Addict vs. Loved Ones: 6 Effective Ways to Communicate Through Addiction

man with addiction looking out to ocean
If we don’t know how to properly communicate with one another, our conversations can quickly turn to anger, avoidance, depression or indifference.

As humans, we crave social interaction with one another. Communication skills pave the way for meaningful conversations, telling funny jokes or relaying our heartaches.

Despite its importance, our ability to communicate is one of the first skills we lose once addiction becomes a factor. As addicts, we often feel isolated and ashamed, while our loved ones are left feeling confused and powerless to help. Talking to one another can be extremely difficult.

If we don’t know how to properly communicate with one another, our conversations can quickly turn to anger, avoidance, depression or indifference.

One side of the conversation is made up of friends and family members who don’t understand the powerful grip of addiction. They feel betrayed; it’s as if they don’t recognize us anymore. On the other side of that conversation, you’ll find us – the chemically dependent. We’re also frustrated and confused, but for completely different reasons.

If we don’t know how to properly communicate with one another, our conversations can quickly turn to anger, avoidance, depression or indifference.

It’s hard for addicts to verbalize our feelings. Drugs can smother our true emotions and, in many cases, that promise of avoidance is appealing. Instead of dealing with painful news or intense heartache, it’s often easier to escape reality by turning to mind-altering substances.

When effectively communicating, most addicts would want you to know…

#1: Your Love Can’t Save Us

Despite what you might think, love isn’t enough to heal addiction. And that’s true for all addicts.

This isn’t a disease that can be cured with a hug. If that’s all it took, we’d be able to eradicate addiction in a matter of days. We need your support, but that in itself will not erase the drug dependency.

#2: We Aren’t Choosing Drugs Over You

If you’ve never personally struggled with addiction, it’s easy to feel like we’re choosing drugs over our loved ones. We need you to know that’s not the case.

Addiction has a real impact on the brain. Neurochemicals and receptors are physically altered, causing an insatiable need for more drugs. We don’t consciously choose drugs over our loved ones; we’re shackled to a beast that is relentless.

#3: We Want to Quit

Though it may not seem like it, we want to quit using drugs. Unfortunately, quitting is not as simple as it sounds. The physical and mental effects of withdrawal are excruciating and, in many cases, life-threatening.

Imagine lying in bed for hours on end while your stomach rumbles and your body produces copious amounts of sweat. Every bone in your body aches; your core temperature bounces from high to low. Despite having no food or water, you alternate between vomiting and diarrhea.

All the while, there’s a little voice in your head saying: “you can end this misery.” So we give in; we indulge the addiction to avoid the pain.

When effectively communicating, a loved one would likely want to say…

#4: I Acknowledge Your Addiction

Most addicts try to hide their disease and go to great lengths to cover their tracks. Once the resulting damage begins to pile up, however, hiding an addiction becomes next to impossible.

Let your loved one know that you’re concerned for his wellbeing and you recognize the signs of addiction. This opens the door for honest discussion. It also lifts a weight off your shoulders by acknowledging the elephant in the room.

#5: My Anger Is Directed Toward the Disease

There’s a huge difference between anger that’s directed toward your loved one and anger that’s directed toward her disease. Once you can separate the two, it makes an impact. The person you love is still in there; she’s just being stifled by drugs.

It’s okay to be angry with the addiction – you can even hate the addiction – but don’t let those feelings rob you of the love you have for her.

#6: I’m Willing to Support Your Recovery

While it’s important to express your love, it’s equally important to let him know that you do not condone or support his addiction. By drawing a proverbial line in the sand, it clearly indicates you’re not an enabler.

It also says you love him enough to stand by him on the road to recovery … and that kind of support can make a world of difference.

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