Confronting A Family Member About Their Addiction

When you have a family member who is addicted to alcohol or drugs, you face a tough decision. If you decide to intervene, then a backlash of anger could result. If you do nothing, then the problem will most likely not go away. However, if you carefully plan your confrontation with the addict, then you can do it in a way that will have positive results.

The Main Issue with Confronting a Family Member About Addiction

The main problem that you need to address when confronting an active addict is how to show that you care without assigning blame for the problem. When you confront your loved one, their defenses will obviously be up. This is the main issue that you must deal with in order to be successful.

Planning Your Confrontation

Before you actually speak to your loved one, it is important to understand how the addiction impacts the addict’s life. Careful observation of the addict’s problem is therefore necessary. Only if you are armed with an arsenal of real facts can you convince the addict that the addiction is destroying their life.

    1. You should pay attention to the smallest details of the problem to gain a complete picture.
    2. Gather together the resources that the addict will need to address their problem. This will include possible routes for treatment and the basics of a support network that the addict can take advantage of.
    3. You must make sure to do your homework to produce a reasonable and practical plan for your loved one.
    4. Rehearse what you are going to say to the addict. You should rehearse what you are going to say in front of a friend to ensure that your tone of voice and your emotional state are not going to provoke the anger of the addict. The best delivery will be a cool, rational one. However, you should not be so cool that it sounds like you don’t care. This is sort of tricky.
    5. You need to simultaneously show that you care and deal with the problem clinically at the same time.

A good trick for rehearsing what you want to say is to write out a script of what you will present to the addict. You should be careful, however, that your speech does not sound stiff and rehearsed when you actually deliver it.

Addiction Interventions

Instead of confronting your loved one by yourself, you may wish to plan a formal intervention. An intervention gathers together all of the key players in the addict’s life to confront them with the issue. It is also wise to hire a therapist or other health professional to attend the intervention. They have the experience that it takes to make sure that everything will run smoothly. Also, the presence of a health professional will add credibility and objectivity to your confrontation.

The problem with formal confrontations is that, since there are so many people involved, the addict may feel that they are outnumbered and that they are being attacked. The way to overcome this is to make an effort to show how much everyone in the room loves and cares for the addict.

It is important that when you do this formal confrontation that you present to the addict not only their shortcomings but also their positive attributes. You need to speak about how much potential the addict has for great things in their life and how the addiction is getting in the way of the realization of this potential. The point is that the addict is more likely to listen to your presentation if it builds their ego at the same time that it deflates it.

Plan for the Worst

Not every formal confrontation is smooth and successful. In the event that the addict storms out of the room, you need to make a plan about how to deal with the situation. The best thing to do is to have the closest person to the addict approach them alone. They should keep their cool and find a way to demonstrate their love and affection for the addict.

Be Sensitive

Timing is everything with respect to planning a formal confrontation. You need to plan a time for the confrontation when the addict will be most at ease. It may be even a good idea to take the addict out to dinner first. You can try to emotionally connect as deeply as possible with the addict during the dinner. This way, the addict will feel connected with you emotionally and will be more likely to listen to what you have to say.

The ideal place for the confrontation will not be in a public place or an uncomfortable setting. You need to find a place where the addict will feel at ease. Of course, you want to be sure that the addict is not high during the confrontation. They will not be rational and focused to receive the message that you are going to give them.

Include Your Loved One in the Conversation

It is important to include the addict in the conversation. If you don’t, then they are likely to feel that they are being attacked. Try to elicit from them how they feel about their substance abuse. This will give them an opportunity to be listened to. This is particularly important if they have never been able to open up to anyone about their problem before.

It is also important to express your own feelings about the problem when confronting an active addict. You need to show the addict how their problem affects your life. The addict needs to understand that they do not live in a vacuum, and that their addiction affects all of those people who are around them.


Confronting an addict is never an easy task. To get the results you want, you need to have control over the content of what you say and how you say it. The trick is to be able to show that you are concerned without the addict feeling that they are being attacked.

If you show your love and support for the addict first, then they are more likely to listen to what you have to say. A successful confrontation is where you don’t make it into a confrontation at all.

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