they reach for when they’re ready. 

Meet your loved one right where they’re at by letting them know that you care about their well-being, you don’t blame them for their illness, and you’re offering the same wholehearted support they’d give you if you were in a similar situation.

Ask guiding questions

If your loved one opens up to you, keep the conversation moving forward by asking guiding questions such as “are you using drugs or alcohol to help you cope with something?” or “what feelings or emotions lead you to use drugs or alcohol?”  

As you dive deeper, you may ask questions like “how long have you been feeling this way?” or “how do you think sobriety would change your life?”

Often, a person’s relationship with addiction changes over time. By asking non-judgmental guiding questions, you can encourage a deeper, more thoughtful conversation with your loved one that may motivate them to seek help.

Be prepared for resistance

Even if your loved one is responsive and confiding, they may not be ready to get help or go to rehab. But that doesn’t mean they’ve closed the door on the idea; many people need to have several encouraging conversations before they’re ready to seek treatment. 

Contact us today to learn more about the holistic addiction treatment and recovery programs at Wasatch Recovery. We have an intensive outpatient and sober living facility in East Sandy, Utah, and a residential treatment center in Cottonwood Heights, Utah.

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