Addiction is an isolating disease. If you’re anything like me, you don’t even want to consider the words associated with it.
I avoided “alcoholism,” “addict,” and “alcoholic” like the plague. If I admitted to these things, I felt like my life would be over. I didn’t want to admit defeat. Admitting I had a problem to myself and others, would mean that my fruitless efforts of years of attempting to show I had control of my unmanageable life, would be exposed. I wanted so badly for it not to be true.
When the day came that I could no longer go on with the amount of pain I was in, the first person I talked to about it was my mother. After I had accepted what was happening, I had to figure out how to tell my friends and family I am an alcoholic. Here is what I learned.
How to ask for help and support
The first way to tell your friends and family that you’re an alcoholic, or have alcohol abuse issues, is to ask for help. Your family and friends can be your biggest fans and your harshest critics.
If you’re looking for help with your addiction, there is no better place to ask than your loved ones, but it may be hard for you to bring up this sensitive topic. Here are a few things to consider when approaching the subject with your loved ones:
Addiction is powerful, and it can encourage lies, deceit, and desperate actions you might not normally take. If you’re lost, confused, or even unsure if you’re an alcoholic or not, tell your friends and family that. Tell them how you’ve been feeling.
Express your desire for help.
If you’ve already done the research about what help is available, bring this with you to the conversation. Be prepared to express your desire for help and what options you have in mind.
On the other hand, if you don’t have any options in mind, ask your friends and family if they can help you do the research on what your next step should be. They can help you search for addiction treatment centers, 12-step groups, or a therapist.
Explain why you are seeking help.
Your loved ones will want to know how you came to this decision and why now is the time to get help. This is where you can be honest with them about what brought you to this point and what you want your future to look like.
Ask for support.
Another way to tell your friends and family that you might be an alcoholic is to ask for their support. If you’re looking for guidance or advice, tell them. Let them know how hard this has been for you and that it’s important that you receive their love and support along the way. If you’ve already made the decision to go to a treatment center, share with them how their support will be important while you’re there and after you get out.
Prepare for resistance.
It’s possible that you could have hurt some of your loved ones during your active addiction. They may not believe you when you say you want to get sober, and some people still don’t believe the science behind addiction being a disease. Skepticism, anger, and defensiveness could come about in your conversation. It’s best to be prepared for this, stay calm, and committed to your goals. Be sure to understand and acknowledge their feelings, whatever those may be.
Don’t be ashamed.
If you’ve already gotten help or have some sobriety under your belt, and you’re breaking the news to your loved ones, do it without shame. You should be proud of yourself for facing your addiction head on and making changes in your life. As long as you accept who you are, what you’ve been through, and stay committed to where you’re going, your loved ones will understand.
Resources for families to better understand addiction
I would recommend bringing resources with you to help your friends and family get a basic understanding of addiction. If they aren’t familiar with the disease, they might believe common myths they’ve heard. You might point them to attending an Al-Anon meeting, a support group for family members and friends of problem drinkers. This is a place where they can go and find advice, experiences, and hope from other people who may be going through the same thing.
Another great resource for families of those struggling with addiction is The National Institute on Drug Abuse where they can answer questions like:
- Why can’t some people quit drugs on their own?
- Can anyone become addicted to drugs and alcohol?
- Why is it so hard to quit drugs?
- Can I explore treatment centers for a friend or family member?
- What should I look for in a treatment center?
- What is treatment like and how much does it cost?
It’s beneficial for everyone involved if your family seeks out factual information about alcoholism and addiction. They will learn that it’s a brain disease that needs treatment.
However, just like you need them to support, they’ll need support too. That’s why finding a support group or therapist is crucial in embarking on this recovery journey. You and your family do not have to walk this path alone.
Telling your family and friends that you’re an alcoholic can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be shameful or regrettable.
Admitting you have a problem is the first step on the road to recovery— a road that should be full of support from your loved ones along the way.