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How to Talk to an Addict & Get Them to Listen

by J. Johnson

Someone you know and care about may be suffering with a drug or alcohol addiction. Naturally, you want to do all you can to help and support the addict in your life. You cannot make your loved one stop using drugs or alcohol. But if you decide you want to talk with the person about his/her addiction and recovery options, make sure you do it in a way that enhances your chance of being heard. Here are some proven strategies and techniques that can help.

Get the facts about your loved one's addiction. You can find out more about addiction through local rehab and drug rehabilitation centers and by talking with drug and alcohol counselors. Websites such as MayoClinic.com and AddictionsAndRecovery.org provide useful information. When searching for help online, type in information specific to the drug that the person is struggling with. Make sure the information you find can be backed up by another source.

Research the addict's options before you talk with him/her. Talk with area drug and alcohol counselors about treatment programs and availability. Giving the addict concrete options will make him/her more likely to listen. When you talk with treatment providers, discuss the possibility of reserving a spot in case the person wants to enter treatment right away. Ask for specific recommendations for talking with the addict. Ask whether the situation would be best handled through an intervention with multiple people or through a one-on-one talk. If you decide to bring people in for an intervention, make sure everyone is on the same page before going forward.

Write down what you want to say to the addict. This will keep you on track during the discussion and keep you from getting overly emotional, which will likely cause the addict to stop listening. If the problem has already been discussed before, you can start with a firmer stance than if you are presenting the problem for the first time. Make sure the addict is sober and straight when you talk to him/her. Tell them how the addiction has impacted you and that you understand what he/she is going through. Explain the possible consequences if he/she continues his/her addiction.

Reiterate that you will be supportive throughout the person's recovery. Once the person decides to change, support is vital to his/her recovery.

Tips

  • Be prepared --- addicts typically are defensive when confronted and will give you convincing and even likely excuses for the signs of addiction. Don't let these take you off guard. Stay focused on helping the addict.
  • Be prepared in case your loved one is not willing to change. Decide whether or not you can continue to stay supportive or whether you need to separate yourself from the situation.

Photo Credits

  • Confrontation image by Francis Lempérière from Fotolia.com