Addiction is not an easy topic to discuss. Especially in a family setting, where everyone cares for each other. There is a little-known paradox when it comes to talking about sensitive topics with your family members. Everyone is so convinced that they all have each other’s best interests in mind, that some families have left an addict among them to continue with his bad habits just because all of them thinking that surely someone else has already spoken to him about it. Surely.
The sad reality is that speaking with a family member about a suspected drug addiction, dependence and even abuse is extremely uncomfortable and often gets put off until it is already too late.
To break the ice, there are a few things that anyone preparing to have “the talk” with someone in their family, should know. Today, we look at how to make this step and what to keep in mind while talking with an addict. Worse yet, an addict in denial.
Art of reasoning
It takes a lot of patience, understanding, flexibility and most important of all, perseverance to speak with an addict about his problems. It is even harder to speak of these things with someone who is in active denial of them. It is important to understand, that in many cases the addict may not even be fully aware of their addiction. Even if the addict knows and admits to themselves, that they have a problem, it does not necessarily mean they will be open to talking about it with anyone else.
To make someone understand something they would find embarrassing and humbling to admit is an art. It must be done in a way that makes the point across, appeals to the addicts reasoning and common sense without pandering and chastising. To do so without coming across as “holier than thou”, is hard. One of the reasons for this process being so hard and uncomfortable to undertake is that most addicts will deny the problem and actively push away anyone trying to talk some sense and reason.
Many families are well aware of the shortcomings one (or more) of theirs have towards addictive substances, yet they choose to ignore it or postpone it. This is a huge mistake, as it only enables the user and the illusion of maintaining peace will not last long.
An intervention! Immediately! Now! With everyone, the addict has ever known!
Stop. This is a family issue and should be broached as such. There may be some exceptions where a close friend would also be allowed to participate in a meeting that aims to reason with the addict about their problem. Public shaming will not do you or the addict any good, so keep the circle of people involved small and personal.
Expect for the addict to lock down. It is a natural response and should not be taken personally. They might become overly defensive, aggressive and even violent, especially if they feel like they have been cornered or ambushed. An intervention by definition screams “surprise ambush”, which may cause the addict to rebel and discard any attempts at reasoning from there on in, so if at all possible a one-on-one meeting with a family member the addict has respect for, should be the starting point of this conversation. An intervention should be a last ditch effort to show the addict how much people around him care.
To ensure your talk with the addict is successful and does not make him run for the hills you must be armed with facts. This does not have to be statistics numbers and pie charts, but you must be knowledgeable and convincing enough to be the voice of reason that you are trying to be. Do some background research and find out some facts to use as rebuttals or points of reason. Quoting facts and general knowledge avoids the addict feeling personally targeted. It reminds the addict, that you have started this topic with his best interests in mind and do not wish to become emotional, angry or agitated.
Firm yet flexible
By far the most important part to keep in mind while having this talk is to stick to your guns and remember at all times who this is for, all the while staying objective, reasonable and flexible enough to understand where the addict is coming from.
It can be a heart-wrenching sight to see a loved family member beg and grovel or shout and curse, all in hopes of postponing this talk or denying their addiction. Stay strong but open to conversation, that is what this talk is all about after all. Staying calm during this extremely emotional moment is key to get your point across. Getting upset will only cause the addict to resign from the moment and ignore any further attempts at talking with reason.
Breaking ice is not an easy thing to do and should not be attempted without a certain amount of preparation. Being strict and keeping the overall reasons for this talk fresh in mind while staying open for opinion is the key to ensuring this talk strikes home for the addict.