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How Do I Explain My Addiction to My Family?

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Talking to a loved one about something you are struggling with can be difficult. When it comes to addiction, the stereotypes and stigmas regarding drug use can make it even more challenging for you to admit you are struggling or need help.

When you reach the point in your battle with addiction where your family needs to get involved, you may feel nervous about how your family will respond. You are likely already wrestling with feelings of shame or guilt even before your family knows what you are going through. Luckily, there are helpful ways to prepare for those important conversations with your loved ones about your addiction.

Meet Your Loved Ones Where They Are At

Before you consider talking with your family about your addiction, know that your family may not understand. Especially if your family members have not been directly affected by addiction, they may lean into societal stigmas that surround drug use and addiction. Prepare for your family members to respond based on their conceptions about substance abuse. 

You might also want to consider which family members need to know what you are going through. For example, your young sibling will likely not experience any benefit from knowing that you are battling addiction. They might not be old or mature enough to understand what addiction entails or that it is considered a mental illness. Similarly, if you know your Aunt Judy to be pretty judgmental, there might not be any benefit to her knowing about your addiction either. 

Meet your loved ones where they are at by introducing the topic in a way they can understand. Become educated about how addiction affects the entire person, especially how it impacts the brain so you can share what you are going through in a perspective informed by your real story, not by learned stigmas or personal biases. 

Starting the Conversation

If you feel like you are ready to initiate a conversation with your loved ones, consider the following guidelines to keep the conversation straightforward: 

#1. Research the nature of addiction. 

It might help to do some research about the nature of addiction before you try to explain your experience of addiction to someone else. This way, you can bring up important points during your conversation to help your loved one better understand what you are going through physically and mentally. 

For example, the definition of drug addiction is that it is characterized by chronic and compulsive drug-seeking despite the consequences experienced from substance use. While the initial decision for you to use drugs was likely voluntary, repeated drug use has altered your brain in areas that are responsible for regulating self-control, judgment, and decision-making. 

If you do some research about what you are experiencing physically and mentally because of addiction, you will have a better idea of how to explain it to others. You can learn to explain your struggle without having to rely on your emotions or personal experience, as these can be easy for others to misunderstand or judge. Without some research knowledge, your family members may struggle to understand your reasons for seeking treatment and recovery. 

#2. Release any expectations of how your loved ones might react.

One of the main reasons you want your family to understand what you are going through is likely so they can provide support for you and your recovery. Recognize that your loved ones may not be willing to give support right away, especially if the depth of your disorder is news to them. 

Prepare yourself for any way that your loved ones might react to the news you are sharing with them. Try not to expect them to react with kindness, and similarly, try not to expect them to react with judgment. Try to read the room without seeking acceptance or support right away, and remember to meet your loved ones where they are at. Your family may also need support as they go through this recovery alongside you. 

#3. Highlight your desire for help. 

One of the most important things to keep in mind as you explain addiction to your family is to highlight your desire to get help for your addiction. During the conversation with your loved one, emphasize how you are seeking help instead of how much you are struggling. 

You may want to talk with family about your options for treatment, or request that they help you figure out what your next steps should be as you work to recover. As much as you are struggling, your loved ones may not be able to provide the emotional support you are seeking on their own. Treatment professionals and peers/alumni in recovery will be able to help. By highlighting your desire to receive treatment, your family will feel how much you want them to be included in your process of securing treatment and recovery. 

Explaining your addiction to your loved ones can seem like a daunting task. You may fear their reactions, such as feeling judged or shamed for your distress. There are several benefits to discussing your addiction with your family, such as increasing your support system or allowing your family to hold you accountable for your recovery. When you initiate the conversation, remember to meet your family members where they are at. Do some research about addiction, release any expectations, and emphasize your desire for help. Pacific Sands Recovery Center is devoted to helping clients achieve long-term recovery from substance use, addiction, and co-occurring mental illnesses. We believe client psychoeducation is essential in treatment as it helps to alter client behavior patterns in positive ways. We want to help you live life without addiction controlling it. For more information about our treatment facility, we encourage you to give us a call at (949) 426-7962.

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    Andrew N.
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