Many addicts think they can control their drinking. While they may be able to stop, simply quitting is different from a lasting, internal change.

…when convincing them to get treatment.

Whether in a formal intervention or a casual conversation, confronting an addict about their addiction takes careful preparation. It’s not always hard to figure out what we want to say, but being able to say it in love, that’s another matter entirely.

Sometimes, knowing what not to say is even more critical. Here are 5 common phrases you’ll want to avoid when convincing an addict to accept treatment.

1. “Always” and “Never” Statements:

  • Don’t say: “You always miss the children’s games because you’re drinking.
  • Do say: “Last week, you missed Tim’s soccer match and Lisa’s two home tournaments because you were at the bar.”

Even when you feel justified in using blanket statements, specific examples are much more effective. Generalizations will make them defensive and opens a door for them to prove you wrong–or at least try to.

It’s much harder to deny specific facts than it is to disprove all-inclusive statements, even if both convey the same message.

2. Judgmental or resentful Statements:

  •  Don’t say: “You don’t seem to care about anyone but yourself.”
  • Do say: “I feel as though you don’t care about me.”

During such an emotionally charged conversation, it’s difficult present the facts without sounding judgmental or resentful. Try to use words that describe how you feel. Make “I” statements instead of “you” statements.

3. Second-hand examples:

  • Don’t say: “Rob told me what happened at work last week.”
  • Do say: “Three days ago, I heard you slurring your words when you put the kids to bed.”

Using information obtained from others can cause the addict to think that you are gossiping about him. Use specific personal examples, not information passed through the grapevine. Try to keep your examples recent, to a minimum. It doesn’t help to drag things up from the past unless there is a very good reason to do so.

4. False Empowerment statements:

  • Don’t say: “Just stop drinking. Pull yourself together.”
  • Do say: “Addiction isn’t something you can beat on your own, but help is available.”

Addiction is a powerful disease that requires treatment. It is not something that is achieved through sheer willpower. Many addicts think they can control their drinking. While they may be able to stop, simply quitting is different from a lasting, internal change.

5. Insincere Statements

  • Don’t say: “I understand, but…”
  • Do say: “I may not understand exactly what you’re going through, but I do know what it’s doing to your life. We want to see you get better and we’re here to help you so we can all get through this together.”

When an addict responds to the conversation with “You don’t understand!” it’s tempting to tell them that actually you do, but that approach is not going help them accept treatment. Unless really do understand, refrain from trite phrases like “I know how you feel.”

It’s much more powerful to acknowledge that you don’t understand but that you will continue to love, support and help them as they get help.

Stephen Booth is affiliated with Duffy’s Napa Valley (founded in 1967,) a 12-Step based residential drug and alcohol rehab center in Northern California. You can find them at @duffysrehab on Twitter and on Facebook.

Please Comment Below

1 Comment »

I think I heard my mom say ALL of the stuff NOT to say when I was growing up! I don’t know that it would have made a difference in my parents’ marriage or my dad’s alcoholism, but it would have been nice to have seen such a great example set. These are fantastic pointers, even for “normal” life.

Comment by Chrystal — May 6, 2014 @ 12:32 pm

Brilliantly said!

Comment by Sunrise Guided Visualizations — May 5, 2014 @ 10:19 am

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