Addiction isn’t a moral failing. When someone you love is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, they need your support and encouragement, not your judgment. What you say and do during this difficult time can play a vital role in helping your loved one get the care they need to take the first steps towards recovery.
Judgment Promotes Shame, Guilt, and Stigma
Judgment is not helpful for someone with an addiction because it only furthers the feelings of shame and guilt they already feel. It also helps perpetuate the harmful addiction stigma that reduces motivation to seek treatment.
Examples of judgmental statements that aren’t helpful include:
- Why don’t you learn from your mistakes?
- You could stop if you wanted to.
- If you loved me, you’d quit.
- Don’t you realize how selfish you’re being?
- Why are you choosing drugs and alcohol over your friends and family?
- What’s happened is God’s way of punishing you for your bad choices.
It’s completely understandable to be frustrated by your friend or family member’s actions, but it’s important to choose your words carefully. Speaking harshly only widens the distance between you and makes it harder to convince your loved one to get the treatment they need to move forward. Consider writing about your feelings in your journal, seeing a private counselor, or joining a support group such as Al-Anon for people who have been affected by a loved one’s addiction.
Showing Compassion Helps Inspire Change
If you’re worried about a loved one’s drug or alcohol use, the best thing you can do is to show compassion while stressing the need to seek treatment. When you show compassion to a loved one who is struggling, you’re reminding them that they are not alone. People with addiction often worry that their past mistakes will have ruined their chances of a meaningful relationship with friends and family, so kind words are the greatest gift you can give during this difficult time.
Examples of compassionate things you can say to a loved one with addiction include:
- I love you, and I’m worried about your drinking or drug use.
- I’m sorry you’re going through this.
- I think you might have a substance abuse problem, but I’ll always be here for you.
- What can I do to help you stay on the path to recovery?
- This is difficult, but I have faith in you.
- Making mistakes doesn’t make you a failure.
- We all need help sometimes.
- We’ll figure it out together.
Another great way to be compassionate towards your loved one with addiction is to just listen. Let them talk about how they’re feeling and what’s bothering them without trying to dismiss or minimize their concerns. Often, addiction starts as a response to trauma, stress, chronic pain, or underlying mental health concerns. Listening to how your loved one is feeling will help you better understand their perspective while providing valuable information about what kind of help they might need in recovery.
Avoid Enabling at All Costs
While compassion is the best approach to helping someone with an addiction, it’s important to make the distinction between being compassionate and allowing the behavior to continue with no repercussions. If you’re preventing your loved one from feeling the consequences of their actions, you’re enabling.
Enabling behavior often begins with the best of intentions. You may be worried your loved one is drinking too much due to stress, so you start doing chores for them or making excuses when they miss social engagements because they’re drunk or hungover. Or, you might have a friend who always asks to borrow money because she’s overspending due to her addiction and you feel like you can’t say no because you’re worried about her kids having enough to eat. You’re trying to help, but your actions are actually making the problem worse by reducing the motivation to seek treatment.
We Can Help
Addiction is a chronic, progressive illness. Your loved one needs access to comprehensive, evidence-based care personalized to meet their unique needs. This may include group therapy, individual therapy, family therapy, medication-assisted treatment, and care to address any co-occurring mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression.
Mountain Laurel Recovery Center provides judgment free, gender-specific alcohol treatment, drug addiction treatment, and dual diagnosis treatment in a beautiful, serene setting in Northern Pennsylvania. Our holistic approach to recovery is designed to help clients build the skills they need to enjoy a life of lasting sobriety. Visit our tour page or browse our blog to learn more about what we have to offer.