How to Approach Someone About their Addiction

Confronting someone about their addiction is always difficult. You may fear that you are stepping over boundaries or risking your friendship approaching the topic. Avoid the feeling that “this is someone else’s job” and know that in many cases you are choosing to help save someone’s life. But how and when should you go about confronting them about the issue?

Approach the Situation Sober: It is important to have this conversation when both parties are sober. The topic is difficult enough without adding drugs or alcohol into the equation. A sober conversation will provide an atmosphere where both parties are clear headed and willing to appreciate the gravity of the conversation.

Have a Private Conversation: Let the individual know that you’re personally coming to them because you care. A one-on-one conversation provides the right atmosphere for you to voice your concerns without the other person feeling like they are being ganged up on. At this stage, you are not having an intervention and a private conversation will let them know that.

Express Your Feelings: Don’t be afraid to let the person know how you feel. Hiding your feelings about the situation will lessen the importance of the conversation. Site specific examples when their drug/alcohol addiction made things difficult for you. Addicts do not always realize how their addiction impacts other people and sharing your true feelings will help them better understand.

Make Sure to Listen: Listening is the most important part of the process. When you confront someone about their addiction you are asking them to listen to your feelings so it is important to also hear what they have to say. You might not like what the other person is saying and it can be extremely difficult not to cut them short or argue with them. Stay calm. If you accept their opinions, they will be more willing to listen to yours.

Know You’re Not an Expert: The words will never come out perfectly and it is impossible to predict every situation. It’s okay. It can be frustrating if it feels like you are not getting through or if you said something that didn’t come out right. It’s okay. You are letting the person know that you care and are trying your best to help.

Keep a Healthy Distance: You do not want to come off as overbearing. At the end of the day each person has to make the choice to seek treatment on their own. It is okay if the conversation does not result in the person actively seeking treatment. You can provide them with the number for their local AA or simply check in on them in a few weeks.

The effects of drug and alcohol addiction are not limited to the user. Friends and family members are also impacted by someone’s addiction and can feel just as helpless to do anything about it.  While it will be difficult to have a conversation with a loved one about their problem, the benefits will far outweigh the consequences of doing nothing.