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How Do I Explain My Addiction to My Family?

Addiction can be hard to recognize or bring up with your family.  Most importantly, you have completed the first step to healing — recognizing you may have a problem. 

If you’re not sure if you have a problem, here are a few questions to consider from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Do you have trouble stopping the use of addictive substances?
  • Do you make mistakes at work or school due to substance use?
  • Have you blacked out, or do you blackout frequently due to substance use?
  • Have you stolen money or goods to sell to buy addictive substances?
  • Is your substance use hurting your relationships?
  • Have you been arrested or hospitalized due to substance use?
  • Are you developing a strong tolerance or needing more of a substance to feel its effects?

Perhaps you are even further ahead and coming back into the family home after some intensive care treatment, but you are unsure how to talk about it with your loved ones. It may seem simple to try to brush it under the rug and continue life as usual, but for your health and recovery, “normal” could mean reverting right back to the same addictive behavior as before. Talking it through may be scary, but it also has many benefits.

How Do I Talk to My Parents?

If you’re scared and just finding out you have a problem, it may be natural to reach out to your parents for help and support. Be honest with your concerns and the fact that you don’t feel in control anymore.

You may also be reaching out to your parents after rehab. Start slow and answer any questions they may have, then tell them what your recovery plan is. Be receptive to their support, questions, and review of your plan, but be sure to stay true to your course of recovery. 

For more information and perhaps inspiration, see these real-life stories from Partnership to End Addiction and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).   

How Do I Talk to My Partner or Significant Other?

Be transparent in your love for them and anything else you’re feeling about your struggles with addiction. Saying it out loud and talking it through can help you feel more secure in your recovery plan, and it will be helpful for your partner to know what they can do. If they are overwhelmed already, that’s okay — just stick to your recovery plan.  

How Do I Talk to My Kids?

Talk to your children about your addiction as an illness (because it is an illness) and let them know you love them, but you need to heal for a while. If they are concerned about how long you’ll be gone, reassure them that you are going to get help and that you’ll be back as soon as you can. Kids are resilient; they usually realize something is wrong even if they don’t express their concerns, and emotional trauma can occur. If you know you’ll have constant communication with them while you’re gone, tell them. However, don’t make promises you can’t keep about your timeline for recovery.

If you’re reuniting with your children, begin modeling healthy behaviors as well as giving positive reinforcement. Show your children that they are worthy of love, even when they make mistakes. Being honest about your love and appreciation of them will go a long way and show them your support for the future. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, and model good decision-making skills as you move forward in your relationship. 

How Do I Talk to My Friends?

They say that friends are the family you choose, and friends are a valid source of support. Like talking to a parent or partner, talking to close friends can be cathartic, but there may be apologies necessary to move forward in the relationship. Be honest with your love and appreciation for them, and communicate your plan for recovery. 

What if My Loved Ones Don’t Want to Talk To Me or They React Negatively?

If you’re looking for help with your addiction, it’s okay. Move forward and get yourself to a hospital or rehabilitation facility as soon as you can.

If you’re seeing your loved ones for the first time in recovery, this is a brave step. Take a deep breath, and think of negative reactions as a worst-case scenario. Worst-case scenario: they don’t want to see me, but I still have my sobriety. Worst-case scenario: they don’t care that I’m sorry, but I still have my sobriety. Your loved ones may be working through their own pain, and you can give them the space to do so while you recover. 

If your friends try to draw you back into addictive tendencies, remind them that you are doing this for your health and safety and that you’ll need to set some boundaries at this time. Taking this time to stay true to yourself is okay, and though your pain may be great, you are strong enough to remain abstinent and break your cycle of addiction. Finding additional support from other family members, friends, or new acquaintances can be helpful, too.  

Talking with friends or family about your addiction can be traumatizing. It’s hard to bring up taboo subjects and even harder when you feel like you’re gambling with someone’s love and respect. Your life is meaningful, and your sobriety is essential. Although these conversations are hard, you deserve to blaze new trails and reform your relationships. At RECO Intensive, we understand that familial support is vital, even if these conversations are hard. The bottom line is that you have your sobriety, and here at RECO Intensive, we aim to help you keep it. Your RECOvery is important to us, and we know it’s important to you as well. RECO Intensive offers family therapy as a great way to help support your familial connections, as well as group therapy and individual therapy for you. If you need help, don’t hesitate to call RECO Intensive today at (561) 464-6533. Let’s get back to a brighter future.

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