How to talk about addiction to your family and friends
When you come to terms with your addiction and decide to seek treatment, you probably want to talk to your family and friends about your plans. Understandably, you might feel anxious when you think about talking to your loved ones about your alcohol or opioid addiction. You face a lot of unknowns, including whether they will blame you, minimize your addiction, support your decision or have some other reaction.
These discussions can go in unexpected directions, so it’s good to be prepared. This article gives you some advice that should help you talk about addiction to family and friends. The suggestions might not work for everyone, but they provide a foundation that you can build on for your unique experience.
Accept responsibility for your actions
Before entering recovery, those struggling with addiction often do things that negatively affect the people in their lives. Many recovery programs encourage patients to accept responsibility for their actions and attempt to make amends with the people they harmed.
Accepting responsibility for your actions doesn’t mean that everyone will forgive you, or that you need forgiveness from everyone. You shouldn’t expect it and, in fact, don’t even set forgiveness as a goal.
Some of your loved ones will feel hurt, so they may not be ready to communicate with you. You can still accept that you made damaging decisions while under the influence and lay the groundwork for their acceptance at some point.
Some other tips for accepting responsibility include:
- Making a list of the people you may have harmed and how you harmed them.
- Apologizing for your actions without asking for forgiveness.
- Going beyond apologies to make amends when possible. If you stole from someone, you may owe them money; if you physically hurt someone, you may want to seek help and volunteer at or donate to a domestic violence non-profit.
- Respecting the distance that people ask for. Never try to force someone to communicate with you in any way.
- Resisting the temptation to feel overwhelmed by guilt. Counseling can help put your actions in context and give you the tools to accept responsibility without feeling overwhelmed.
- Coming to each person with humility and acceptance, regardless of how they respond to you.
Alcohol and opioid addiction can sometimes bring out the worst in people. Accepting responsibility for the things you may have done can help draw a line between who you are now and who you were as a substance user.
Discuss the medical nature of your disease
Many people still don’t understand that addiction is a medical disease. Addicts play a role in developing substance use disorder, but they often lose control of their lives once they become addicted to substances.
You may find it helpful to talk to your family members and friends about the medical nature of your disease. Recognizing addiction as a medical issue doesn’t mean that you don’t accept responsibility for the things you have done. It does, however, provide a bigger, more accurate picture of your condition.
Some people in your life may not want to hear about your disease. You can’t control their feelings and beliefs, so you may not want to spend your energy discussing this aspect of your recovery.
For those who are receptive to hearing about your addiction as a medical issue, you can mention facts like:
- Nearly 38% of adults struggle with substance use disorder.
- Genetics plays a significant role (40% to 60%) in substance use disorder.
- Risk factors that increase a person’s likeliness of developing addiction include community poverty, availability of drugs at school, poor relationships with peers and lack of parental supervision.
- 3 million people misused prescription opioids in 2018.
- Drug addiction is a treatable disorder, but it does not have a cure.
- Recovery is an ongoing process that often requires making significant changes in behavior and committing to coping strategies that help prevent relapse.
Explain your addiction treatment plans
Addiction treatment plans can differ depending on factors like how frequently you use substances and how long you’ve been addicted to alcohol or drugs. Regardless, explaining your treatment plan could help your family and friends understand your situation better.
At SaVida Health, outpatient recovery plans may include:
- Medication-assisted therapy such as taking Suboxone to reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
- Participating in counseling and therapy programs, which focus on underlying issues that contribute to substance use and help you avoid future use.
- Addressing issues like housing, employment and probation requirements to make recovery less stressful.
- Working toward positive behavioral changes.
- Developing a support system that encourages your sobriety and removes major sources of temptation.
Addiction recovery includes behavioral and health issues, so it usually requires a multi-pronged approach to treatment. SaVida Health will create a custom addiction treatment plan that addresses the issues that matter most to you.
Learn more about outpatient addiction treatment
SaVida Health serves patients in Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont and Virginia. The outpatient recovery program will help you develop the tools needed to retain your sobriety.
No program can guarantee complete recovery, though. Some people need several attempts before they can commit to a life of sobriety. Every bit of help that you get makes it more likely that you will be able to remain in recovery.
Learn more by contacting SaVida Health. You can request information or schedule an appointment. Either way, you’re taking a step toward addiction recovery that will change your life and the lives of your family and friends.