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Without a formal Intervention, how do you discuss someone's drug/alcohol addiction affects everyone around them?

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My family has a loved one that we all adore. He has been an alcoholic/addict most of his life (since he was 14 and he is nearing 60 years of age). It affects everyone in the family. He has been to prison, rehab and all sorts of therapy and although he has had long periods of sobriety, he is again binging and it's causing all sorts of family issues. All suggestions are very appreciated. Thanks
asked Feb 25, 2016 in Home and Family by concerned
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2 Answers

+2 votes

First, let me say that I'm sorry that you are going through this. Dealing with a loved one who has an addiction can be painful and frustrating.


In terms of how to talk to them about it, that is a tricky situation. As a former addict myself, I can tell you that your loved one probably already knows that they are causing a lot of pain in your family. Chances are they also feel a lot of guilt and shame over their inability to control their addiction. Talking to them will bring these uncomfortable feelings to the surface. As a result, they may react with anger as a defense mechanism against feeling those painful emotions. If they do, try not to take it personally. Chances are they are angry with themselves and their addiction -- not with you or your family.


Here are some suggestions on how to broach the subject with them:


1. Find a time to talk to them when they are sober. Trying to talk to them while they are under the influence is a bad idea since they aren't thinking clearly. Consider finding a time when they are hungover or feeling remorseful over something they have done while drunk or high. This can make them more receptive to the thought of giving up their addiction. [1]


2. Avoid blaming them for their behavior. Remember that addiction is a disease -- not a conscious choice. You wouldn't blame them if they had heart disease or diabetes. The same should hold true for addiction. To keep them from feeling like they are under attack, stick with "I" phrases. For instance, try starting your sentences with phrases like "I noticed" or "I am worried". [1] Discuss any ways that their behavior is affecting your family. Be ready to provide solid examples of how their behavior is affecting you if they try to claim that you are overreacting. 


Also, make sure that you are having a two-way dialogue rather than just talking at them. Ask questions that they have to answer with more than just a "yes" or "no" so that they feel like they are a part of the conversation rather than feeling like they are being lectured. This video has some excellent suggestions on how to talk to an addict in a way that they will understand:



3. Make sure that they understand how much you care about them. Let them know that you are bringing up their addiction because you care deeply about their well-being and are worried about them.


4. Discuss possible solutions to the problem. However, don't expect immediate changes. When someone is in the throes of addiction, they may not physically have the willpower to avoid drinking or doing drugs. Even if they desperately want to stop, they may not be able to without help. Depending on how severe their addiction is, they also may have to undergo a medically supervised detox program to avoid serious complications that can arise from suddenly stopping drugs or alcohol. [2]  Before you talk to the person, come up with some solutions that you can recommend. For instance, consider finding information on outpatient treatment programs in your area or offer to go to counseling with them. Giving them options may be just the lifeline that they need to get help.


5. Even if they don't respond well to your discussion, let them know that you are available to talk anytime they are ready. While they may not be receptive to your message now, things may change in a few weeks or months as they continue to struggle with their addiction. Knowing that they can come to you to talk without judgment can give them a way out if they start feeling overwhelmed in the future.


6. Consider getting help for yourself and your family. While you may not be able to control your loved one's addiction, you can control how you personally react to it.  Consider attending counseling or reaching out to groups such as Al-Anon for emotional support. Many support groups also offer online meetings if you or  your family members are unable to attend in person. [2] Oftentimes, addictions are harder on family members than they are on the addict themselves. Don't be afraid to seek help in dealing with your emotions. Encourage your other family members to do the same. Together, by getting yourselves back on solid footing, you will be in a much better position to help the family member who is struggling with addiction.



1. http://www.hazeldenbettyford.org/articles/what-can-i-say-to-get-you-to-stop
2. http://www.drugfree.org/want-help-adult-family-member-friend-drug-alcohol-problem-7-suggestions/

answered Feb 28, 2016 by blueskies (57,070 points)
+2 votes

If the person has already been through rehab, prison, and therapy then they probably know that it's causing everyone to have a hard time around them. Because I used to be someone that was heavily into alcohol and drugs, I will share what made me sober up and what I think needs to happen for him to want to.


One big issue is that when someone is using, it can be very difficult to talk to them. They probably won't be sober that much, so it can be hard to let them know anything and have them understand it. I would say that writing them a letter may be your best bet, or talking with them a few times about it honestly would work well too.


I remember when I started binging again after not using for a while, nobody told me it was hurting them. I was thrown out of where I was living, and that sobered me up fast because I was left without anything. I quickly was robbed outside of a bus station, and had to live on the streets. That's not a way to treat a human being, but it did wake me up.


Perhaps what you need to do is have a talk with them about what they are doing and how they need to stop or you can't be a part of their life any longer. If the person cares about you, then they may work with you. It helps to have some options available for them, such as if they want to sober up you'll help get them to the facilities they need to go to but there also need to be rules. Don't let yourself get used because addicts will promise that everything will change, but until they're ready to they are likely to just pretend like they are trying to get you to leave them alone.


Sometimes you just have to let a family member go. I know that sounds kind of messed up, but at 60 years old he obviously is comfortable with it. Until something in their life changes, such as making it impossible to get into touch with you if he's using again, then there probably won't be a reason for him to quit. Humans are creatures of habit, and it's really hard to break someone of a habit if they can use all the time and not have any consequences because those around the person don't want to hurt them.


In my life, I had to find a purpose to quit drinking and using drugs. I was mainly using to mask pain that I felt from situations I had no control over. Once I found a purpose in my wife and the work I do, I was able to get clean and not look back. I abandoned all of the people that were from my past and didn't care about me. It felt bad that I got left in the streets by my own family, and it made me resent them. However, without that wakeup call I probably wouldn't be alive.


Everyone is different and some people just won't change. You have to distance yourself after you tell them that you will if they don't quit hurting you. It's not worth it for you to suffer on top of him suffering. You may feel like you're going to hurt him more, but really you have to look out for yourself and if he really does care then he will work on it with you.


I'll include some tips from a treatment center about helping a loved one[1] and also a link to what you can do to help yourself in this situation[2] by learning to let go of him.


alcohol graphic


References -

1 - https://www.promises.com/articles/drug-addiction/why-addicts-choose-drugs-over-love/

2 - http://alcohol.addictionblog.org/how-to-let-go-of-an-addict/

answered Mar 2, 2016 by zuulspaceman (37,960 points)

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