Five top tips for confronting a parent around addiction

Seeing a parent struggling with addiction can be a difficult experience. It could be something you’ve grown up with, or it could well be affecting them in their later years, post-retirement when boredom and isolation may set in.

Either way, it’s of course important for them to get help in order to live the healthiest, happiest and longest life. Although it’s not always easy for them, or indeed for anyone, to recognise they have a problem.

It’s often on loved ones to confront and intervene and doing so as the son or daughter of a person can make it even more difficult. However, it is also instrumental for their health and your relationship.

If you’re in a position where you feel a parent needs private drug treatment or alcohol rehab then it’s important to approach the situation with care. So, here are five top tips for ensuring you do just that…

Educate Yourself About Addiction

A good place to start is understanding about addiction. Delve into the details from what the root causes could be to the psychological and physical impacts of addiction, as well as the more common behaviours associated with it.

It’s all about understanding the science, recognising the signs and exploring the treatment options so you’re fully prepared to have that conversation with them.

Choose the Right Time and Place

Timing really is everything and you should only confront a parent if they are in a position where they are sober, calm and much more likely to be receptive to what you have to say.

Make sure you’re in a private and comfortable setting, such as their home, where interruptions are kept to a minimum and they feel safe. You don’t want to overwhelm them or put them on the back foot, so getting the time and place right really is a must.

Use Compassionate and Non-Confrontational Language

The language you use can also add to that element of calm. You want to show compassion rather than blame, anger or any more extreme emotion. Understanding is essential and non-confrontational language is much more likely to get a more positive and open dialogue with them.

Express concern, but not blame and allow them the time to speak too. Here you should listen actively and respond thoughtfully. Addiction isn’t a straight forward condition, and a deep and meaningful conversation will allow you to understand the situation fully. 

Offer Support, Not Ultimatums

Support is key here. After all, they’re your parent and you love them. While ultimatums and boundaries may come in at some stage if they are unwilling to get the help they need, you need to begin by offering support.

Highlight how you can help them and that you’ll be with them every step of the way, as well as encouraging professional help. In your understanding phase, it may be that you’ve already found rehab centres and treatment programmes that they may be interested in, which can help reduce stress around the situation.

Reiterate that getting help is a sign of strength not weakness and this is the first step to improving their life.

Prepare for Resistance and Be Patient

Finally, it’s important to be patient. It can be a shock and those addicted will often show denial. It can take multiple attempts to encourage them to change, so stick with it, be prepared for denial or resistance and over time your message will get across.

Strength in numbers can be a good way to get a point across, so get other family members and friends involved, while look after yourself too as the whole process can be taxing on you too. 

Patience is key though but get that breakthrough and it’s only going to be beneficial not just for your parent, but for the entire family.

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