How do I talk to an addict without offending them?

We’ve all been there–Our friend is struggling with an alcohol or drug addiction, and we’re not sure how to help without inflicting hurt or offense. At first, our friend’s indulgence was occasional but now it has become so much more. The addiction has changed them, and the problem is impossible to ignore. But how do you talk to someone with an addiction? How do you help without offending?

Step One: Explain the why

The first step is to explain why you are concerned for your friend. Why are you doing this? Why are you faced with the uncomfortable situation of a confrontation? The answer is simple: because you love your friend. You genuinely care about this person. You’re not here to accuse or embarrass, but to help. Remind yourself of this when you get nervous or frustrated, and most importantly, tell your loved one up front how much you care. Start the conversation by telling your friend how much he means to you, how much you’ve missed him, or what you appreciate most about him.

Confrontation is not easy because the truth can hurt. It takes courage to do the right thing, but it takes love to present it in the right way. Presenting the truth in love combines these two concepts and lets you help without offending.

Step Two: Show your friend how

The next step is to help your friend understand what there is to be concerned about. Right now, you have a legitimate reason to be concerned, but your friend may see nothing to be concerned about. You goal is to show your loved one how the addiction has changed him. Provide detailed facts about the time your friend was under the influence and specific examples that describe his destructive behavior. These should be first-hand experiences of how the addiction has affected your loved one. Your examples should be objective, nonjudgmental, brief (3 examples are sufficient) and recent.

Remember this is an extremely sensitive topic, and you need to approach the conversation in a way that allows your loved one to maintain dignity. Say what happened and describe how you felt in a way that does not accuse or blame your friend. For example, say “I felt angry and worried” instead  of “You made me feel angry and worried.”

Step Three: Offer help

Even after you have laid out the facts, your friend might not believe you or agree with you, instead claiming that they can “do it on their own.” (Don’t worry–this is typical behavior of chemical dependency.) Emphasis the fact that addiction is not something conquered alone, and detox without professional supervision is dangerous. Although your loved one may not be quite ready to go to treatment, he may be more open to the idea of getting a professional assessment. No matter how the conversation goes, make sure you end the conversation reminding your friend of your love and support.

Of course, this means you must have the necessary information about treatment options and make necessary preparations before you even begin the conversation. The sooner he receives help, the better. Strike while the iron is hot—before your loved has a chance to “chicken out” or change his mind.

What if my loved one gets offended?

It might be impossible for a confrontation to take place without any feathers being ruffled–in fact, you should probably expect some level of resistance–anger or hurt. This is really okay; this is natural. In their disease, your loved one will not be able to understand completely what’s happening. You may have to think for them. Try to remember the end goal–a successful life in recovery–free from addiction. And chances are, your friend will thank you someday.

Choose a team

Denial is like a solid wall of delusions standing between your loved one and help. Breaking down the solid wall often takes more than a single person or a single conversation. In the majority of cases, it takes a whole team to intervene—a process called intervention.  For more information about interventions and how to get your loved one to treatment, call a Duffy’s representative today.