Let's be honest. Talking to someone you love about their addiction can be down right uncomfortable.
The thought of even brining up the topic is enough to give you anxiety.
You may be unsure of how they will respond or better yet, you know exactly how they're going to react and unfortunately, it isn't going to be at all what you are hoping for.
If you have ever felt nervous about starting a conversation with your loved one about their addiction then keep reading! We've got some tips that will ease your nerves and help you get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
7 TIPS FOR TALKING TO YOUR LOVED ONE ABOUT THEIR ADDICTION
1. Bring your concerns before the Lord
Philippians 4:6-7 tells us to be anxious about nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
This is the first step for a reason. Seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33).
God wants us to rely on him. He wants us to have a relationship with him. He is our Heavenly Father and cares about our concerns. So pray. Pray that he gives you the words to speak to your loved one, the heart to empathize, wisdom to understand and discernment to be able to hear the truth in your loved one's words. Pray, pray, and pray some more. Then listen for God to direct the conversation.
2. Get out your pen and paper
Writing down your thoughts and feelings will help you feel more confident about what you are going to say. Going in unprepared is not recommended. It's great to talk from your heart, but it's best to have an idea of how you want the conversation to go. Think about what is important to you, but don't forget to leave space for what is important to them. Jot down how you think they may respond and what your response will be in return.
Remember to use "I statements" this will help you to convey a less judgmental or accusatory tone. You can click here for some sample statements as well as additional communication pointers from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. I've found them to be a great resource that I utilize often in my practice as an Addiction Counselor. I particularly enjoy their Thought for the Day, Meditation for the Day, and Prayer for the Day.
I hope you'll find it encouraging as well.
3. Rehearse your conversation in the mirror
It's one thing to write your words down. It's another to speak them out loud. There are many things that I can write in a notebook that I would never feel comfortable saying to my loved one. Similar to step number two, this step will help to alleviate some of your nerves and get you feeling more confident in what you are going to say.
You may notice that as you rehearse what you have written down, it doesn't come out exactly as you thought it would. Words are powerful. They evoke emotion. Saying them out loud gives them authority and makes them more real.
And this is precisely why it is a good idea to practice your conversation, before you approach your loved one. If you go in blindly, chances are you will speak out of emotion or shut down altogether.
Again, as you considered your loved one's response in step two, do that here. Communicate your feelings with "I statements" and leave time for your loved one to respond. Practice not only what you will say, but how you will say it.
Pay attention to your tone, volume, and body language. You are initiating the conversation. One that they may not be ready to have, so you lead the way. Set the pace by creating a safe space to communicate through your welcoming words and posture.
4. Let's talk body language
Elaborating a bit on body language to expand on creating that safe space for your loved one to be receptive to hearing you out.
No one wants to talk to someone who appears closed off. A person with an addiction especially does not want to talk to someone who they perceive as judgmental, angry, or untrustworthy.
Our body language can convey those messages, if we aren't mindful. Communicating with open arms, making good eye contact, and approaching them with love is going to make all of the difference.
Now, our body language tends to reflect how we are truly feeling, so if you are angry, sad, nervous, etc. you will need to pay extra attention to the messages your body is sending.
For more information regarding body language - check out Psychology Today's website. If you scroll to the bottom of this article you'll find the last paragraph to be of importance, but their website is filled with tons of helpful material on the subject as well.
5. Don't listen to respond. Listen to understand
This is a great Bible memory verse! And will come in handy, should the conversation go sideways.
You have written your thoughts and practiced your words out loud. You have prepared the best you could, but now is the moment of truth.
Whatever their response, keep this verse in mind. God is calling you to simply listen. Everyone wants to feel heard and understood.
Addiction is a complicated matter that your loved one may not even understand themself. It is best practice to allow for awkward moments of silence. Wheels are turning during this process. Wait and listen.
Understand that listening does not come naturally. It is skill that can be developed. In therapy we learn about active and reflective listening. Both of these methods would be helpful during this conversation with your loved one.
If you would like to learn more about how to practice these techniques:
Mindtools has a great article that even includes a short video to help cultivate these skills.
6. Prepare your heart
If you've ever attempted this conversation with your loved one in the past, I can only assume that you are reading this article, because it did not turn out the way you had hoped.
If that is the case, then you know as well as I do that your loved one may once again be unreceptive to what you have to say.
I commend you for searching for ways to help your loved one and I hope you are able to use some if not all of these tips.
If this is your first time attempting this conversation then prepare yourself should you encounter disappointment. Unfortunately, that's a real possibility. Addiction is a sensitive subject. Your loved one may be completely closed off to the idea of even discussing the topic, let alone acknowledging that they have a problem.
Let's look at two possible scenarios and then bullet point our options for each.
Scenario number 1.
They are totally receptive to the conversation, they acknowledge that they have a problem and they are open to looking at recovery options.
Scenario number 2.
They get upset with you, they shut down, they don't want help.
We know not everything is black and white. To pretend as though each conversation is going to fit neatly into one of the above two scenarios is wishful thinking.
If you find yourself lost in unchartered territory we'd love for you to reach out. You can email us at yourprayingfriend.com and together in prayer we can process your specific situation.
7. Don't give up
Whether the conversation goes better than you could have ever imagined or feels like a total let down - Don't. Give. Up.
This looks different for each one of us. For some, not giving up means they continue to put themselves out there, sometimes sacrificing their own wants and desires to pursue the wellbeing of their struggling loved one.
For others, not giving up means they must distance themselves and continue to pray endlessly for their loved one.
Whatever it looks like for you - just know that you are not alone. There are literally thousands, hundreds of thousands of people experiencing what you are going through. Addiction impacts many more than we even know.
Let's normalize talking about it. Go to ALAN-ON meetings, share your experience on social media, support others that are facing this uphill battle.
No one walks this journey alone. Remember, you always have a praying friend.
Until Next Time,
Your Praying Friend
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Substance Abuse Counselor