Communicating with Someone Who Has an Addiction

It is not usually an easy task to speak with someone about their addiction and is not something we are necessarily born with knowing how to do. The shock alone of finding out that a loved one has an addiction can greatly hinder communication skills.

Communicating can be especially difficult if you have been enabling their addiction, whether knowingly or unknowingly and if they have been lying to you about it or are in denial.

There are, however, changes you can make in the way you communicate with them, which will put an end to enabling but will still show you care.

  • Always Be Kind- Actions can certainly speak louder than words so showing you care through your behavior can be a great ingredient to successful interaction. Always act with compassion and kindness.
  • Listen- Someone with an addiction is more likely to confide in you if you do not interrupt or criticize them even though you may not agree with their behavior. You can find out more about addictions here and try to understand what it is like from their point of view.
  • Be Consistent- Remaining consistent in your message is key so what you are trying to get across is not misunderstood. For example, if you believe a loved one has a smoking problem, don’t offer them a smoke or bring them around smokers.
  • Be Predictable- Surprises can be stressful and in turn, stress feeds addiction. Though addicts can be unpredictable, you can set a good example by being predictable in your words and actions.
  • Show Love or Concern- No matter how severe the addiction, always let them know you love and/or care about them or at least have their best interest at heart. This does not mean, however, that you will be passive about their behavior. Set limits and follow through in order to show you do not make empty threats if necessary.
  • Support the Process of Change- Standing by an addict when they are in need is huge. For example, by attending family/group counseling with them, they may see that you are also willing to look at yourself and make changes, which in turn, will help motivate them.
  • Their Way- Though being clear about what is acceptable, offering in ways to help that they would like will provide comfort and trust.
  • Seek Information on Where to Get Help- Often the biggest obstacle in an addict seeking help is feeling ashamed or the fear of being reported for their addiction. Offer to help find and share information on where to get help and also get help for yourself in order to know how to best aid them.
  • Limits- Always let an addict know your limits and if they are unwilling to change and you feel you cannot help anymore or live with them, gently let them know. If a person doesn’t know how much their addiction bothers you, they have no reason to change. Counseling can be a good place to talk with them about this.

If you have any questions or concerns about your loved one, please contact us.