Things to Say to a Loved One Who is Addicted: A Saga of Healing Words

Watching someone you care about succumb to addiction is a painful experience. While the obvious first step to address the situation is a conversation, you don’t want to push them over the edge or rub them off the wrong way. A clear understanding of what to say and how to say it can make all the difference. This article explores some helpful and empowering things you can say to someone battling addiction.

April 15, 2024

Get to Know the Particulars of Each Addiction

Your understanding of the addiction faced by your loved one has to be as clear as your intent to help them.

Broadly, addiction can be divided into two types:

  • Substance addiction.
  • Behavioral addiction.

Substance abuse and addiction typically require medical intervention, detoxification, and rehabilitation. Behavioral addictions, such as gambling and uncontrolled internet usage, can be dealt with through psychological treatment, counseling, and therapy

Attempt to identify the root cause of your loved one’s addiction. This is possible by either engaging with them directly or by observing their behavior closely. The objective is to understand and be able to navigate their triggers and addiction patterns.

Understand What Not to Say

At times, watching a loved one cause damage to themselves can provoke some tough love. But saying a harsh word to someone who is already vulnerable can be counterproductive.

The first step is to understand that any statement devoid of empathy won’t get the desired results.

  • Avoid giving ultimatums.
  • Never call someone who is substance-dependent an addict, selfish, or weak.
  • Do not raise your pitch.
  • Restrain from expressing how their addiction is impacting you.

Addiction is not a choice and every experience of addiction is different. So avoid saying things like ‘I know what it's like’ or ‘I have been through the same thing’.

Such statements exert pressure more than reassurance. Make sure to avoid anything that makes them feel that you are not on their side.

Some Moments Are Better Than Others

Learning more about the type and nature of addiction also determines when you can tread toward a meaningful conversation with your loved one. You don’t want to pull any strings when they’re running high on emotions or are under the influence.

Instead, look for a time when your loved one is sober or in a relatively good mood. Unless you take advantage of such moments, finding the ideal time to communicate effectively will get harder.

Let them know how much you appreciate spending such moments with your loved one. Saying something like, ‘I love spending quality time with you’ or ‘I’d like to have more moments like these with you’, can go a long way in keeping the channels of honest communication open.

Show Unconditional Support

Instill confidence in your loved one. While it is one thing to say that you’re not being judgmental, your loved one will only believe you when you consciously make an effort to treat them the same way all day, every day as though they’re not addicted in the first place.

Foster an environment that is nurturing and supportive. Simple affirmations can act as an anchor instead of repelling them. Here are some examples:

  • ‘I don’t know what you’re going through but I can assure you that I am here for you’.
  • ‘You’re one of the strongest people I know and I am sure you will overcome your demons’.
  • ‘I am confident you will feel your best soon’.
  • ‘Life goes on, and as long as you make the effort, even this will pass’.

How to Deal With Responses

Active listening is key when you’re trying to communicate with someone in the throes of an addiction. Invest in listening more rather than speaking. Moving forward on assumptions without hearing firsthand from your loved one is not likely to work.

Often, your loved one will have a lot of repressed details to share about their experience. In many cases, they will jump at the opportunity where they get to tell their side of the story in all its details.

Instead of responding without aforethought to particular comments or questions, remember that it is okay for you not to have anything worth saying immediately. Blurting out the first thing that pops into your mind is not a wise idea. More often than not, your loved one only wants emotional support and not a fix-all solution.

Avoid interrupting them at all costs and take the conversation forward as naturally as possible.

There’s also the possibility that your loved one will hesitate to share their innermost thoughts and feelings, either due to shame or some other reason. In such cases, it’s up to you to gently nudge them into opening up.

Guilt-Tripping Yourself is a Lost Cause

Dealing with the addiction of a loved one can be messy and overwhelming. At times, your words or actions can hurt your loved one instead of helping them.

At such times, it is important to refocus on your intentions instead of blaming yourself. Don’t hesitate to stand up for yourself if you are blamed for everything or hear something you don’t deserve. Set a boundary between yourself and your efforts to help your loved one fight their way out of addiction.

Here are some statements you can use to establish that boundary without compromising your genuine desire to help your loved one:

  • ‘I understand that you’re hurting but I will not have it taken out on me’.
  • ‘I don’t think you mean what you’re saying. Let’s agree to give each other some space for a bit’.
  • ‘I’d appreciate you showing me some empathy, it is my first time dealing with this as well’.

Amidst the chaos, do not forget to be empathetic to yourself. Remember that you too, are trying your best.

Know When to Step Back and Seek Help

Addiction can be brutal on those who have to see their loved ones suffering its ravages. It’s quite natural, therefore, for you to feel completely helpless at the end of the day after seeing no improvement.

There might come a time when you feel bound to reach out for professional help. Treat this move as a step forward and not a setback.

Always let your loved one feel like they’re in control rather than shoving the decision down their throat. Here are some ways to introduce the subject of seeking help:

  • ‘I’ve heard really good things about X Recovery Center. What do you think?’.
  • ‘How about getting some help, do you know anyone?’.
  • ‘Do you think there are more effective ways to deal with this?

Let the Healing Begin at Studio64

Conversation is a constant factor on the road to addiction recovery and wellness. While there is no straightjacket formula on the things to say to a loved one dealing with addiction, the general tenets of compassion, empathy, and respect stand tall as ever.

At Studio64 Recovery, we let our deep expertise in addiction treatment do the talking. Our evidence-based therapies and holistic treatment plans are designed to achieve long-term sobriety. Our team of experts is committed to dealing with every aspect of addiction and its impact on the mind, body, and spirit.

Reach out to California’s premier addiction treatment facility and sober living center today for a customized addiction treatment solution for your loved one.

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