How To Tell Your Family About Your Addiction

Admitting you have an addiction problem to yourself is hard enough. Discussing your problems with friends and families may seem too brutal to explore. Whether you are ashamed, scared or unsure how to proceed, it is important to find the confidence to tell your closet confidantes. As you move forward in addiction treatment, your family members can become your greatest champions and a key source of strength when you feel weak. To build your confidence before organizing a conversation, develop a strategic plan you can follow before and during the chat.

Establish who you want to speak to

For medical reasons, you need to discuss your addiction treatment plans with the person you use as a point-of-contact for medical paperwork. If the person is ever contacted during an emergency, they should be able to fully discuss your current situation with doctors and nurses. Beyond that, assess your relationships with individuals to determine who needs to be involved.

A residential or outpatient program often includes numerous forms of therapy, including family therapy. Extending beyond your spouse and children, these sessions can incorporate additional people, such as your parents or siblings if you feel it will help in the recovery process. Tell family members you need to rely on that you are entering residential treatment, so they can prepare to participate in counseling.

In other instances, there are people you may not want to talk about because your addiction impacted their lives negatively. Other times, you may not want people to know you are in a recovery program. Assess your relationships with these individuals and the likelihood they already realized you were addicted and needed help. By being honest about your struggle and the path forward, you may alleviate the worries of friends and family and provide an explanation for times when your behavior was not ideal.

Identify negative influences

When you are recovering from addiction, you know the people who are direct negative influences — the people who are using with you on your downward spirals. It goes without saying these people may not be a part of your recovery process. You do not need to discuss your journey forward with those who will try to pull you back down.

More tricky is establishing the people you know who do not contribute to your well-being. They may not be a fellow addict. They could be 100% clean and consistently sober but still, be a bad influence. If you have a sibling, a parent or a relative who reinforces negative ideas in you, don’t involve them in your journey. Whether they promote the idea of failure, speak out against you or just make you feel less focused on your recovery, omit them from your addiction discussions. When it is impossible to avoid telling these family members, reduce your interaction to a statement and say you do not wish to discuss it further.

Work on what to say

A conversation about addiction can start as simply as admitting you have a problem with pills, alcohol or illegal substances. From there, discuss how your addiction is impacting your life and why you plan to enter a treatment program. Your family and friends will appreciate your honesty. Discuss what your program will look like. If you have attempted recovery in the past and relapsed, speak honestly about this process and identify ways you want to avoid potential stumbling blocks this time.

It may be tempting to want to dive into the emotional complications or life choices that you feel influenced your decision to abuse substances but avoid this. It will put others on the defensive and impact your ability to move forward. Instead, save discussion of deeper issues for conversations with your therapist or for family therapy sessions where a focus will be on solutions and not past grievances.

When you are inhibited about discussing your problems, you can streamline the conversation by stating you have a problem and are seeking treatment. Then, allow family members to ask you questions and answer them honestly. By removing the need to run the entire conversation, your anxiety will lessen, and you can focus on the things that you love consider most important.

Ask for help from one person first

If you worry about an addiction treatment conversation is keeping you from starting the discussion with your family, have it with one person first. Sit down with your best friend or closest family member and speak to just them. Ask this person to support you in a larger conversation with more participants. By lessening their need to process new information during the family talk, the friend can step in if a situation becomes too tense or act as a buffer when emotions run high.

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