5 ways to communicate with a loved one if you suspect they have a problem with addiction

Having difficult conversations is never easy – this is especially true for the people we love, particularly when we suspect they may have a problem with addiction.

Family members, friends and partners may have a hard time communicating with someone with an addiction.

Firstly, there’s the shock factor that a person you love is suffering in this way. There may also be other factors involved, such as (unintentional) behaviors that may have previously enabled the addiction.

Feelings of guilt

There is also the guilt factor – many friends, family members and even a partner may feel guilty and ask themselves questions about how someone close to them became a drug addict or developed a drinking problem.

There are many reasons for this, and even people who work with substance abusers may still find it a challenge when they discover that someone close to them has an alcohol problem or drug addiction.


Fortunately, there are many effective ways that people can communicate with those they suspect may have a substance abuse problem.

These channels of communication provide better outcomes for the substance abuser and the addicts family.

#1. Lend a listening ear

If you think it’s difficult starting a conversation about substance abuse or addiction – can you imagine just how challenging it must be for the addict?!

When someone has a problem with alcohol or has a drug addiction, they are aware of just how high the stakes are.

There also tends to be a lot of stigma and fear surrounding alcohol use or drug use that an addict may find it easier to isolate themselves and not speak about the problem at all.

The key to starting a conversation is to let your loved ones know that they can confide in you, that you will not criticize or judge them and that you are there to listen without nagging or interrupting.

You may disagree with their behavior, but people must recognize that addiction, alcohol use disorder and any other addictive behaviors happen for a reason.

#2. Exercise kindness

Being kind to loved ones with alcohol addiction and any other addictions is one of the first steps to understanding substance use.

You must demonstrate compassion and understanding through acts of kindness and by showing up for a loved one who has an addiction. 

All this is the crucial ingredient to cultivating successful communication and interaction with someone who suffers from addiction in any form.

Since there is such a stigma surrounding alcohol abuse and drugs -someone who has an addiction is fully aware that people may judge, criticize or debase them, they also expect family members and friends to cut them off or reject them.

Therefore, offering kindness and understanding may help a loved one deal with their drinking or drug use problems.

#3. Demonstrate unconditional love and empathy

Anyone who has a problem with drinking or taking drugs is looking to numb the pain from past negative experiences and trauma.

An addict is also likely to experience problems with their mental health, such as depression and anxiety.

Therefore, people must have an empathetic approach and demonstrate unwavering love and support to a loved one with an addiction, even if this is not always easy.

Demonstrating that you have their best interests at heart whether or not they decide to get help is essential. 

However, this doesn’t mean that you will tolerate any destructive behaviors or things that make you feel uncomfortable.

#4. Cultivate boundaries

Although people must find ways to support a loved one through an addiction – it is also crucial for a friend, family members and partners to set boundaries.

Dealing with a person who has a substance use problem is incredibly challenging and may take its toll on the people around the addict. One thing that often helps the families and friends of an addict is to set clear boundaries.

All this gets done by letting the addict know your limits, i.e. what you will and won’t put up with, do not be afraid to set boundaries and assert them when needed. 

These actions demonstrate that you are not punishing them or issuing empty threats purely because they have a problem with addiction.

#5. Offering support throughout the process of change

At first, it may be that you are more willing to go through the necessary changes than the addict. 

However, it’s critical that family members, friends and partners show just how committed they are to supporting the addict through the complicated process of change and intervention.

All this might mean attending a treatment program with the addict or going with them to group counselling or couples counselling (and any other recovery programs).

When people offer the right support, it does matter, so do words of encouragement. All this contributes to planting the seed of change.

Treatment options

There are plenty of treatment options for those suffering from addiction and substance use disorders.

Whether the addiction involves drugs, alcohol, or any other addictive behavior – help and support is always available to anyone looking to overcome a substance abuse problem.

Improving lives for the better

Getting sober from a substance not only improves a person’s emotional and physical well being, health and overall quality of life, but it also enhances the relationship they have with themselves and the people around them.

Turning point

Reaching out to a mental health professional is the first step to recovery.

Addiction treatment is a process that allows addicts to not only get clean but also helps to address the reasons behind addiction. The recovery process may involve:

Sharing stories

It may help the person wishing to overcome an addiction to bring a family member or friend along with them to treatment.

By sharing their stories with other people (including other addicts), the recovering addict may adopt useful tips and coping mechanisms to help them overcome their addiction problems and make the necessary changes required to abstain from alcohol and drugs for good.

The importance of effective communication

Initiating a conversation with someone you love about their addiction problem is never going to be easy.

However, cultivating practical communication skills (such as the ones mentioned above) are a useful tool in getting someone to open up about their drinking or drug-taking.

Getting in touch

A service such as a rehabilitation facility helps people address their addictive behaviors and kick starts the process of positive change and recovery. 

No one should have to live with an addiction, and with the right communication and treatment approach, people can overcome their habits and live the happy and content life they were supposed to.

We’re here to help.

Contact us today if you’d like a confidential and free chat with one of our highly-trained professionals.

Email: enquiries@www.caminorecovery.com or call us in Spain  +34 951 107 195 or UK +44 (0)7492 426615

David Scourfield

David Scourfield is a Camino Recovery team member since 2017, focused on facilitating communication with Clinical and other professionals to ensure a comprehensive understanding of Camino's program.

Combining his marketing skills and lived experiences, he joined Camino in 2017, contributing to external publications and the Camino website. With a strong belief in solidarity during the recovery process, David helps clients build support networks by connecting them with others in recovery.

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