Blog How to Explain Your Addiction to Your Loved Ones

How to Explain Your Addiction to Your Loved Ones

The moment you have to talk about addiction to your family is the moment it becomes real.

Before then, it was an ugly monster lurking behind the scenes. You thought if you didn’t acknowledge it, no one would know.

But on the other side, it becomes obvious that this isn’t true.

Your loved ones probably knew about your addiction long before they brought it up to you. They may have even recognized the patterns before you did.

The nature of this particular beast is that it hides in plain sight. Addiction tricks you into thinking you’re fine, while at the same time, it pulls you deeper and deeper into darkness.

But when it’s time to get help, it’s important to talk about addiction to your family.

Here are some tips for explaining addiction to your loved ones.


Come to terms with addiction yourself

If you want to sit down and have a calm, productive conversation with your loved ones about addiction, you first need to address it within yourself.

When you understand the true nature of addiction and how it works, you’ll have an easier time coming to terms with your life. And you’ll also be able to explain it to other people in a way that makes sense.

The conversation you’re about to have with your loved ones isn’t going to be easy. And you may want to prepare for some insensitive comments. If that happens, know that they’re coming from a place of misunderstanding. We’ve collectively come a long way in addiction research and knowledge in the past few decades, and your loved ones may still harbor some antiquated ideas about what it means to be “an addict.”

This is why it’s helpful to come to terms with addiction yourself first. This way, you can approach these conversations from a centered place of love instead of defensiveness.

Prepare for denial or resistance

No one can tell you exactly how your loved ones will react to the news of your addiction. Some attempt to bury the problem deep in the pits of denial and others prefer to play the blame game. If you’re lucky, your loved ones will have a good understanding of addiction and will be nothing but supportive. But understand that this is a best-case scenario.

Remember that you may be about to drop a landmine, and you’re the one in control. You’re the only one who knows the truth about your addiction, and this conversation is about sharing as much of that truth as you can. Try to remain calm and patient, but don’t allow anyone to attempt to sweep this under the rug.

Accountability is a large part of recovery, so you must accept full responsibility for your path and your healing. If someone insists on denying the truth, you can’t force them to change. You can, however, let them know that you are acknowledging addiction and everything that goes along with it.

You can’t force anyone to see something they’re not ready to see. That was true for you before you decided to get help, and it’s true for your loved ones now.

Avoid blame

If you’ve already talked with a healthcare professional or an addiction counselor, you may have worked through some of the issues that led to addiction before you talk with your loved ones.

It’s no secret that trauma can lead to addiction, but that’s not to say that everyone who ends up with a substance abuse problem has experienced trauma.

This isn’t a time or place for blaming anyone. Let your loved ones know that it’s simply a time for healing. If anyone seems to blame themselves, correct them, and redirect the conversation towards healing.

If anyone blames you, which is possible, explain how addiction impacts brain chemistry. And once addiction takes hold, free will becomes difficult. There’s a difference between accountability and blame, and you shouldn’t let anyone shame you — especially now.

Let them know what you need

Your loved ones should be there to support you, but don’t be disappointed if they need some time before they can get to this point.

Still, when they’re ready, don’t be afraid to let them know exactly what you need from them. If someone has been an enabler, let them know that they need to exhibit tougher love. Talk to them about the importance of avoiding relapse and how they can help.

And feel free to let your especially supportive loved ones know that you may need some extra support, and you can tell them exactly what that looks like for you.

Addiction recovery isn’t going to be a straight line. The road is winding, and things can even get messy between you and your loved ones. But understand that they were even messier before. The difference is that you’re dealing with it now and before you were blocking it out.

In recovery, not only can you heal, but you can help your loved ones start healing too.

Understand how this affects them

Addiction affects more than just the person who is abusing drugs or alcohol. Addiction rocks families and tests friendships. By the time you’re ready to discuss it, addiction has already had an impact on your friends and family. You can bet on that.

So while the recovery process is very much about you, try to have some empathy for what your loved ones have gone through and may continue enduring through your recovery. You didn’t ask for any of this, but neither did they.

Try your best to maintain patience while staying true to yourself. This is a time to show some empathy and take accountability, but it’s also a time to focus your efforts on your own recovery and wellbeing.

It’s never easy to explain addiction to loved ones, especially when this is their first time dealing with it. But you can help the process go more smoothly when you work on yourself and show up ready to share the truth about addiction. It’s often not what people think.

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