How to Tell Your Family You Have a Drug Addiction

It’s never easy to admit that you need help. The prospect of telling your family about a drug addiction can be a scary, daunting, vulnerable experience — but it’s a crucial step in your recovery. In can also be one of the most meaningful. It’s important to remember that drug addiction is a disease,[1] and that it’s treatable. With the right help, you can overcome the challenges of addiction and continue to live a productive, high-quality life. Your family is an essential partner in that recovery.

Preparing to Talk to Your Family

 

If you plan to discuss your addiction with your family, it is often helpful to first speak with a therapist or counselor. A mental-health professional — particularly those with addiction expertise — will know more about your challenges and specific situation.

This person can help you articulate your feelings, explore your views, and help think through the right approach to talking with your family. This can involve a combination of talk therapy, self-reflection and role-playing to prepare for the actual conversation. Additionally, some counselors might be willing to accompany you and speak to your family with you.

On the day you plan to talk to your family, it can be useful to have some thoughts written down in advance. This helps communicate the messages you want to share and keeps you on point during what is sure to be an emotionally intense conversation. Preparing what you are going to say can make the conversation more productive and honest.

What to Say

 

Knowing what to say in a conversation about your addiction can be challenging. There is often a great deal to discuss, and you will likely experience a range of emotions in the moment. Ultimately, you will want to communicate that you have an addiction, that you understand its implications, that you would like to share your challenge with your family, and that, ideally, you would like to begin your recovery.

Here are some helpful principles to remember for the talk:

  • Be honest[2]. Many addicts seek to downplay or minimize their addiction. This is natural. If you have been hiding from or lying to your family for a long time your instinct might be to continue that behavior. You must make a conscious effort to be honest and transparent about your addiction. The more open you are, the more your family will be able to embrace the conversation and take the steps to help you.
  • Be prepared to answer questions. Your family is not likely to be completely surprised to hear about your drug addiction — in fact, many families already know. But now that you are bringing up the topic openly, they might have questions about the nature of your addiction. Be prepared to answer them candidly. This is an important exchange.
  • Discuss your recovery plan. Your family will ultimately be relieved that you are being honest about your addiction. But they will also want to know what you plan to do about it. Share the recovery plan that you’ve come up with, and engage them in the process.
  • Be ready for intense emotions. Discussing your addiction will be one of the most difficult parts of the process. It has almost certainly affected your family in a variety of ways. Prepare for a range of emotions from your family members, including sadness, guilt, anger and relief. This is a normal response to a challenging event that is close to their hearts.
  • Emphasize the help you need. If you’re in trouble and afraid for your health and safety, trust that those who love you most will empathize. They’ll want to know how to help you get healthy again. If you need them, be honest and let them know.

A New Beginning

 

Discussing your addiction with your family will be a challenge. It will also be a therapeutic, bonding experience with those who love you most. Expect strong emotions on both sides. You will most likely find a great deal of relief from your family members when they hear about the specific nature of the problem, and you will find strength and comfort in opening up about your addiction. Communicating openly and honestly, with an eye toward recovery and long-term sobriety, is the key to a meaningful conversation. Opening up about your addiction is not the end, but a new beginning. Prepare effectively, embrace the process, and it will serve your recovery well.


[1] “Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2012. <http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/science-addiction>.

[2] Staff, Mayo Clinic. “Definition.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 01 Oct. 2011. Web. 04 Dec. 2012.

 

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