When someone you love is in the grip of drug or alcohol addiction, you want to do everything in your power to help. But is it possible to make a difference — and should you even try?
Here, we explore the consequences of confronting a loved one with addiction vs. avoiding the issue, providing tips to increase the odds of a positive outcome.
Consequences of Confrontation vs. Avoidance
Confronting an addict can be a scary prospect. Take a look at some reasons why you might avoid the issue altogether—and corresponding reasons why you shouldn’t.
Fear of lost relationship: You might be afraid to risk your relationship by speaking up about your loved one’s addiction. They might distance themselves from you, essentially cutting you out of their life.
Reality check: The risk of avoiding the issue is far greater than the risk of confrontation. You may worry about losing the relationship, but if you don’t speak up, you could lose your loved one altogether.
Fear of personal attack: You might be afraid that by broaching the subject, you risk inciting your loved one’s anger. They might lash out against you to defend themselves from a perceived attack.
Reality check: If you love someone, you can’t stay silent. Confronting your loved one can be a necessary albeit painful — step to getting them the help they need.
Wishful thinking: You might avoid the issue because you’ve convinced yourself that the addiction will get better on its own. You know that confrontation is messy and risky, and you’d rather not get involved.
Reality check: Addiction does not magically disappear. Addicts often need their loved ones to raise the issue before they take the first step toward sobriety.
Second-guessing yourself: You might think your loved one needs help, but you’re not sure they’ve hit rock bottom just yet. You don’t want to intervene until it’s truly necessary.
Reality check: You don’t have to wait until the situation is dire. Speak up and get involved as soon as possible to help your loved one get off the wrong path.
Avoidance and apathy: You might avoid the issue because you think the situation will never change. You feel as if your loved one is stuck and nothing will really work.
Reality check: You can make a difference in the life of your loved one. With the proper treatment and support, they can overcome their addiction and gain a new lease on life.
Tips for a Successful Intervention
Keep in mind that it is ultimately up to your loved one to accept your help. Of course, that doesn’t relegate you to the role of passive bystander. Try these tips to increase the odds of a positive outcome for an intervention.
Stay calm. You likely have strong feelings about your loved one’s addiction, but it’s important to keep your emotions in check during an intervention. Maintain an even tone, and avoid the trap of a shouting match.
List the facts. List specific ways the addiction is affecting your loved one’s life, such as missed appointments, unpaid bills, and absences from work. These are objective facts that cannot be denied and can help them see the problem in black and white.
Share your feelings. Let your loved one know how their drug or alcohol use affects you. Say something like, “When you drink or do drugs, I feel _____.” They need to hear how their substance abuse hurts the people they love.
Offer solutions. The purpose of an intervention is to facilitate your loved one’s entry into an addiction treatment program, so be prepared with rehab options to point them in the right direction.
Follow through. If your loved one refuses treatment, let them know there are consequences to that choice — and follow through. For example, if you say you will move out if they don’t go to rehab, you have to be ready to make that consequence real.
Ask for help. Staging an intervention is never easy, but you may feel more at ease with the presence of a counselor or intervention specialist to guide you through the process. A professional can serve as an impartial third party to help you plan the intervention and facilitate your loved one’s entry into rehab.
Loving people is messy and risky—and loving an addict is no exception. While the process can be challenging, taking steps to get your loved one the help they need is always worthwhile.