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Addiction: Tips for a Compassionate Conversation on When to Talk to Someone

by Demarco Moore

April 27, 2023
a man has a difficult conversation with his wife about her drug and alcohol addiction

Updated: August 15, 2023, at 3:40 p.m.

What to Say to Someone Struggling With Addiction

Dealing with a loved one’s addiction can be overwhelming, and it’s natural to feel hesitant to address the situation. However, delaying or avoiding the conversation can lead to more significant problems down the line. Addiction can be dangerous and lead to serious health problems or even a fatal overdose.

 Additionally, addiction can have a significant impact on the individual person, their loved ones and the wider community. Your loved one may become more distant, uncommunicative, and even aggressive, making it difficult to approach them. That’s why it’s important to note that addiction recovery is possible, and by having an open and compassionate conversation, you can help your loved one get the support they need.

In this blog post, we’ll provide tips and advice to help you have this conversation. We understand that it can be an emotional time, and we’re here to offer support and guidance every step of the way.

How to Talk to Someone About Their Addiction

Why It’s Important

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), only 10% of individuals with a substance use disorder receive treatment. Therefore, it’s crucial to address addiction early on to prevent it from worsening and potentially leading to fatal consequences.

Remember—addiction is not a personal failure or moral weakness, but instead, a treatable medical condition. By addressing it early, you can help your loved one get the care they need to overcome their addiction and improve their quality of life.

What Are Some Common Fears People Have When Confronting A Loved One About Their Addiction?

7 common fears people have when talking to someone they love about their addiction

Feeling anxious or unsure about how to approach someone about their addiction is normal. Here are seven common fears people may have when confronting a loved one about their addiction:

  • Fear of being judged or criticized by the addicted person
  • Fear of damaging the relationship with the addicted person
  • Fear of making the situation worse
  • Fear of being blamed for the addiction
  • Fear of the addicted person becoming defensive or angry
  • Fear of the addicted person rejecting their help or advice
  • Fear of not knowing what to say or how to approach the conversation.

By having a calm and compassionate conversation, you can help them understand that you care about them and want to support their recovery.

Timing the Conversation: When is the Best Time to Talk to Someone About Their Addiction?

Ultimately, the best time to approach someone about their addiction is going to depend on the individual person and their unique situation. According to a conversation starter guide from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), it’s best to establish trust and show empathy by treating your loved one’s “substance use disorder as the medical disease that is.”

Here are some examples of when the right time might be to talk to someone about their addiction:

  • When they aren’t under the influence: It’s important to approach someone when they haven’t been drinking or using drugs so that they can fully comprehend what you’re saying and engage in a productive conversation.
  • When they’re showing signs of distress: If you notice that someone is struggling with their addiction and is in distress, this may be a good time to initiate a conversation.
  • After a significant life event: If there has been a specific event related to their addiction, such as a DUI or a health scare, it may be a good opportunity to bring up your concerns.
  • When they show interest in getting help: If someone has mentioned wanting to quit or get help for their addiction, this is a great opening to talk more about it and offer support.

Remember, timing a conversation is about the individual person. However, approaching them with respect and support can increase the chances of your loved one accepting help and beginning their journey to recovery.

How Can You Handle Addiction Denial And Resistance?

Talking to someone about their addiction can be really hard, especially when they’re in denial or don’t want to talk about it. It’s important to understand that both responses are common, and there are ways to approach the conversation that can help increase the chances of them accepting help. Here are some tips for discussing addiction with someone who is resistant or in denial:

  • Stay calm and non-judgmental: It’s important to remain calm and non-judgmental when someone is denying or resisting their addiction. Avoid criticizing or attacking the person, as this can make them more defensive.
  • Validate their feelings: Experts say denial and resistance often stem from fear, shame or other emotions. Therefore, acknowledge your loved one’s feelings and let them know that it’s okay to feel the way they do. This can help build trust and make them feel more comfortable opening up.
  • Offer support and encouragement: Let the person know that you are there to support them and offer encouragement. Share recovery stories of other people who have successfully overcome addiction, and remind them that recovery is possible.
  • Avoid getting defensive: It’s not uncommon for someone to get defensive or even angry when confronted about their addiction. Avoid responding with defensiveness, as this can escalate the situation. Instead, remain calm and continue to listen actively.

When to Talk About Addiction

When talking to a loved one about their addiction, it’s important to remember that this can be a difficult conversation for both parties. Approach the topic with empathy, compassion and a non-judgmental attitude. Remember that seeking help sooner rather than later is crucial, even if it’s not the most convenient option. By supporting your loved one through their recovery journey, you can make a positive impact on their life and help them overcome their addiction.

Get Professional Addiction Support Now

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, don’t hesitate to seek help and support. Talking to someone about addiction can be difficult, but it’s an important first step in the recovery process. At Landmark Recovery, our experts offer personalized treatment plans to guide you or your loved one on the path to recovery. 

Call our confidential recovery hotline at 888-448-0302 any time, day or night, to speak to an admissions specialist. Remember, recovery is possible and available to everyone who needs it. Choose recovery over addiction. For more information about addiction and ways to start the conversation, check out our blog.

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About the Author

Demarco Moore

Demarco Moore

A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, Demarco Moore currently writes blogs about drug addiction treatment and recovery to help save lives at treatment provider Landmark Recovery. Before that, he cut his teeth as a sports writer at the Manchester Times, where his coverage and stories won Tennessee Press Association awards in 2016 and 2017.

He’s always had a knack for storytelling. Moore’s written content for junior golf tournaments and helped to amplify the “People Not Profits” message of credit unions. When he’s not writing, Moore loves to travel, laugh and put his mental health into the hands of the Tennessee Titans during football season.