SURVIVOR SERIES: HOW TO TALK TO SOMEONE WHO HAS AN ADDICTION
Addiction is defined as the dependency of a drug or substance. There are a plethora of substances that can lead to addiction such as heroin, tobacco, alcohol, cocaine, and so on… Each substance is different and each one has a variety of warning signs. So first thing is first! Before you jump right into conversation with the individual you are concerned about do these next few things: Know the warning signs, know what you’re talking about, and know your resources.
The Best Time to Talk to Them:
- When they are sober or hungover. The best time to talk to them is when they are sober or the morning after. You want to avoid talking to them when they are around drugs or alcohol. You need them to be thinking straight. If you confront them when they’re around the influence or under the influence, it might push them away rather than having them open up to you.
- When they are regretful. When they become aware themselves that something is wrong, it is a perfect time to talk to them about their problem. Especially if it is hard to confront them at first. When they’re regretful they will most likely open up to you first. From there, you can provide them the love, support, and care that they need.
How to Talk to Them:
- Consult an expert beforehand. Contact drugabuse.com or reach them at 1-877-310-9512. Thats not all, SUNY Oswego even offers a list of resources on their webpage at https://www.oswego.edu/police/important-phone-numbers. This includes another drug abuse hotline (1-800-522-5353), alcohol and other drugs prevention/intervention (315-312-5648), and a few more! Don’t be afraid, right now there is an opioid (this includes heroin) overdose epidemic in the United States. More than 28,000 people died two years ago because of this. Do the right thing, play it safe! Plus giving the consultant specifics about this individual can lead to a better conversation when approaching someone about your concerns.
- Listen and build trust. This means follow through with what you say. Be consistent, patient, and non-judgmental.
- Tell them how much they mean to you. Tell them how much you love them. They mean the world to you don’t they? Remind them how much you care about them. You will love them unconditionally. You will be there for them every time they have a relapse. You will be there for them through the anniversaries. You will be there for them through the good and the bad. No matter what happens, you will have their back.
- Be supportive, positive, and encouraging. Even if they’ve already tried to change their action and have failed numerous times. Even if they’ve gone back on their word… Always be POSITIVE, it goes a long way. This is the only way to be effective and productive with people who have an addiction. Keep your own hope no matter what happens.
- Give them hope. You are their motivation. They might feel like it’s impossible to change. They might have already tried to changed and failed, damaged relationships, these make them feel as if their damage is irreversible. So your positive support is what is keeping them going. If you don’t give up, neither will they.
- Use “I” statements. “I’m worried about your behavior lately” or “I’ve noticed you’ve been moody.” This brings the attention to you and it doesn’t come off as you “blaming” them. It also paying attention to the behavior and not the person directly.
- Offer to help them. Always be willing to help them in anyway that you can. As soon as they want to seek outside sources, be their go to person. Have your resources and treatment plan ready for them at any time. You may end up getting caught up in this whole process. Make sure you take care of yourself and put yourself first as well. What I mean by this is that you shouldn’t try to do too much. If you try to handle everything and take responsibility, what happens when things go wrong? Or what happens if they don’t want help? You’ll be hurt and there will be negative affects on your own life. You won’t be much help at all. These types of relationships are known to be draining. They can leave a mark on you. So you really want to make sure that you take care of yourself first.
What to Avoid:
- Making excuses for them.
- Your own emotions. Calm yourself down. Getting angry or upset with them will only push them away.
- Lecturing, nagging, or threatening.
- Don’t take responsibility if they haven’t changed or failed to change. It is not your fault. You did all you could.
Written by Megan Tuohey, Peer Educator