How to Support a Loved One Struggling with Addiction

Discovering that a loved one is struggling with addiction can be overwhelming and heart-wrenching.  It is easy to feel helpless and experience anxiety when it comes to knowing how to help.  While it is important that you know that you cannot force anyone to get help, you can always do what you can to make sure your loved one knows you are there for them and willing to help support them if needed. Knowing what to say—and what not to say—can make a significant difference in providing the support they need in learning how to break an addiction. Here are some thoughtful approaches and phrases to use when talking to a loved one who may be struggling. 

Express Concern Without Judgment

  1. Start with Love and Concern
    • What to Say: “I care about you and I’m worried about how much you’ve been drinking/using. I love you and want to see you healthy and happy.”
    • Why: This approach focuses on your concern for their well-being rather than criticizing their behavior, which can help them feel supported rather than attacked.
  2. Use “I” Statements
    • What to Say: “I’ve noticed that you seem different lately and I’m worried about you.”
    • Why: “I” statements reduce defensiveness by focusing on your feelings and observations rather than placing blame on them.
  3. Be Specific About What You’ve Observed
    • What to Say: “I’ve seen that you’ve missed a lot of work lately and it’s unlike you.”
    • Why: Providing specific examples can help your loved one understand your concerns are based on observable behaviors rather than vague accusations.

Keep in mind that defensiveness often accompanies someone who is learning how to break an addiction.  If your loved one is being defensive or unkind, it can be easy to internalize it and take it personally. Remember that addiction can be overwhelming to someone who is struggling, making them unable to communicate their emotions effectively. 

Offer Support and Encouragement

  1. Encourage Professional Help
    • What to Say: “I think talking to a professional could really help you. I’m here to support you in finding the right kind of help to show you how to break an addiction.”
    • Why: Encouraging professional help shows that you take their struggle seriously and believe in the benefits of expert guidance.
  2. Reassure Them of Your Support
    • What to Say: “I’m here for you, no matter what. We’ll get through this together.”
    • Why: Knowing they have your unwavering support can provide comfort and motivate them to seek help.
  3. Acknowledge Their Feelings
    • What to Say: “It must be really tough dealing with this. I’m here to listen and help however I can.”
    • Why: Validating their feelings can help them feel understood and less isolated in their struggle.

It is not uncommon for those struggling with substance abuse to feel that they need to “figure it out on their own.”  They may feel that they are being a burden or they may be afraid that people will leave them.  It is important for them to feel supported, even if it seems that they are pushing you away. 

Avoid Blame and Shame

  1. Don’t Use Accusatory Language
    • Avoid Saying: “You need to stop ruining your life.”
    • Why: Accusatory language can make your loved one feel attacked and may cause them to shut down or become defensive.
  2. Avoid Ultimatums Unless Absolutely Necessary
    • Avoid Saying: “If you don’t get help, I’m done with you.”
    • Why: Ultimatums can strain your relationship and may not lead to the positive change you hope for. Instead, focus on expressing your concerns and offering support.
  3. Don’t Minimize Their Problem
    • Avoid Saying: “It’s just a phase, you’ll get over it.”
    • Why: Minimizing their struggle can make them feel misunderstood and reluctant to open up further.

Those struggling with substance use often report overwhelming feelings of shame and guilt.  Keep this in mind if you find them pulling away from you or resisting your support. It may take some time before they see for themselves that they need help and assistance in learning how to break an addiction.

Encourage Positive Steps

  1. Highlight Their Strengths
    • What to Say: “I know how strong you are, and I believe you can overcome this.”
    • Why: Encouraging their inner strength and resilience can boost their confidence and determination to seek help.
  2. Suggest Practical Steps
    • What to Say: “Let’s look up some local support groups together, or I can go with you to your first meeting.”
    • Why: Offering practical help shows your commitment to their recovery and makes the process feel less daunting.
  3. Celebrate Small Wins
    • What to Say: “I’m so proud of you for taking that first step and talking to someone.”
    • Why: Celebrating small victories can reinforce positive behavior and provide the motivation to continue.

It is hard to exaggerate just how much work it takes on someone’s part to learn how to break an addiction. It is important for their loved ones to celebrate their wins along with them and to acknowledge their hard work.  

Talking to a loved one about their addiction is challenging, but approaching the conversation with empathy, understanding, and support can make a significant difference. Remember to express your concern without judgment, offer unwavering support, avoid blame, and encourage positive steps. Your compassionate words can be a powerful catalyst for change, helping your loved one feel less alone and more hopeful about their journey to recovery.

If you need treatment, you need ARIA. Come call us today.

At the Addiction Recovery Institute of America, our addiction treatment specialists provide expert care for individuals who are struggling with substance use disorders. Our goal is simple: to provide each of our clients with the tools they need to achieve long-term recovery.

When you enroll in any one of the programs at ARIA, you are committing to sobriety, right here in West Palm Beach, Florida. We are dedicated to holding up our end of the bargain by designing individualized substance abuse treatment programs that serve each of our client’s individual needs. To get in contact, Call us at (844) 973 2611 or head over to our Contact Us page, fill out our information form and our representatives will get back to you as soon as possible.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *