How to Communicate with an Addict

Effective communication is essential when trying to help a loved one acknowledge their addiction. Addiction is a family disease. Alcoholism and drug addiction affects the whole family. You feel frustrated, confused, and your endless worry has manifested into immense emotional and physical stress. There is hope. While you cannot cure the disease, you are in a good position to have an impact on your loved one. With love, patience and compassion, you can establish a safe environment to communicate openly and honestly.

healthy communicationShow unconditional love without enabling:

Addiction breaks down self-esteem and can leave a person feeling helpless and hopeless. Showing love and concern provides the opportunity for addicts to speak honestly to you about their addiction. Assure them that your love is unconditional, regardless of how severe their addiction may be. Unconditional love should never be confused with enabling. Enabling creates an environment where an addict can comfortably continue to drink and use. It is detrimental to both the addict and your ability to guide them towards recovery. Examples of enabling include making excuses for their addiction, paying their rent, ignoring the issue, bailing them out of jail repeatedly, etc. You need to inform your loved one what behavior and actions are not acceptable. Setting clear boundaries, and sticking to them, decreases the likelihood of future enabling behavior and shows you aren’t making empty threats.

Listen and refrain from judgment:

One of the biggest fears an addict experiences is the idea of disclosing the truth about their addiction. Their only greater fear is the idea of living a life without drugs and alcohol. If your loved one has made the courageous decision to speak to you about their addiction, do your best to remain calm and listen. Try to understand their point of view. Allow them to express themselves. You may hear things you find upsetting or shocking. Try to refrain from showing judgment. Chances are they feel shame about their actions already. Showing judgment will close the line of communication and the chance of helping them will diminish.


You may feel that this conversation has to happen now and on your terms. When approaching a loved one about their addiction, it is best to inform them that you want to discuss the issue. Allow them the opportunity to choose the time in which you have this conversation. This does not mean that they have the choice to put off the conversation indefinitely. Establish a time frame for the conversation. Allowing your loved one to choose the time for discussion decreases the chances of a hostile and defensive exchange.

Support the process of change and seek information and help:

Discussing the possibility of change is terrifying for an addict. At this point and time, living a life without drugs and alcohol feels impossible. Inform your loved one that it takes courage to ask for help and even more courage to accept it. Tell them that you are willing to support the process of change. Provide them with the assurance that you will be there for them throughout the entire process. Show them you are willing to understand their addiction. Attend Al-Anon meetings for information and support. Research addiction and read Alcoholics Anonymous literature. If your loved one is unwilling to listen or unwilling to change, professionals can help. If your loved one is willing to listen and willing to change, it is recommended to seek professional assistance to help devise a treatment plan.

Don’t lose hope:

Most importantly, there is always hope. Don’t lose hope in your loved one and don’t lose hope in yourself.

  • Miracle House Mom
    Posted at 07:23h, 26 April Reply

    What a good, powerful message.

  • julia Darrow
    Posted at 13:40h, 26 April Reply

    this is the perfect advice for right now for me.. thank you

    Posted at 22:45h, 07 August Reply

    My son is 26 years old… at this point, still, there is no option to ‘talk’…. I sent him an email… including all the above things… love, unconditional, etc etc…. I was wondering if good educational stuff on the drug he is addicted to… what it does to a person…. and contact info for help…. is this a good idea to send to my adult child who lives 12 hours away…. Thank you for your help!

    My name is Louise Thibodeau, my email address is [email protected]

    • Derek Free
      Posted at 19:00h, 31 August Reply

      Louise –

      Providing resource and educational materials to your son can absolutely be beneficial–if he is in a place where he also knows that he may need help. Continuing to support him with loving detachment is essential. Should your situation escalate or you need additional help and guidance please do not hesitate to call New Life House.

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