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How do I start a conversation with a loved one in addiction?

Updated: Jan 16

How do I start a conversation with a loved one in addiction?

One of the biggest worries family or friends have is broaching the subject of the suspected abuse will exacerbate the problem with disastrous effects.

However, this could be a productive conversation as your family member/friend has not realised the abuse has escalated to the level of affecting their behaviour or is causing problems.

Without intervention, the problem can become severe with the same disastrous results mentioned earlier.

A few guidelines can help you broach the subject.

  • Choose the right time to bring up the subject. Wait until the person is calm and not under the influence of the substance.

  • Don’t be under the influence of a substance yourself.

  • Make time for the conversation. State you would like to talk to them and arrange a meeting with other loved ones who support you in the decision that your loved one needs help. You need an open line of communication and build a support network.

  • Remind them you care for them and this is affecting all of you. Emphasize the fact that you care for them and your relationship.

  • Each one writes a letter listing the changes in behaviour you have observed and states you are worried about the effect their substance use is having on themselves and your relationship and that you are concerned (afraid) about their continued use.

  • Ask him/her to allow you all the opportunity to read your lists out loud.

  • Don’t lecture but express your feelings.

  • After reading the letters, ask him/her how they feel about what they heard.

  • Use open-ended questions.

  • Reinforce a positive message of “we care about you”.

  • Your goal is not to tell them they have a problem, but to let them know you are concerned there is a problem based on your observations of their behaviour.

  • Don’t generalise or speculate, explore motives and don’t judge.

  • Don’t expect an immediate or dramatic change in behaviour, this could easily be the first time the person has thought there might be a problem.

  • Allow everybody to get a chance to speak. Do not interrupt someone else. It is important to create a neutral atmosphere as far as possible.

We suggest you use a professional interventionist as these conversations can become heated.

Your loved one may very well become defensive and argumentative and your emotional involvement may jeopardize your reaction.

An interventionist can guide the conversation to keep the focus on your intentions to seek help for him/her and not to be judgmental. The guilt and shame may very well cause resentment on their part because they are not able to identify their true emotions, defaulting to anger.

If the substance abuse disorder has been escalating considerably and is severe, it is time to create rock bottom for your loved one.

Enabling is the biggest factor in addiction and the hardest to stop from the family’s side. You might feel that you are not sponsoring his/her habit directly but the mere fact that they have a roof over their head and dinner every night, a safe environment is created for them to continue using.

Speak to an interventionist about consequences you may impose if your loved one does not seek help. Because of the severe nature of these consequences, it is not always easy to determine them on your own and a professional can discuss the importance with you.

This is the hardest part because you need to stick to them. If you allow yourself to give in you are essentially enabling your loved one and he/she has no reason to stop their behaviour.

Ideally, your loved one should be assessed by a qualified professional to determine the best treatment plan. They will consider among others, the severity of the substance abuse, and the person's medical and psychological history.

Discussing this could arouse feelings of fear, anger or disgust. Remember, they are likely to be feeling threatened. Withdrawal can also be dangerous and must be evaluated by a health professional.

Remember, there is no quick fix to substance abuse, prepare yourself for the long haul. There is a reason a person starts abusing a substance and these underlying causes need to be identified and resolved.

Contact us today or visit our site for more information on our programme.


Learn the art of initiating a compassionate conversation with a loved one in addiction. Understand the right time and setting, involve supportive loved ones, and express genuine care. Utilize letter-writing to share observations and concerns, fostering open communication. Navigate through the emotional challenges with professional interventionists for a focused dialogue. Recognize the role of enabling and setting consequences, seeking a qualified professional for a personalized treatment plan. Acknowledge the complexities of substance abuse, emphasizing a long-term commitment to recovery. Contact us for compassionate guidance and information on our comprehensive recovery program.

Choosing the Right Time and Environment

Overview: Initiating a conversation about substance abuse requires careful timing and a conducive environment.

Elaboration: Select a time when your loved one is calm and not under the influence of substances. Ensure that you, too, are not influenced by any substances. Creating a supportive and non-confrontational setting is crucial for a productive conversation.

Arranging a Supportive Meeting

Expressing Care and Concern

Letter-Writing Exercise

Engaging in Open-Ended Conversations

Involving a Professional Interventionist

Setting Consequences for Non-Compliance

Seeking Professional Assessment

Preparing for the Long Haul

In summary, starting a conversation about a loved one's addiction involves careful planning, a supportive environment, and professional guidance. Expressing care, using structured communication methods, setting consequences, and encouraging professional assessment are essential steps in fostering understanding and initiating the path to recovery.



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