How to talk about addiction is a heavy topic to approach, especially when you are doing the approaching. If you’re planning to talk about addiction to your friends and family – and your own addiction to be specific – then you must be sure you’re prepared.
This may not necessarily be easy and there’s no knowing what to expect. Instead, focus on what you should get across, and keep an open mind about what might happen next.
Get Everyone Together
The first step to talk about addiction is simple enough – get everyone together. Plan a meeting for your family, and if you can, one for your friends. Alternatively, get your family together with a few of your most important friends – or meet your friends individually, if their schedules are too hectic. It’s not important to talk to everyone all at once, although it is preferable to get an open family conversation going when telling your loved ones about your addiction.
Think of it as staging an intervention for yourself. You want everyone to be there, so you can all come together and talk about addiction to explain how you feel, and so you can all decide how to proceed.
The challenge is not so much in finding an effective way to talk about addiction to your family, it’s finding a way to get yourself to talk about it. It’s difficult for most people struggling with addiction to admit to themselves that they have a problem, let alone talk about it with others. So ultimately, the real first step is honesty.
Be Fully And Entirely Honest When You Talk About Addiction
There is no point to considering a conversation unless everyone can agree to total honesty. If you’re ready to talk about addiction to your friends and family, then it is important that you get everyone’s real opinions.
Expect your friends to leave you, or struggle with supporting you in your choice to go sober. Things will change once you declare your addiction – and that’s important. Things are supposed to change. The entire goal of recovery and sobriety is that you’re going to take the steps you need to take to change your life for the better – even if that means making some drastic changes in life.
Talk about addiction and how it has changed your life, and how it has affected you emotionally and mentally. It helps others better understand both addiction in general and your situation specifically when you explain the consequences a bit better. Your friends in general might not have noticed anything specifically wrong with your behavior if you’ve been hiding it well, and getting that off your chest can provide an immense amount of emotional relief.
Explain What You Know And What You Need
Addiction is a complicated topic, and there’s much to learn and unlearn. Society in general is still quite stigmatic towards addiction and people struggling with addiction, and undoing decades of damage dealt by talking points and inaccurate pop culture is hard. However, you can take a good first step towards helping your friends and family begin their education by telling them what you know about addiction.
Give them an idea of how the process works, how emotional and physical symptoms come together to make living normally harder and harder, and why it’s so difficult to stop. It’s important to bring across the point that addiction is not a choice – but getting better is. To follow through on that choice, you need help and support.
Ask For Help
Now that your family knows what you need, it’s your turn to ask for help. A real family sticks together even in the hardest of times – but friendships have been tried and broken by the struggles of addiction and recovery. For some friends, going sober themselves is too much to bear – others have too much on their plate already, and can’t give you their full support in good conscience. Be understanding, and know that before you can help anyone else with their problems, you must first get into a position to handle your own.
Addiction recovery can take weeks, months or even years depending on how long you were using, in what kind of a mental state you begin your recovery, and how successfully you follow the treatment and recovery programs. When asking your friends to stay by you, make sure they understand what that kind of commitment means – and implore on them the importance of sticking by their promises, if they decide to support you.
Many people – perhaps even you – will find it hard to find friends willing to do that. Addiction recovery and sober living is a time when many truths come to surface, and among for quite a few is that their life has been very superficial up to this point. Don’t be worried, though: we’re in the age of the internet, and sobriety is a great reason to find new people in your area and make entirely new friendships with others who are going through the same thing. Ultimately, one way or another, it’s important to communicate with the people around you (be they your family, your best friend, or total strangers) and develop a solid support network.
It’s not just about getting you sober and keeping you sober, though. After early recovery, get involved in helping people with their problems as well. Giving others a helping hand at work or with something else you feel you can handle can give you a sense of accomplishment and remind you that you’re capable of making your own world a better place as well. The more you improve, the more you’ll be able to give.
That first step – admitting that you’re wrong, and coming out to your friends and family about your problem – takes massive guts. Most people realize they have a problem after other people around them have already begun to see the signs – but preempting an intervention with one of your own means putting yourself in a vulnerable position and acknowledging that your behavior needs professional help.
You are not your addiction – and there’s no need to be ashamed of your addiction. You can express guilt for the terrible things you may have done for another fix, but don’t blame your own character or core for your chemical and emotional dependence. Feeling pity for being a victim of circumstance is also a bad first step towards sobriety. Instead, simply pledge yourself to taking the responsibility of becoming better, healthier, and permanently sober.