Whether you’re struggling with a substance use disorder or recently out of treatment, you likely feel that you owe it to your close friends and family to discuss your addition. In some cases, it may also be necessary to ask for help, so that you can get into treatment in the first place. Your family and loved ones are often an important part of your recovery, and you will have to discuss your addiction, talk about lifestyle changes, and to try to rebuild your relationships before you can rebuild a healthy family life with your loved ones.
No matter what your motivation, you’re likely experiencing a lot of negative emotions including anxiety and fear. That’s normal and natural. Most of us want our friends and family to look up to us, we don’t want to be a victim, and we don’t want to be wrong. No one chooses to become an addict, but there is still a great deal of social stigma wrapped around addiction and substance abuse, and you may feel that as you go to tell your friends and family about it. The following tips will help you talk with your family about your addiction.
Whether your family already suspects or knows about your addiction or will be completely blindsided by the news, you have to be prepared. You should expect difficult questions, painful responses, and most likely a lot of misinformation.
For example, if your family already know you’re using, you might have to clear things up. If they don’t, you’ll likely have to explain how long you’ve been using. Questions like “Why?” “How much”, and “How long”, are the most common, quickly followed by “Does X person know”.
It’s important to be prepared. You may also find it helpful to visit an alcoholism and addiction support group like Al-Anon to request brochures and pamphlets for family members which they can use to learn about addiction and how it affects you. You may also want to work out a plan of action, such as a trip to a treatment facility or deciding that you want to attend one as well.
Most people will react badly when they learn about addiction for the first time. Few people can immediately know the right reaction and give you the emotional response you need. You should expect shock, anger, and even hurt. Many people believe the intense social stigma surrounding addiction and they may be frustrated, ashamed, guilty, and hurt.
If you decide to tell your family about your addiction, you should expect these emotions. Be understanding at first and give family members who cannot handle it well time to process and learn about it. But, if they don’t, keep in mind that it is their problem and not yours.
Get to the Point
Most of the time, your family will be a lot less surprised than you think about your addiction. Even if you think you’ve managed to keep it under wraps, anyone close to you will have noticed changes in your behavior. Drinking, substance abuse, and even gambling all take up your time, change your behavior, and create a pattern of behavior that is difficult for many to miss. Even if they don’t know, they likely suspect that something is wrong.
If you want to talk with your family about your addiction, your best option is to get to the point, and quickly. Many people try to start these conversations off with nods to the people who helped them to recognize that they need help or to the entire family.
“As you have all probably noticed, I have a problem, and that problem is substance abuse.”
“Mom has been talking to me about this for a long time, but I feel like it’s time you know as well. For the last 5 years, I’ve been addicted to heroin and I feel like it’s time for me to get help and I’d like for all of you to be involved”.
Coming clean about a substance addiction is difficult, especially if you’ve lied to those same people and tried to cover up your problem in the past. Your best bet is to try to say it quickly within the first few sentences of what you’re saying so that you can get it out and over with. If you have lied to those people, following it up with an apology and a nod to the fact that they tried to help is a good idea, but you don’t have to do it right away if you’re not ready.
Addiction is never simple. Often multiple factors like stress, relationships, emotions, and upbringing all play into your vulnerability. If your parents or older siblings were drinking or using, you are more likely to use yourself. And, if you experienced traumatic circumstances as a child, including accidents, divorce, or family death, you’re more likely to be vulnerable to addiction, and will benefit from a specialized trauma program for addiction treatment. While all of that is true, trying to blame others for your addiction is only a continuation of the behavior that led to continued addiction in the first place.
You didn’t choose to be addicted, but you did choose to take the steps that led you there. Being honest, refusing to play the blame game, and taking responsibility for your own actions will allow you to show your family that you really are ready for change.
Chances are that you have hurt people. As an addict, the substance you are abusing is more important than almost anything. Own up to it and take the time to apologize for your behavior, actions, and words that may have hurt your family members while you were an addict. If necessary, apologize in private.
Ask for Help If You Need It
Most of the time addiction makes it difficult or impossible to recover alone. Even if you have the resources to set up a trip to addiction treatment on your own, you likely still need their emotional support. Asking for help is an important step, especially if you’re still struggling with substance abuse and still buying. You can be specific and say you think you need treatment or you can ask your family to work with you to help determine the best treatment option for you.
Focus on Recovery
Moving forward is sometimes hard, especially when people are hurt and disappointed. But It’s important to remind everyone that you’re here because you want to get better, you’re working hard on yourself, and you’re going into recovery or are in recovery. You need their help so you can heal. But, you might not be able to get that across right away. Many psychologists recommend asking for a follow-up meeting. Saying things like “I’d like to meet up tomorrow to discuss the steps I can take to get clean/sober” or “I want to choose a rehabilitation center, and I’d like you to help me. Can we meet up to discuss it tomorrow?”
If you feel that people are enabling you to continue using you can also discuss that. “If I am going to stay clean, I need you to hold me accountable to that“, “I know you would never purposely help me to use, but I’d like you to go to attend Family Therapy with me so that you can learn about how families accidentally enable substance use“. Bringing information and pamphlets or brochures about enabling can help as well.
You’re Not Obligated to Tell Everyone
Just because someone is family doesn’t mean they aren’t contributing to your addiction. If family members are using themselves, judgmental, or never there for you even before substance abuse, you don’t have to bring them into your life as you recover. You may want to talk to your therapist about it or discuss your personal needs to determine if talking to some family members will help or harm you. However, you may need family therapy as part of your recovery program to help you rebuild your relationships and family bonds and talking to your loved one’s upfront is an important step.
No matter where you are in your recovery, talking to your family is an important step. Family support in addiction treatment can improve your recovery, give you more tools to continue recovery, and can give you the motivation to continue your recovery. And, if you need help, your family can help you to get into a recovery program.
If you or a loved one is looking for modern and effective treatment programs, please contact Lighthouse Treatment Center today for more information. We are to help and happy to provide a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced treatment advisors.