Most people are pretty good at denying and avoiding their problems. Confronting your issues takes a certain amount of self-awareness, as well as optimism that the problem can be solved.

If you believe your loved one has a problem with addiction, you may wonder how to start talking about it without triggering shame, denial, or anger.

At Drug, Alcohol, Mental Health Counsel & Evaluation Services Inc., in Honolulu, Hawaii, our counselors specialize in substance use disorders and addiction treatment. If your loved one has a problem, understanding their addiction and helping them understand it too is the first step.

Addiction hijacks the brain

Addiction is part of what’s termed a “substance use disorder.” A substance use disorder basically hijacks a person’s mind, body, and soul.

The addiction component to a substance use disorder rewires the addict’s brain. That’s why they develop uncontrollable cravings and can’t stop using the substance. And why “willpower” doesn’t work.

Addiction also causes a dependency on the substance. The addict suffers painful and distressing physical withdrawal symptoms when the substance is taken away. Dependency and withdrawal are two of the biggest hurdles to stopping use.

Once someone develops a dependency or addiction, the neurons in their brain recircuit themselves to receive more of the substance. Your loved one, quite literally, isn’t in their “right” mind anymore.

As much as possible, try to separate your loved one’s addiction and disturbing behaviors from the person you know and love. Understand that they’re now in the clutches of disease, and they can’t control it by themselves.

Arm yourself with facts

Denial is one of the first reactions you usually get from an addict. They may first list the reasons why they think they don’t need treatment. Even if they agree that they’d benefit from treatment, they may tell you that it’s impossible for them to get it, or that it won’t work in their case.

Knowing that you’ll face denial means that you need to arm yourself with data ahead of time so you can address each objection they raise.

Give yourself the time you need to research addiction and substance use. List the reasons why treatment is beneficial and available to them, so you’re prepared for their objections.

For example, early treatment of addiction can be intensive. Your loved one may claim that they don’t have time to “go away for weeks or months” or spend “hours and hours” in therapy. Counter that objection by referring to our flexible outpatient detox program.

By anticipating their responses and reminding them that help is only one step away, you help them see the path to sobriety. That first step is the hardest, though, and it’s why your guidance, patience, and knowledge are crucial.

Be concerned, not accusatory

One of your roles is to show your loved one why they should want to change. They can’t get help if they don’t want it, or if they can’t see its value. Their attitude may make you feel frustrated because it’s so clear to you that they’d benefit, and that their loved ones — including you — would benefit too.

Take an approach of concern rather than accusation. Speak in terms of “I” (I feel that …, this makes me feel … , etc.) and not “You.” In this way, you explain how their addiction affects your life, and the lives of others, without blaming them.

Don’t be afraid to be firm about how their problem wreaks havoc on the lives of those around them. However, trying to load them with guilt is unhelpful: They feel enough guilt already. Disgust, self-recrimination, and self-loathing often go hand-in-hand with addiction.

We help you too

Although we treat people with substance use disorders, we help you cope with your loved one’s addiction too. We’re happy to guide you through understanding addiction and how to get your loved one the care they need.

Our goal is the same as yours: Together we rediscover the vital, wonderful person you know that lies just below the addiction.

Contact us by calling or using our convenient online scheduling tool to set up a substance abuse appointment today.

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