If someone you love is addicted to drugs or alcohol, then you’re no stranger to heartache and worry. In addition to those feelings, bitterness and disappointment are probably unfortunate staples of your home. Life kind of becomes a pressure cooker; things are always on the verge of blowing up.
It’s hard to understand substance abuse if you’ve never been in its clutches and it can be more than frustrating to stand idly by while a loved one slowly destroys his life. You want to help, but you’re not sure what to say to an addict. You don’t understand why he refuses to listen; you may even believe that – if he really loved you– he’d stop taking drugs.
Whether your loved one is an active addict, in early recovery, or in the middle of a treatment program, you have to re-learn communication skills. And part of that process includes learning what not to say. Every situation is unique, but certain words are universally more harmful than helpful when dealing with addiction.
With that in mind, let’s look at three things you should never say to a loved one who is struggling with substance abuse and addiction.
You’re so selfish. Why don’t you just stop doing drugs?
It’d be wonderful if all addicts could instantly stop feeding their addictions, but most need help. You can’t just will away a condition that has literally reprogrammed your loved one’s brain chemistry. On top of his physical issues, there’s a ton of emotional trauma lying just underneath the surface.
Please understand that nobody wants to live this way. Addiction creates a dark and lonely existence. You must know that, if he could, he’d gladly choose to walk away from drugs or alcohol. Since that’s not generally an option, show your love and concern by providing support, consistency, and courage.
I give up. You’ll never beat this addiction!
The constant fighting and deceit that accompanies addiction surely weighs heavy on your heart. This becomes even more frustrating when you’re a witness to multiple episodes of relapse. But if you give up on him, it can feel like a death sentence for both of you.
No one can predict the future; you can’t determine his fate by looking solely to the past. Loving an addict can be exhausting, but nothing good comes from verbally beating him up. That’s not to say you can’t cut ties; sometimes that’s what it takes. But there are thousands of recovering addicts out there right now leading happy, healthy lives. Never give up hope.
You’re doing it all wrong. Recovery has to be done this way!
Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have helped usher thousands of people into recovery, but they aren’t right for everybody. You have to understand that the the map to sobriety isn’t set in stone. People might take different routes to get there, but when it’s all said and done, the destination is the only thing that matters.
Instead of trying to dictate the recovery plan, offer to help find a program that feels right for him. Modern addiction treatment comes in all shapes and sizes. Individual counseling, group therapy, resident rehabilitation centers, medically assisted detox/maintenance programs, and holistic therapies are just a few of the many routes you can explore…together.
Learn more about helping an addicted loved one