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How to Approach a Loved One About Addiction Treatment

If you have a loved one who’s struggling with addiction, you may be struggling with a few issues yourself — like how to approach them without making the problem worse or driving them away from you. You might wonder whether you have the right to butt in, feel unqualified to offer advice, and have trouble coming up with the right words.

At The Rose Center for Integrative Health in Chicago, our team of experienced professionals, led by Dr. Glenn Harrison, takes an interdisciplinary, holistic approach to addiction treatment that includes the support of loved ones like you. Although addiction circumstances are different for everyone, Dr. Harrison offers some general guidelines to help you approach your loved one about treatment options.

Checking your emotions

Your loved one is suffering and on a dangerous path of self-destruction, so you naturally want to help. But these situations are as complicated for you as they are for the person who’s dependent on drugs or alcohol.

Your desire to help may be combined with a sense of anger, guilt, hurt feelings, frustration, and inadequacy. It’s important for you to do some soul searching and identify any of these emotions prior to approaching your loved one, as they can hinder you from communicating in a nonthreatening way.

Be prepared for some of the common responses from addicts: denial of the problem, anger, indignation, and counterattacks. If you anticipate these possible negative reactions, you won’t be caught off guard, and you can stay focused on the task rather than allowing your own emotions to muddy the waters.

How to start the conversation

Even if the conversation gets off to a rough start, it could be the beginning of change for your loved one. It may plant a seed for them to think about, it may help them feel less isolated, and if they truly hadn’t noticed their own problem, it may open their eyes.

But knowing what to say isn’t easy. You may feel like you’re walking through a minefield and one misstep could blow up the whole situation and ruin any chances for treatment or recovery. But saying nothing can be even worse, so here are a few conversation starters — both some ice breakers and some more targeted questions.

It may even be helpful to jot down a rough script for yourself. The key in your initial approach is to make yourself available to listen and support — not to try to fix the problem for your loved one. Communicate that you love them, that you want to help them find professional treatment, and that you’re available to listen anytime.

Practical ways to help

If you’re feeling unqualified to guide your loved one through the recovery process, it’s wise to acknowledge that. We can’t emphasize enough that it’s important for you to be supportive without trying to fix the problem yourself.

Find the right professional

Addiction recovery is complicated and calls for help from a trained professional like Dr. Harrison. Whether your loved one is struggling with alcoholism or drug dependency like opioid addiction, Dr. Harrison offers a full spectrum of treatments, including cannabis and ketamine therapies.

Connect them with the community

Dr. Harrison also can suggest several local support groups to help your loved one. There are groups for every type of substance abuse, and they are highly successful at providing solidarity and encouragement during the recovery process.

Stay in touch

While it’s important not to pressure your loved one during recovery, you also don’t want to disappear. Check in on their progress, maintain a social connection, and make sure your outings don’t include activities or environments that could make it difficult for them to stay on track.

Make the first call

Sometimes, all an addict needs is help taking the first step. If your loved one asks for help finding a doctor or exploring treatment options, call us or request a virtual appointment online today. The sooner we meet them, the sooner they can start their journey on the road to recovery.

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