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How to Talk to a Loved One About Getting Help

Man comforts wife

Write a script of what you’re going to say to keep this emotionally charged discussion focused

It is difficult to talk about getting treatment with someone you care about who is struggling with addiction.

To ensure that the exchange stays on topic, you should write a script in advance.

The script should describe the harm the person has caused to those around them. But should also emphasize they have your love and support, and you’ll be there for them throughout their recovery process. 

Scripts should clearly describe the consequences you’ll enforce if the person refuses to get treatment. 

The script should also detail the potential benefits of professional treatment.

Finally, we can’t emphasize enough the importance of seeking the assistance of qualified counsellors or mental health professionals before attempting to have one of these conversations. Their guidance will significantly increase the chances of your loved one agreeing to accept help. 

Vivid, high-impact descriptions of harm caused by the person’s behaviour

Your script should describe how the person’s drug or alcohol addiction has harmed you and others. This part aims to help them realize their addiction affects not only themselves but also those around them. Keep in mind those with a drug or alcohol addiction are often so wrapped up in their own worlds they have no idea the harm they’re causing others.

Provide specific examples of destructive behaviours and clear descriptions of the harm caused. 

It should contain only authentic statements, motivated by love and the earnest desire to help the person—no accusations, insults, shaming, etc. 

Avoid stigmatizing labels such as “junkie,” “addict,” or “alcoholic,” and generally avoid moral and judgmental language. Instead, describe your feelings using “I” statements—for example, “I was very sad and hurt when you used drugs and…” 

Vivid descriptions of specific incidents will be much more effective than talking abstractly about the person’s general patterns of behaviour—describe in detail a few incidents related to the person’s drug or alcohol addiction that were especially painful for you.

Conveying your sincere concern and desire to see the person get better is the key to success. 

Assurance that you’ll be there for them

Your script should describe how you’ll support the person through their recovery process. 

Some examples of helpful support include the following:

  • Helping them pack and get their affairs in order before residential treatment 
  • Driving them, or travelling with them, to the inpatient drug and alcohol rehab center
  • Driving them regularly to in-person outpatient treatment sessions or aftercare
  • Going with them to support group meetings
  • Keeping them accountable to their recovery plan after completing treatment
  • Attending family therapy sessions with them

Clearly state the consequences of refusing to get treatment

Your script should clearly describe how your relationship with the person will change if they refuse to get treatment. For starters, you must commit to stop enabling the person and stop participating in codependent behaviours. 

Consequences should be stated simply and directly and may include things such as:

  • Cutting the person off financially
  • Forcing the person to move out
  • Ending or limiting a relationship with the person
  • Taking custody of children

Giving clear ultimatums is fine—as long as they are fair and well justified.

Explain your rationale for the consequences and be careful with your tone—your consequences should not come off as threats or as attempts to coerce the person into doing something that they don’t want to do. 

Emphasize that you’ll enforce the consequences if they refuse to get treatment—not because you want to hurt them, but because you care about them. 

Explain the potential benefits of professional treatment

You should get some professional assistance with this section from an individual or institution specializing in addiction treatment.

If you discover through your research a specific facility or program you think will help, it is also helpful to provide those details to your loved one. Being able to talk in specifics will allow them to visualize what treatment will be like.

Include a list of all the benefits they can achieve for their life and relationships by going through treatment. 

Make sure you emphasize that professional drug and alcohol rehab programs are highly effective at helping people get better and providing the foundations for successful long-term recovery.

A script is one of the most powerful tools in your communication toolbox.

Its use will significantly improve the odds of your loved one agreeing to the help they need.

We Can Help You

Whether you want to seek treatment near home, farther afield, or online, you have plenty of options with EHN Canada. We make care accessible with facilities all over Canada.

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*Ledgehill supports 12-Step Programs but we are an evidence-based program that is based around Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT).

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