When you see a loved one in pain, it’s natural to want to help them. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes very difficult to determine the best way to go about it. Figuring out how to talk about addiction is one such scenario. There is so much stigma, trauma, emotion, and misinformation involved that it’s very easy to accidentally say or do the wrong thing and end up alienating the person you’re trying to help. Despite having the best of intentions when communicating with someone who has an addiction, they may feel like you’re ashamed of them, disappointed in them, or trying to fix them, and choose to push you away in response. With all this in mind, it can sometimes feel like there’s no right way to go about having such a conversation and that it’s best to just give them their space and look the other way. However, doing nothing is not a constructive solution either.
The first step in being able to talk to someone about addiction and addiction treatment options is to gain a better understanding of what addiction is in the first place. This allows you to have a conversation on more even ground, decreasing the likelihood of anything being misinterpreted.
Debunking Common Myths Involving Addiction
To better understand what addiction really is and where it comes from, it’s necessary to start by unlearning some of the more prevalent myths surrounding it. These stereotypes and myths can lead you to accidentally make inappropriate statements while talking with your loved one about substance abuse.
Let’s debunk a few of these misconceptions below:
1. You Already Know What an Addict Looks Like
This is an incredibly harmful myth because it prevents you from recognizing addiction in instances where the reality does not fit the expectations in your mind. As a society, we often envision addicts as people with poor hygiene and bedraggled clothing, who may appear physically ill. The reality is that there are plenty of high-functioning, polished members of society dealing with substance use disorder, too, and anyone can become addicted no matter their appearance.
2. Drug Addiction Treatment Has a Straightforward Timeline and Strict Endpoint
Drug dependency is a chronic condition, and no matter what sort of treatment plan you have in mind, rehabilitation will likely be an ongoing journey for the rest of the person’s life. This doesn’t mean that treatment programs don’t work. In fact, even amongst those less eager to participate, people who attend treatment programs have greater chances of success at combating their substance abuse disorder. However, it’s important to realize that it’s not a magical one-step cure.
3. Addiction Is Only About Physical Dependency on Specific Substances
It can be tempting to blame the substance someone is addicted to for their disorder. However, not all addictions involve substances with inherent physical dependencies. Often, those who develop substance use disorders also experience other forms of mental illness. Over time, the substance’s use can go from a simple coping mechanism to something perceived as physically necessary for survival.
4. There Is One Easily Identifiable Cause of Addiction
As far as what exactly causes addiction in the first place, it should be understood that there is no straightforward answer. The more addiction is researched, the more of the complexities of addiction are revealed. Everything from genetics to stress levels to the age at which substances are first encountered can lead to addiction, and it varies for each person.
5. Drug Addiction Is Voluntary
This is probably the most harmful myth of all. Because it can be so difficult for people on the outside to envision what experiencing addiction is like, it’s easy to subconsciously believe that people actively choose addiction. After all, from an outsider’s perspective, that’s sometimes how it appears.
When someone repeatedly sabotages their own rehabilitation or falls back into old patterns, we become frustrated and wonder why they keep doing this to themselves. The reality is that people struggling with addiction are constantly battling all sorts of messages and powerful drives from their own bodies and minds, and sometimes the internal battle is just too overwhelming. But that doesn’t mean the person isn’t trying their best or doesn’t want to get better. researching
Recognizing Signs of Substance Use Disorder
While the specific symptoms may vary depending on the substance involved, there are certain signs applicable in most situations that you can look out for. These include sudden changes involving:
- Problems at school or at the workplace, increases in unexplained absences
- Decreased mental acuity
- Significant changes in sleeping and eating habits, whether too much or too little
- Changes in behavior, especially increased isolation and secrecy
- Changes in mood, such as sudden aggression or complete loss of motivation
- Increasing issues with money
Things to Do Prior to Talking With Your Loved One About Substance Abuse
If you suspect that someone you know is experiencing substance use disorder and are considering how to talk to them about getting addiction treatment, do some research. It’s important to be prepared ahead of time. The last thing you want to do is rush into a conversation you’re not ready to have and end up feeling hurt or hurting your loved one in the process.
Remember That They May Not Be Open to Having a Dialogue
One of the biggest side effects of substance use disorder is changes in a person’s mood and behavior. Prior to encouraging a loved one to seek treatment for drugs, you have to understand that they may not be receptive to what you have to say. They may be in complete denial about what they’re going through or act overly defensive. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have this conversation. It’s possible that they may never be in a place where they’re open to talking about their addiction. Instead, you should ensure that your approach has the highest chance of success by avoiding being overly confrontational.
Steer clear from anything that might come off as an accusation, and instead focus your language around yourself and your personal concerns for their wellbeing. Starting with “I” phrases, talking about how you feel is a great way to start the conversation. It’s also best to stick to specific examples when talking about behavioral observations you’ve made. For example: “I was worried when you didn’t get in touch with me for a week.” From there, you can utilize gentle guiding to get them to start sharing their perspective with you. The most important thing is to help your loved one feel heard and supported, not judged.
Do Your Research Before Communicating With Someone Who Has an Addiction
It’s possible that the person in question will ultimately decide they’re not interested in seeking help or treatment at this time. However, by having the conversation, you’ve let them know that you care about them and are willing to support them in the event that they ever change their mind. Continue to be open about your concerns, and it may eventually convince them to give treatment a try.
If they are ready to take the first step towards recovery, work with them to create a concrete plan to help keep them accountable. It can be helpful to do some research ahead of time, ensuring you’re aware of the options available to help your loved one. Again, specificity helps. People are more likely to follow through with a clear request, such as attending a specific support group in the area, as opposed to a more general request of “seeking help at some point.” Coming to the conversation prepared with options gives you a better chance of having a productive discussion.
Individualized Addiction Treatment Options in Scottsdale, AZ
At Illuminate Recovery, we fully understand the challenges involved in rehabilitation. To that end, we provide a strong support system, complete with an individualized treatment plan that offers much needed flexibility. People that choose to go through our program will find access to extremely helpful resources without experiencing significant, stressful disruptions to their lives.
To learn more about all the different treatment options available, visit our services area or call us anytime. We’re here to answer all of your questions and help you support a loved one who might be hesitant to go into a rehab program at this time.
Having been on both sides of active addition, both the person using, and the person affected by a loved one using drugs and alcohol, Lucas has been involved in recovery since 2009. He has been working in the treatment industry since 2013. Using his personal experience and wealth of knowledge learned from professional development and immersion in the recovery field, he has spoken with thousands of families and helped hundreds of people attain long-term sobriety. In 2020, the opportunity presented to join in and start Illuminate Recovery. Understanding the importance of personalized treatment plans and the complex nature between substance abuse and co-occurring disorders, has helped Illuminate Recovery build a strong curriculum and a phenomenal staff. Illuminate Recovery now has a medical doctor who is board certified in addiction medicine and a psychiatric medical doctor who works side by side with independently licensed therapists to provide compassionate and effective treatment.