Why is it so hard to talk to an addict?

Why is it so hard to talk to an addict?



Addiction is confusing.   


It is confusing to the addict, but also the ones around him.    We don’t know why our loved one chooses this path and why he can’t see that he is harming himself.    


It is, therefore, often exceedingly difficult to talk to an addict.   We don’t want to say the wrong things and perhaps make things worse, but we also don’t want to say nothing.   It is hard.   Often you feel ill-equipped to confront complex issues.   Addiction can be sensitive, deeply personal, and painful to talk about.


In this blog, we want to look at ways to communicate that can show your loved one you care and put an end to enabling.


What family and friends can do.


  • Accept the person.You don’t have to accept the addict’s behavior, but it is possible to act with kindness and empathy.   Addiction is so stigmatized that your loved one expects criticism and rejection.   Do the opposite and show the person that you still love and care about him.   It does not mean you’d put up with anything, though.


  • Talk less. Addictions happen for a reason.   Listen to your loved one without interrupting or condemning.   You might learn something.


  • Be consistent and predictable.  Show your addict what you expect of them through action, as well as words.   Set limits and follow through.  Don’t surprise them with unpredictable actions – it is confusing and stressful and may feed addictive behavior.


  • ‘I’ll do it my way.’   As long as it is evident what behavior will not be tolerated, your loved one must find his own way of changing.   You cannot dictate it for him.  Be ready to provide support when it becomes necessary.


Addiction conversations


First, some help


The addict should become part of a professional treatment program as soon as possible. It can be on an inpatient or outpatient basis.  Encourage your loved one to get help and offer to accompany him so that he can make the first step.


Be sure to do some research beforehand:  what are the triggers and symptoms of this particular addiction?  If you can emphasize, it will encourage positive conversations.  


The setting of realistic boundaries


Friends and family can help an addict by setting boundaries and goals.   Sustained recovery is much more likely if you do this.    But remember, addiction is a constant struggle.  Celebrate even the minor goals attained.


‘I feel …’


If you start your conversations with the addict with the words 'I feel…', you are taking ownership of your feelings.   The addict does not want to hear 'You make me feel…' because it can be too much having to carry the burden of the feelings of others, too.


Conversations are not supposed to be easy.


The fact is it is not easy to talk about addiction.    There is a lot of emotional baggage that can hinder truthful conversations.


  • The addict does not want to admit the full scope of the problem.
  • The addict is embarrassed because a lot of it is pretty personal.
  • He fears the consequences if he reveals the addiction.
  • The addict does not wantto change.   


Addiction is a disease.   You cannot tell your loved one what to do.   Non-professional advice can often do more harm than good, and ideally, the addict should be in treatment.


More things to keep in mind for better conversations    


  • Addiction is not a character flaw but a disease.
  • The addict is not selfish – he can’t help himself.
  • Anyone can get addicted to alcohol or drugs.
  • Positive reinforcement can help the addict to remain addiction-free.
  • Try to give practical as well as emotional support.   


Yes, it can be tough investing in someone that often seems selfish and unaware of what you are doing.   But your perseverance can pay off.




Don’t lose heart!


At Largest Heart, we understand.   Addiction can have a devasting effect on families and friendships.  It takes someone with a big heart to work through it and stand by a loved one.   

Please find some more resources on our website if you need help.   We have a lot here that can encourage you while your loved one is recovering.   Please contact us if we can help in any way.