Did you know that 1 in every 10 Americans has a drug or alcohol addiction? What’s even more shocking is this:
Only 11% of addicts and alcoholics ever receive treatment.
There are varying explanations as to why so many struggle to recover from addiction.
Many lack access to affordable healthcare. Some aren’t educated on the methods of treatment available. The medical community’s approach to treatment is always advancing – but it is not perfect.
In the end, an alcoholic or drug addict needs to make the conscious decision to recover. Often the road to recovery begins by opening the lines of communication. The loved ones of an addict can certainly help open these lines – but what is the best way to do so?
Here’s how to help a drug addict or alcoholic recover through communication!
Communicating in Active Addiction
Do you know someone who is currently suffering from active addiction to drugs or alcohol?
You want your loved one to get better and to receive help. But the powerful grip of addiction can make it difficult for the addict to see that they need help.
Understanding the signs of addiction is an important first step in communication. Keeping the signs and symptoms in mind, ask yourself:
- How severe is their addiction?
- How is their addiction affecting other areas of their life?
- What other evidence of addiction have you gathered?
It may be the case that your loved one has openly used or abused drugs and alcohol in front of you. Regardless, knowing the extent of their addiction will help you take the next best step.
But before considering treatment options, be open and honest with your loved one.
Start with a Conversation
Sitting down one-on-one with an active addict is a good way to open the lines of communication. It will make both of you feel more comfortable and less tense.
Try to have the conversation in a relaxed and private environment. Invite them over for coffee or to meet in a park.
The fewer distractions around, the better. Try to have the conversation when they’re not under the influence.
You don’t want to judge or accuse them of having an addiction. Instead, express to them that you’re concerned. Ask them if they’re willing to hear your thoughts and talk about your concerns.
If they’re willing to listen, tell them about what you’ve noticed in a calm and warm manner. Don’t blame them or raise your voice. Open up with something like, “I’ve noticed you don’t seem quite like yourself lately.”
It’s not uncommon for active addicts to get on the defensive. It’s important to remain calm and to remind them that you’re coming from a place of concern. You can let them know how certain actions or behaviors have made you feel.
Stage an Intervention
If your loved one is open to conversation, ask them if they’re willing to discuss treatment. But what if they’re not receptive at all to the conversation?
In this case, it’s best to let the conversation go. Your next step should be reaching out to other friends and family.
Staging an intervention may be a more intense way of communicating. But it may be the only effective means of getting an alcoholic or drug addict the help they need.
An intervention begins as a plan coordinated by the friends and family of an addict. Many interventions are often supervised by doctors, therapists, or licensed intervention counselors.
Those involved go around and discuss how the addiction has affected both them and the addict. The goal is to lay out a treatment plan and have the addict accept the help. Many interventions will lay out consequences if the addict refuses help.
During an intervention, it’s important to stay calm and collected. While you should be open about your feelings, you don’t want to confront your loved one in an aggressive way. It’s helpful to have a mediator there when emotions start to run high.
Communicating with an Alcoholic or Drug Addict in Early Recovery
Once an addict accepts help and begins recovery, you may start to wonder, “How can I help?”
Offering your support is crucial during early recovery. The chances of relapsing are high, especially in the first 90 days. Your loved one needs constant reassurance at this time.
Detox & Inpatient/Outpatient Rehab
When your loved one goes off to detox or inpatient rehab, it’s important to stay in touch.
Before they go off to detox or rehab, write them a card or give them a motivating memento. Here are some examples of gifts you can give them that will communicate your support:
- A necklace or bracelet
- A journal or book
- Photos of family, friends, pets, etc.
- Stuffed animal or new blanket
In the beginning, they may feel like they’re being “dumped off” or abandoned. These feelings coupled with withdrawal can make for a whirlwind of emotions.
Calling them on a regular basis will remind them that they’re loved and supported. Visit them in rehab as often as possible.
If they’ll undergo an outpatient program, communicate your support by offering them rides. You can also invite them out to breakfast or a late lunch before or after the day program.
If they’re not feeling well, keep the conversation light and easy. If they’re agitated or express anger or frustration, remain patient and levelheaded. In time, their mood will improve and communication will begin to open up more on their end.
Transitioning into Recovery
Transitioning back after rehab can be tough. Your loved one will need to make big decisions as to where they’ll be living. Even though they’ve had some time to sober up, they may need guidance on taking the next best step.
Invite them to coffee or lunch to discuss their living situation. You want to make them feel encouraged – not interrogated. Ask them where they plan to live and what they plan to do after rehab.
Some recovering addicts may believe they can resume their old life and still stay sober. They may suggest moving in with friends or family who are still in active addiction.
You can gently remind them that this may not be the best option. Instead, suggest better alternatives.
Exploring Living Options
If they’ll be moving in with you, it’s important to lay down some rules and expectations. It’s okay to be stern with them, but you can do so in a way that doesn’t intimidate or antagonize them. You should do this without blaming or nagging them.
You can also explain to them why moving in with you isn’t an option. Again, you should do this without putting blame on them. Let them know that you acknowledge their efforts to stay sober and offer your help in other ways.
Moving into a sober living facility or a “halfway house” may be an option. Don’t exclaim, “You need to move into a sober house.” Instead, ask them to share their thoughts on the option.
Support in the First Year of Recovery
Once your loved one has transitioned out of rehab, the road to recovery is still far from over.
Emotions in early recovery can be immensely difficult to endure. Your loved one may be feeling anger, remorse, or depression. They may start to feel the urge to use drugs or alcohol to cope.
It’s normal to feel frustrated or angry yourself. But you should refrain from saying things like, “You’re a drug addict!” or “What is wrong with you!?”
You should never threaten or present them with ultimatums. Don’t remind them of how they’ve hurt you or what they’ve done in the past. They need patience and positive communication moving forward.
You can even communicate your support without words. If you notice them struggling, ask them if they’d like to attend a 12-step meeting. Or, you can offer them a ride to therapy or get out of the house for a couple hours.
Your loved one may feel left out because they’re in recovery and can’t enjoy old places or activities. Offer to do sober activities with them like rock climbing, going to the movies, or to a yoga class.
Communicating in Long-Term Recovery
Addiction never goes away. But keeping the lines of communication can help ward off relapses for years to come.
Understanding the signs of relapse can help you and your loved one stay vigilant.
If you notice them slipping into old behaviors, you can gently remind them of their recovery. They may benefit from trying new sober activities, which you can enjoy with them. Or, they may need to return to a 12-step program or start seeing a therapist.
Don’t scare them or threaten them into staying sober if you notice them slipping. Again, you shouldn’t bring up things in the past that can make bad memories resurface. If you both feel the need to talk about the past, you can do so in a calm and positive manner.
As the loved one of a recovering alcoholic or drug addict, it’s important that you receive support, as well. Support groups and 12-step programs for the relatives of addicts can be helpful. You may find therapy helpful, as well.
Supporting Your Loved One Through Addiction
Open communication is one of the stepping stones to recovery. If you know an alcoholic or drug addict, showing your love and support is crucial to helping them recover.
If your loved one is ready to take the first step into recovery, he or she doesn’t have to go at it alone. Contact us to learn more about how we can offer addiction help.