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How do I tell my family about my addiction

How do I tell my family about my addiction
Written by Seth Fletcher on January 9, 2019
Last update: February 26, 2024

Are you ready to take on your problem first hand? If you have the clarity to bring up your addiction to your family, you absolutely need to. But what can I say?

A large part of the human condition is craving interaction with others. Without communication, we become isolated, introverted and depressed. As an addict, communication with loved ones and friends is one of the first skills to deteriorate. As a result, an addict loses their ability to maintain a meaningful human connection with those closest to them. This can only worsen an addict's mental well-being and substance dependence. Can you talk to those closest to you, even if you're estranged now? The answer is yes, you just need to know what to say...

Can You Talk About Your Addiction? Here's What You Should Say

One of the most overbearing feelings surrounding addiction is often guilt, shame, and isolation. All too often an addict just doesn't know to face friends and family members because of these feelings. Yes, talking about addiction can be extremely difficult. But facing uncomfortable communication is 100% necessary along the road to recovery.

The Importance of Communication

As an addict, it's important to understand how your family members and friends feel about your addiction and associated behaviours. The harsh reality is that they may not understand the true power of addiction, they may also feel betrayed, angry and hurt. Taking the time to accept this reality will stand you in good stead when facing difficult conversations about your addiction. The truth of the matter is that a lack of proper communication with one another can lead to anger, avoidance, and depression. You'll need to learn how to face your emotions and learn to verbalize them, instead of drowning them out through substance abuse.

How To Communicate With Your Loved Ones

When it comes time to express your feelings with your loved ones, here's what you should say to help them understand...

1. Your Love Cannot Save Me

Your love and support, no matter how unconditional, is not a cure for my addiction. It never has been and never will be. If it were that easy, my addiction would not be as big an issue as it is today. While I appreciate your love, I need more than that. What I really need is ''tough love'', someone to tell me like it is and cut out all the avenues of addiction enablement in my life.

2. I Am Not Choosing Substance Abuse Over You

It may be difficult for you to understand or grasp the concept, but addiction is a disease that chemically alters the brain. It may seem like I constantly choose addiction over my loved ones, but in the depths of addiction, you have little choice. You are shackled to substance abuse because of the disease. Please understand that I am not choosing substance abuse over you. Addiction has a real impact on my brain, where neurochemicals and receptors are altered and damaged.

3. I Want to Quit, But Don't Know How

In depths of addiction, quitting is always at the forefront of your mind. You know you need to quit, but the task seems impossible. While it may not seem like it, I want to live a clean and sober life. But it's not as simple as it sounds. I am afraid of the physical and mental effects of withdrawal and the long road ahead. What I really need is the acknowledgment of my addiction and someone to stand by me through recovery. I cannot do it alone and need your help.

4. Are You Willing to Support My Recovery?

It's extremely difficult for me to ask for your help, but I need it more than ever before. What Can I Say to My Loved Ones About My Addiction? I don't want to feel like a burden but your support through my recovery is 100% essential to living a clean and sober life.

How To Communicate With an Addict

If you're a family member struggling to come to terms with a loved one's addiction, here's how you can show your support.

1. Acknowledge Their Addiction

While most addicts go to great lengths to hide an addiction, it's important to let them know once you have noticed addictive behavior. Be sure to let them know that you have recognized the signs of addiction and you're concerned for their wellbeing. Share your acknowledgment in a loving manner, let them know that you are open to honest communication and will support them during recovery.

2. Be Honest About Your Anger

Take the time to understand your anger. You will most likely feel anger towards your loved one and anger towards their addiction. It's important to understand and recognize that your loved one is still in there, but is being controlled by addiction. Once you're honest about your anger and where it's directed, this can help you both move forward. It's 100% normal to be angry at the addition, but try not to let those feelings rob you of your love for them.

3. Show Your Support Through Their Recovery

This is probably one of the most important ways you can help an addict. Make it loud and clear that you do not support or condone their addiction, but 100% support their recovery. By drawing a clear line in the sand, this shows you are in no way an enabler, but rather a lifeline of much-needed support.

4. Be Consistent in Your Words and Actions

It's vital that you show your support through both words and actions. Try to remain as consistent as possible in your message of support so that there are no misunderstandings about expectations. Try not to be hypocritical in your actions versus your words. If you suspect your partner has a drinking problem, don't offer them wine over dinner!

5. Show Unconditional Love

This may not be easy, but unconditional love and support is a lifeline your loved one will clutch onto through their recovery. Have their best interest at heart- even on the most difficult days. But keep in mind that ''tough love'' also counts. Remember to set limits so that your love and support is not taken for granted.

A Lifeline to Sobriety

Can you talk openly about living a clean and sober life? Then you are ready to hit the road to recovery with Canadian Centre for Addictions. As one of Ontario's top private rehab centres, we offer round-the-clock care by only the best professionals in the industry. We offer onsite detox care, counsellors, doctors, nurses and a beautiful property to embark on your journey to recovery. Get in touch with us today for a lifeline to sobriety.  
Certified Addiction Counsellor

Seth brings many years of professional experience working the front lines of addiction in both the government and privatized sectors.

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