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How Do I Explain to My Family That I Need Treatment for Addiction?

How Do I Explain to My Family That I Need Treatment for Addiction?
Raul Haro
October 15, 2023
There are many reasons why it would be difficult for someone to tell their family that they need addiction treatment. However, for the sake of the person needing treatment, it must be done. Thankfully, there are ways to communicate with one's family about the importance of addiction treatment. It's a much easier task to communicate […]
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How Do I Explain to My Family That I Need Treatment for Addiction?

There are many reasons why it would be difficult for someone to tell their family that they need addiction treatment. However, for the sake of the person needing treatment, it must be done. Thankfully, there are ways to communicate with one's family about the importance of addiction treatment. It's a much easier task to communicate that someone needs treatment for addiction within a healthy family. However, not everyone has a healthy family.

It's important to understand that a family isn't just a group of people someone was born into. Sometimes, biological relatives can be toxic and abusive. In this case, people tend to create their own families out of people they love and trust. These can be close friends, significant others, and their own families. Even in a made or found family, explaining that treatment for addiction is needed can be harrowing. 

Luckily, a person doesn't have to break the news all on their own. A mental health care professional can help someone find the right words to say or offer tips on being honest with their feelings. At Pathways Wellness Center, clients have access to family therapy and other programs that can bridge the gap between a client and their family. Individual therapists can always offer advice and resources to help someone take that first step into treatment. Admitting that someone needs help to themselves is one thing. Doing so in front of others can be more difficult.

Before someone can talk with their family, they must first sort out their personal feelings. By preparing themselves, it makes the conversation much more manageable.

Destigmatizing Treatment for Addiction

Before talking to one's family about addiction treatment, one needs to understand some important truths about addiction and mental health care. The stigma around addiction and treatment can be heavy, and it can demotivate someone into giving up on treatment before they even try it. So before someone talks to their family about treatment for addiction, they need to internalize a couple of truths.

One is that everyone deserves compassionate and quality treatment for addiction. That includes one's self, the people they love, and every other living person. It's a fundamental right to have the opportunity to pursue happiness. Struggling with addiction and its co-occurring mental health disorders alone prevents someone from finding happiness. Only through treatment for addiction can someone recover enough to pursue what gives them joy and fulfillment. 

Second is that addiction is not the result of a moral failing or a “bad” person. Addictions happen for many reasons and often include factors beyond someone's control. Nobody gets to choose the environment they are born into or the genetics that make up their bodies, but these factors can influence the likelihood of an individual developing an addiction. Many times, addictions happen as the result of someone attempting to self-medicate to deal with pain. Addiction is never a punishment, and nobody deserves an addiction. 

Third is that addiction cannot be simply stopped through a force of will. Some substances can cause withdrawal symptoms severe enough to require hospitalization. Treatment for addiction involves a multi-step process at certified treatment facilities under the care of mental health care professionals. Someone will need to enter one of these treatment facilities to safely recover from their addiction. They are not weak or a failure for needing treatment for addiction, as addiction itself has biological and psychological aspects that require professional treatment. 

Finding Your Support Network

As mentioned before, not all families a person is born into are healthy. Sometimes, it has toxic people who don't care if they indirectly or directly harm another individual. It may be made up of people who don't care about an individual or put impossible expectations upon them. Treatment for addiction involves a lot of self-reflection and making serious life changes. These can't happen if someone is in a toxic, unhealthy environment. So, sometimes, an individual needs to remove themselves from the situation and create their own families.

Treatment facilities like Pathways Wellness Center have extensive peer networks that help clients find others who are also in recovery or treatment. Here, they can find encouragement and companionship from others who understand what they are going through. Speaking to them about treatment for addiction tends to be a little easier, as they are actively doing the same. However, it's also important to build up a support network of others as well. They can be friends, significant others, support group members, and even members of hobby clubs. As long as they can offer unconditional love and support, they can be a part of someone's support network. 

Even those who have healthy families can struggle with the idea of talking about their needed treatment for addiction. They may be afraid of judgment or being deemed a failure. Sometimes, this fear is unfounded or simply requires some education. Others may have a negative reaction, sometimes out of shock or fear for the person needing treatment for addiction. In these cases, family therapy is immensely helpful. It helps families learn how to best support each other throughout treatment and answers questions about addiction treatment. 

Sometimes, a family can react strongly because they love the person needing treatment for addiction. They may be afraid that their family member may be locked up or mistreated, like the asylums of old. It's important to reassure and educate the family about what treatment for addiction looks like. Reducing such fear is important in helping a family not only support each other but also lessen the stigma of addiction treatment.

Preparing to Tell Your Family That You Need Treatment for Addiction

There are two ways in which a person can explain to their family that they need treatment for addiction. The first is for someone to gather their family and explain it themselves. Another is to utilize the services of a mediator or a therapist. For the latter, discussions can either take place in a home or at a mental health care facility. The pros of this method are that a mental health care professional is there to help answer questions and make sure that the person talking is heard. If someone would like a mediator or other mental health care professional to help them talk to their families, they can contact their local addiction treatment facility for help.

Even if someone decides they want to talk to their families without having a mental health care professional present, they can still get help beforehand. At Pathways Wellness Center, clients can receive help and practice what they are going to say under the guidance of a mental health care professional. There, they can hash out what they want to say, gather their thoughts, and prepare themselves before meeting with their families. Having this help can give people the confidence they need to face their fears and talk to their loved ones.

A mental health care professional can also help someone prepare for any questions their family has about treatment for addiction. Many times, a family will have questions about what treatment entails, or how long it will take. They may even have questions about the nature of the addiction itself and why the individual developed addiction in the first place. It's important to be prepared to answer these questions, even If they are painful. However, one doesn't have to get into heavy details if they aren't ready to discuss them. 

It's also okay to have moral support there to help someone communicate with their families. This can be a close friend, a significant other, or any other important person in their life who knows they are struggling and is willing to help. Having a friend ready that can remove them from a situation that has become volatile can be very comforting. A “just in case” plan, though hopefully not needed, can help someone be confident enough to get through the situation.

Ways to Talk to Your Family

The most common way someone talks to their family about treatment for addiction is to hold a family meeting. They will invite specific members of the family to their home or visit them in their home. There, they will inform their family that they need help and that they need support. It's difficult when children are present, so many times a person will speak with them separately in an age-appropriate way or trust in other family members (usually parents) to explain it to them later. This is not to be confused with an intervention, which is planned by family and friends to convince someone to get help. 

It's important for the individual needing treatment for addiction to be clear about their needs. The fact that they need help is not up for debate, so they shouldn't allow the family to try and pressure them into thinking they don't. For example, a person can simply say, “I have an addiction. I'm going to get treatment at an addiction treatment facility. Your support will help me recover and make healthy life changes. If you don't know how to give support, I have a number you can call that can help you.” Having a number to call for family members helps let them know that there are resources to help them, too.

Sometimes, a person cannot face their family in person, and that is okay. They may not feel safe enough to talk about something as intimate as a treatment for addiction right away. Instead, someone may write a letter to several members of their family. It can be individualized for each person or a single copied letter. The letter shouldn't be too long and communicate the needs of the writer in an easy-to-understand format. A mental health care professional can help someone draft such a letter in a way that addresses their needs. 

It's also okay for someone to speak to a family member about addiction treatment individually. Talking about serious matters in a large group can be harrowing, especially for those who struggle with anxiety disorders. A person can meet with their family member in their home or a neutral place. There, they can talk about treatment for addiction in a less stressful environment. It doesn't even need to be in person, as it's acceptable to call someone on the phone, text them, email them, or write them a letter. As long as someone can communicate that they need treatment for addiction, it will be fine. 

Settling Fears About Addiction Treatment

Many times, a family will react poorly to the news that someone needs addiction treatment out of fear. This fear is born from love, and many people are afraid of what will happen to their loved one in treatment. With horror movies set in old asylums and the history of medical mistreatment in the past, it can be hard for some to separate the truth from fiction. That's why it's important to reassure one's family that they will be safe when seeking treatment for addiction. 

For instance, Pathways Wellness Center offers outpatient treatment programs. This means that someone goes to treatment during the day, and when finished, they go home. Many families fear that their loved one will be locked away forever in a treatment facility, unable to leave. However, this is not true. Clients in an addiction treatment facility have several rights that protect them from harm. One of which is that a client can leave treatment at any time beforehand, even if it may be detrimental to their recovery.

When talking about treatment for addiction, one has to be prepared to bust several scary myths. It's why it's beneficial to have a mental health care professional to help, as they can provide resources that will reassure family members that their loved one will be okay. Having these resources beforehand to pass out for family members to look over can also be useful. Most treatment facilities will have booklets that go over the treatment programs they offer and what their grounds look like. Having these booklets can help families understand that they aren't going to prison or getting tortured; they are going to get help. 

Sometimes, families may be worried about how others may perceive them. There can be a lot of shame or feelings of failure from someone when a loved one is struggling with addiction. They may be tempted to blame themselves, especially if they are parents and their child is the one struggling. This line of thinking is unhelpful and unhealthy, as it prevents those seeking treatment for addiction from taking charge of their own lives. It's important to reiterate that this is their decision and that they will be okay. If family members want to work through feelings of guilt or shame, therapy options exist to help them cope. 

Taking Steps to Help Yourself

Even the best of plans can fail sometimes, and that includes talking to families about addiction treatment. Sometimes, a family may refuse to be supportive. They may feel as though their image to outsiders is more important than the well-being of those they claim to love. Some families are simply not safe to be around and must be removed from an individual's life to fully recover. Family therapy can help, but it can only work if those involved are willing to change and accept outside help to do so. It's unfortunate, but often, people learn just who they can trust or not when planning to get treatment for their addiction.

In these instances, it's important to have help in building a strong support network. That's why Pathways Wellness Center puts such a strong emphasis on peer network groups. We help clients find the understanding and support they need to complete their addiction treatment. There are also mental health care professionals on staff who can help clients cope with families who are not supportive. Even the most supportive families will need help in learning how to support their loved ones in treatment, so professional help is important.

Addiction treatment centers and other mental health care facilities are always available to help. It simply requires someone to reach out and take the first step in their treatment journey. 

For some considering addiction treatment, the hard part isn't picking up the phone and calling the treatment center. It's telling their family that they need addiction treatment in the first place. It can be difficult to do so, especially with the heavy stigma around mental health care and addiction. Luckily, the staff at Pathways Wellness Center in Glendora, California, can help make the process easier. We provide clients with the materials and coaching they need to communicate effectively with their families. At Pathways Wellness Center, families are welcome to learn about addiction treatment and how to best support their loved ones in treatment. To learn techniques on how to speak with your family about addiction treatment, call (888) 771-0966 today.

About the Author

Raul Haro
Raul Haro is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with sixteen years of experience working in both the inpatient and outpatient setting. As an LMFT, He has trained in trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy and EMDR. Raul has furthered his training in the drug and alcohol field by obtaining a Masters in Drug and Alcohol Counseling through CCAPP. Raul has a background in nursing where he has been an LVN for over 25 years. Recently, he has returned to school to complete a degree in Registered Nursing. Future plans are for Raul are to eventually complete a degree as a Nurse Practitioner combining his therapy practice with his nursing skills.

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