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How to Talk to Someone You Love About Their Addiction

According to Pew Research Center, 46% of Americans have a family member or friend who has a current or past drug addiction (2017). To illustrate how big that number is, the Substance Abuse and Mental health Services Administration found that the estimated number of Americans with an illicit drug disorder totalled 7.4 million people. This number does not even include those battling alcoholism.

As devastating as addiction is to the mind, body, and spirit of the person who is using the drug, it also affects everyone around the person. Parents blame themselves. Spouses wrestle with heartbreak. Children suffer from neglect. Friends watch someone close to them waste away.

If you are the friend or loved one of someone who is struggling with an addiction to alcohol or drugs, you have likely suffered in silence for years:

  • Worried about their condition, and equally worried if you don’t talk to them about it.
  • Afraid of how they will react if you bring it up with them.
  • Unsure, in general, about what you should do or if there is any hope.

Offering support and love to your addicted loved one is not easy, but it can be a crucial part of their healing journey. But how do you get to that point? How do you even talk to them about their addiction?

S2L Recovery is a Christian addiction recovery center for alcohol and drugs in Middle Tennessee. Learn more

Start With Love

When you talk to your loved one, do you want them to hear your judgment, anger, or disappointment? As valid as these feelings are, you want to be careful about how your loved one might perceive them.

Before you ever approach your loved one, look inside yourself – past the hurt, the anger, the worry – and remind yourself of the primary motivation for talking to them: You love and care for them. Setting the tone of your conversation will begin with this self-inventory.

Your mindset can help you think through not only what you want to say, but also how you want to say it. You want your words, body language, and even what you don’t say to communicate love.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” ~1 Cor. 13:4-8a (ESV)

Be Honest

The truth about love is that it is often painful. Your love for someone in and of itself does not change them; they are their own person, and they are responsible for their own choices. Even the Lord, who is a Good Father, knows the grief of loving people – who He calls wayward children – who run from Him:

“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more they were called, the more they went away from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images. It was I who taught Ephraim to walk … but they did not realize it was I who healed them.” ~Hosea 11:1-3 (NIV)

You can be honest with your loved one about your concerns. But avoid talking about their past; rather, talk about what you want for their future. Share that you want the best for them – their physical health, their relationships, their life’s dreams.

Offer Support, Set Boundaries

Communicating your continued support can also be a point you strive to make in the conversation with your loved one. At the same time, this conversation might be a much-needed opportunity to establish stronger boundaries in your relationship with them. 

In fact, Scripture encourages those who live by the Spirit to “restore a person gently” by speaking truth to them in love. What’s more, it says we are responsible for our own actions:

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. … Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the spirit will reap eternal life.” ~Galatians 6:2-5, 8 (NIV)

If you are weary emotionally, or even financially, from the ways you’ve supported and possibly enabled your loved one in the past – whether they be your spouse, parent, child, or friend – you do not have to feel guilty about protecting your own physical, emotional, and mental health from their choices.