Telling a Loved One They Need Addiction Treatment

09/27/19: Addiction
Telling a loved one they need to make a change in their life is never easy. Most of the time, the problem they face still exists because they are in denial or are not ready to change their habits. In this case, it can be extremely difficult to change their minds. But it is possible to have a productive conversation with your friend or family member about how addiction impacts their (and your) life. However, a lot of care and delicacy needs to be employed when discussing this topic with someone you love. We’ve put together this guide to help you plan and execute an intervention with your loved one while avoiding conflict and anger.

Signs someone close to you is suffering from addiction

Before you confront the person with the suspected substance abuse problem, you want to make sure that you have solid grounds for believing that they are at risk of causing harm to themselves and others. The truth is, the person may just be going through a rough time, not necessarily abusing substances. Here are some things to look out for:
  1. They start to isolate themselves.
A person who is struggling with addiction will likely become more secretive and distant in an attempt to hide the problem from friends and family. If you notice your loved one isn’t around as often as they used to be, spend a lot of time hidden away in their room, or hanging around a new/different crowd than they usually do, you may want to check-in and see what’s up.
  1. They experience mood swings.
Substances can cause physical changes to the body chemistry, which may manifest itself in erratic, unpredictable behavior. Your loved one may be having sudden outbursts or shifting rapidly between positive and negative moods.
  1. Valuables begin disappearing from around the home.
Drug habits get expensive, and it can be difficult to sustain them financially. But someone who is truly in the clutches of addiction is willing to do things that they normally wouldn’t, just to feed their addiction. Unfortunately, this may include stealing from their own friends and family members.
  1. Rapid weight changes.
Substance abuse most often leads to weight loss, but it could result in weight gain as well. Loss of appetite is common with drugs like methamphetamines and nicotine, while weight gain is more common in those with alcohol dependence.
  1. Changes in energy levels.
Drugs can also cause a person to become fatigued more easily, or abnormally hyperactive.
  1. Changes in sleeping patterns.
Changes in sleeping patterns are another subtle sign that something could be up. They also may be staying out later than usual, or perhaps not coming home until the next day. Many drugs can cause individuals to become unusually sleepy or uncharacteristically hyperactive to the point where sleeping is near impossible.
  1. Disinterest in hobbies and passions that once excited them.
Have you noticed that your loved one no longer partakes in activities that they once enjoyed? Have they adopted an apathetic attitude about previous hobbies? Something might be wrong if this is the case.
  1. Shirking responsibilities.
If a person starts to neglect basic responsibilities that they were once consistently on top of, this is usually a big sign that they are struggling with something. They may have lost the willpower to perform basic tasks, or perhaps have even shifted their focus entirely to acquiring more of their preferred substance.
  1. Changes in mannerisms.
Have you noticed trembling hands? Twitchiness? Hunched shoulders? Etc. Any changes in mannerisms or body language could be indicative of a deeper issue.
  1. Overall change in behavior and attitude.
Sudden changes in behavior and attitude, especially negative ones, are usually signs of a problem. Whether it’s due to addiction or not, it never hurts to check in to make sure everything is okay.

How to start the conversation

Having this kind of conversation with someone you are close to can be unimaginably difficult. You love this person, and you don’t want them to feel attacked or hurt in any way. You also don’t want to damage the relationship. So how can you approach the topic in a non-threatening, effective manner? First, don’t go in with lofty expectations. Simply expressing concern one time is rarely enough to convince a person to willingly enter treatment. It’s more likely that the person will go into defense mode, and may even raise their voice and express anger. They may even adamantly deny that they have a problem, which can be a major roadblock. This is why your focus should be to first check-in and see how they are doing, opening the floor to deeper communication without coming off as accusatory. Start Your Recovery suggests opening the conversation in these ways:
  • I wanted to check in with you because you haven’t seemed yourself lately.
  • I’ve noticed you’ve been acting differently lately, and I’m wondering how you’re doing.
  • I’ve been worried about you lately.
  • I’ve noticed you’ve been drinking a lot lately, and I’m wondering how you’re doing.
  • I’ve noticed you’ve been using [insert drug name], and I’m worried about you.

Continuing the conversation

Depending on the person’s reactions to your opening lines, you may wish to probe a little further to get to the root of the issue. However, remember to continue keeping the conversation open and non-accusatory. Do not prescribe any thoughts or feelings onto the other person, simply try to ask questions, reflect, and show sympathy. Start Your Recovery suggests these ways of continuing the conversation:
  • When did you first start feeling like this?
  • Do you feel like you’re trying to escape or forget something?
  • Do you feel like your drug use/drinking is a problem?
  • Do you think you could go 24 hours without using drugs/drinking? A week?
  • What can I do to best support you right now?
  • Have you thought about getting help?
The person’s answers to these questions can help you get a better gauge of whether or not they are ready to accept help. Be prepared for the fact that they may not be ready to voluntarily enter treatment. The best thing to do in this situation is to incentivize them to at least go see a medical professional. Often times, hearing the truth from someone trustworthy like a doctor is more likely to get the person to realize there is a problem. When coming from a loved one, they may see it as an overreaction or attack.

We’ve talked about it, what now?

Congratulations, you have taken a big step in helping your loved one recover from addiction, or whatever problem they may be faced with at that time in their life. By initiating a tough conversation, you’ve demonstrated to them just how much you care, even if they don’t realize it for some time. Encouraging a loved one to seek help may feel like a losing battle for a long time, but when they finally achieve sobriety, they will be glad that you were there for them every step of the way. The most important role you can play in this situation is to be a pair of ears and an open heart. They are going to need the support of those they love, regardless of where they are at in their recovery journey.

Content for Arizona Addiction Recovery Centers created by Cohn Media, LLC. Passionate and creative writing and broadcasting, covering the following industries: addiction rehab, health care, entertainment, technology and advocate of clear communication, positivity and humanity at its best. www.cohn.media


If you or someone you know needs help with addiction, contact 602-737-1619 or email info@arizonaaddiction.com to get the help you need. Our acclaimed recovery environment merges upscale, luxury accommodations with affordability, clinical expertise and an unwavering commitment to patient care and aftercare.

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