Struggling with drug or alcohol addiction is hard enough, but the issue may seem insurmountable when you have to face telling your loved ones about your substance struggles. Telling your family members about your addiction may be one of the hardest things you ever have to do, but it’s also one of the most important. Dealing with substance abuse on your own not only mitigates your accountability in terms of recovery but also makes for a lonely and difficult journey.
If you plan to seek treatment for drug addiction, telling your family members provides you with the necessary support to overcome substance use disorder. Addiction treatment only works when you can fully commit, so your family members may be able to fill in important gaps in your life so you can focus on recovery.
Plan the Conversation About Your Struggles With Drug or Alcohol Addiction in Advance
The more advance planning you can do ahead of the big talk about your substance abuse, the better the conversation is likely to go. If your family members aren’t aware of your substance abuse, they may be taken by surprise and react accordingly. Remember, you can’t necessarily control their reactions, but you can be honest and take peace in the fact that you were able to be open.
Designate a time and place to have the conversation, preferably someplace quiet and free from outside interruptions. Choose a place that’s comfortable for each family member.
Write Out Your Opening Statement in Advance
You’ll likely be nervous about having this conversation, even if your family is fully aware of your drug addiction. Write out what you want to say in advance so you have time to fully organize your thoughts. Even if you don’t read from the statement you’ve written, drafting it ahead of time will give you a chance to fully think through how much you want to reveal and how to respond to a negative reaction.
Remind your family that recovery is rarely a linear process, and even if you’ve tried unsuccessfully to recover from drug addiction in the past, that doesn’t mean you won’t be successful this time around. Even if your family isn’t supportive of your desire to recover from substance use disorder, you have to be committed to your own well-being. Telling them is enough; if they don’t approve of your quest to beat drug or alcohol addiction, that’s their problem and not yours.
Prepare for Negative Reactions
Your family may be struggling with the impacts of your drug abuse on existing dynamics and relationships. This may especially be true if you’ve tried to recover in the past. It’s important that you listen and allow them to communicate their emotions regarding your substance abuse challenges.
It’s equally important that you avoid internalizing their negative reactions, as this could make any mental health disorders you might have worse and cause you to question your need for recovery. Substance use disorders are destructive for families, so they may have a lot of pent-up emotions about their experiences with your drug abuse. It’s healthy for them to express these emotions, even if they’re also offering support.
Allow Time for Questions
Your family may have questions about recovery and what to expect from substance use disorder treatment. Leave time in the conversation for questions and answer them to the best of your ability. With that in mind, remember that the period before recovery is a fragile time for anyone who’s struggled with drug addiction.
Therefore, don’t answer questions you feel uncomfortable with and respectfully end the question-and-answer portion of the conversation when you’re ready. You can always continue the conversation when you’re feeling stronger.
Request Help From a Friend or Professional Counselor
If you anticipate pushback from your family, consider bringing in a counselor or trusted family friend to help facilitate the conversation. A third party can help keep high levels of emotion from getting in the way of the message. Moreover, working with licensed medical professionals in your decision to seek therapy may reinforce your decision and help your family feel more comfortable about what you’re doing and why.
Bringing in a third party is especially important if you know a family member attending the conversation is likely to be contentious. If you struggle with a mental health disorder along with substance use disorder, another person can be on hand as support for you to ensure you don’t get overwhelmed to the point of a breakdown. A professional counselor might also be better equipped to answer some of the questions your family might have regarding addiction treatment.
Ways Your Family Can Help Prepare for You to Seek Addiction Treatment
Telling your family about your substance abuse may give you more support than you anticipated. Once they know, a willing family can help you prepare for your recovery journey in several ways.
- Preparing for family therapy: One of the ways your family can help you prepare for treatment is by preparing for family therapy. Depending on the family trauma caused by your drug abuse, your family may require therapy even before they’re brought into sessions at your chosen treatment facility. Family therapy can also help family members learn how to be a better support to you while you navigate recovery and rehab.
- Help with minor children: If you have minor children, you may need someone to care for them while you’re in treatment. Your family is the best choice since your children may already be familiar with family members and may have already had frequent interactions with them. If you have family members who are willing to take care of younger children while you’re in recovery, you might need a separate meeting with them to go over the specifics of your request. The larger meeting where you discuss your challenges with addiction might not be the best time to get into those kinds of details.
- Financial assistance/organization: Your family may be able to assist you with the financial resources necessary to enter treatment. They may also be able to facilitate important financial tasks, such as maintaining accounts and paying things on schedule while you’re in treatment. Getting treatment for substance use disorders can be expensive, so if your family is willing to help, this can go a long way toward ensuring you get the assistance you need to recover.
- Care packages/rehab visits: Care packages (if they’re allowed at your treatment facility) and visits (once they’re allowed) can go a long way toward making you feel loved and supported as you journey through the recovery process. It can be an arduous and stressful journey at some points, so the more support you have, the more likely you’ll be successful in overcoming your substance abuse challenges. In fact, you should encourage family members to be supportive of you in this way. Kind words, cards and small trinkets can motivate you during those times in recovery when you’re feeling discouraged or unsure of whether you can get through treatment.
The decision to get help for substance abuse is one of the most important ones you’ll ever make. It’s not a decision you’ve likely made lightly. You may need your family’s help with emotional and perhaps even financial support. If you’re a parent, you may need help with care for your children while you’re away. The more you can enlist your family’s participation during recovery from substance use disorders, the more successful you’re likely to be in getting better. This is something you may wish to communicate to your family while you’re having the conversation about rehab and recovery. It will also help you plan for life after rehab.
Figuring out how to tell your family about your drug addiction may be the catalyst you need to truly commit yourself to recovery. Depending on your treatment center of choice, it may have resources to help you with this process. Click here to learn more about your options for recovery and ways your family can help with this process.