If you’ve noticed signs that suggest a loved one has a drug or alcohol problem, it’s important to address the issue as soon as possible. Contrary to popular belief, waiting for someone to hit rock bottom is not the best way to handle the situation. Addiction is a chronic illness, which means that ongoing care is necessary to promote lasting sobriety.
Talking to Your Spouse or Partner About Addiction
If you’re worried about a spouse or romantic partner’s addiction, it’s likely that your concerns go beyond the health consequences of substance abuse. You may be worried about the distance in your relationship, misuse of your finances, the lack of help with household tasks, and the effect the addiction is having on your children. Talking about all of these issues can make it easy for tempers to flare, but it’s important that you remain as calm as possible.
Express your concern about the specific behaviors you’ve witnessed, taking care to avoid placing direct blame. Someone with a substance use disorder already feels great shame and guilt, so accusing him or her of being a bad spouse or parent will not help matters. Focus on the specific issues related to the substance abuse as you urge your spouse or partner to seek help.
If your spouse or partner refuses to seek treatment, you may need to create what’s known as a “negative incentive” to seek help. For example, announcing that you intend to move out if he or she does not seek treatment may be the reality check that reinforces the seriousness of the situation.
Talking to Your Parent About Addiction
Confronting a parent about substance abuse is difficult because it upsets the natural parent/child dynamic. When you express concern about a parent’s drug or alcohol use, you’re stepping into the role of caretaker.
If the substance abuse has gone on for several years, resist the urge to bring up every grievance you have related to the problem. Talking about the childhood trauma you suffered or how your parent’s substance abuse affected your education, friendships, and career prospects will only add fuel to the fire. Focus your conversation on recent behavior observations, express your love for your parent, and offer to do whatever you can to support the recovery process.
If you have a difficult relationship with your parent who is abusing drugs or alcohol, enlisting the support of your other parent, your siblings, or your parent’s concerned friends can help him or her see that drug or alcohol abuse has become a real problem. Staging an intervention is an effective way to motivate a loved one to seek treatment.
Talking to Your Child About Addiction
When your child has a drug or alcohol problem, you may feel like this is an indication of your own failure as a parent. Before you confront your child, you need to work though these feelings. Substance use disorders have a number of causes and it’s impossible to say with any certainty what caused your child to turn to drugs or alcohol.
As you’re discussing substance abuse with your child, do not “talk down” to him or her. Treat your child with respect and listen to what he or she has to say. Framing the need for treatment as a problem you can both help solve together is likely to be the most productive approach.
Keep in mind that although you can force an underage child into treatment, an adult child is generally considered capable of making his or her own decisions. (Laws regarding the ability to force an addict into rehab vary significantly from state to state, but it’s typically a very difficult process.) However, refusing to enable addiction by loaning money, providing a rent-free place to stay, or swooping in to solve addiction-related legal problems may be one way to motivate your adult child to seek help.
Talking to a Friend About Addiction
Talking to a friend about drug or alcohol abuse is tricky because you are unlikely to know the full extent of the problem. Instead of speculating, state specific behaviors you’ve observed and ask questions that will help you to better understand the situation. For example, if you notice that a friend’s drinking has increased over the last few months, you could say. “I noticed that you seem to drink more when we are spending time together. Last week, it seemed like you were drinking because you were upset. What was bothering you?”
After you’ve discussed the problem, urge your friend to make an appointment with a healthcare provider for an evaluation. If you think it would be helpful, you can often to accompany him or her for moral support.
How Valley Recovery Can Help
Valley Recovery Center provides programs for individuals suffering from substance use disorders, including day treatment, outpatient programs, family, and alumni programs. Review our list of Frequently Asked Questions or contact us to learn more about how we can help your loved one begin his or her recovery journey.