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How To Talk To Your Family About Your Addiction

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

June 13, 2019

Talking to family about addiction is never easy. Many people keep their addiction a secret for far too long in fear of what others may think. However, speaking up and asking for help can be a positive step in the journey of recovery.

Talking to your family about your drug or alcohol addiction may feel like the hardest thing you could do. Many people struggle to admit to themselves that they have a problem, let alone confide in friends or family about it. However, seeking the support of your loved ones is an important step in getting the help you need and deserve.

Do I Have A Problem?

Accepting the fact that you have an addiction to drugs or alcohol can make it easier to open up to your family. Many people refuse to admit they have a problem, which only prolongs the addictive cycle. The longer you deny your addiction, the worse it will get.

If you are unsure whether your drug or alcohol use is a problem, here are a few factors to consider:

  • Do you miss work or school because of drug or alcohol use?
  • Do you hide how much drugs or alcohol you use?
  • Do you turn to alcohol or drugs to cope with everyday life?
  • Is drug or alcohol use distancing you from friends or family?
  • Are you unable to control how much you drink or use?
  • Do you experience blackouts as a result of alcohol or drug use?
  • Have you tried to quit but were unable to?
  • Do you steal money or drugs from loved ones?
  • Have you experienced financial difficulties as a result of drug or alcohol use?

If you answered yes to some or all of these questions, you may be addicted to drugs or alcohol. Admitting this to yourself and others will make getting the help you need easier in the long run.

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How Do I Tell My Family I’m Addicted To Drugs Or Alcohol?

Opening up to your family about your addiction can be incredibly scary. You may have spent months or years trying to hide your drug or alcohol abuse from them. However, being honest with loved ones and asking for their support is one of the best decisions you can make for your recovery.

Feeling anxious or fearful before talking to your family about your substance abuse is completely normal. You may be afraid that your family will judge or look down on you for your addiction. Even though addiction is a disease, there is still a stigma surrounding the condition, which can make it even more difficult to confront your loved ones.

Having a plan and knowing how to open up to your family about your addiction can help you feel more comfortable.

The following are tips on how to tell your family you’re addicted to drugs or alcohol:

Choose The Right Place —

Speaking to your family as soon as possible should be a priority. However, there is a right time and place to do so. Sitting down with your loved ones in a quiet, comfortable environment can help the conversation go smoothly.

Prepare For The Conversation —

Your family members may be completely surprised by your admission of addiction, or they may have suspected it for a while. Either way, there is likely to be uncomfortable questions and emotional reactions from your loved ones. Preparing yourself as best as possible for these can help prevent you from being blindsided.

Consider Their Side —

There’s a chance that one or many of your family members may react in a negative way when they learn about your addiction. Very few people truly understand addiction and even fewer are able to confront it in an emotionally positive way. Your family may be angry, shocked, or confused. Expecting these emotions and considering where your family is coming from can help you keep a level head and not get discouraged.

Be Honest —

Opening up to your loved ones can be hard, but it’s important to remain honest when doing so. Lying about the severity of the problem or other factors will only keep you stuck in the cycle of addiction. Taking responsibility for your actions and choices that led you to addiction can help show your family you are ready to make a change.

Your family may need some time to process what you have told them. This is natural and should be expected. Setting up a follow-up discussion can give loved ones time to cope with your news and decide how to best help you.

Getting Treatment For Your Addiction

Opening up to your family about your addiction can make the decision to seek treatment easier. Having your loved ones’ support can improve your chances of recovery and give you the motivation to stay sober.

Choosing a treatment program is an important step after speaking with your family about your drug or alcohol addiction. The sooner you can begin a treatment program, the better success you will have. Simply speaking with your family about your addiction isn’t enough; taking immediate action to get help should be the ultimate goal.

Inpatient treatment is one of the most successful forms of addiction treatment available. Inpatient rehab programs are designed to meet the specific needs of each patient. Many programs last 28 days or more and include various forms of therapy.

To learn more about the steps you can take when talking to your family about your addiction, contact a treatment specialist today.

Columbia University - Reaching out for help with a drug addiction

National Institute on Drug Abuse - What to Do If You Have a Problem with Drugs: For Teens and Young Adults

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism - Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help

Mayo Clinic - Drug addiction (substance use disorder)

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