- Write down your feelings first. Before you approach someone about the topic of addiction, it’s best to clarify your own feelings in writing. People with substance abuse problems are likely to get angry, defensive, or manipulative when they’re confronted. They might yell or cry, and blame you for their problem. When you have your feelings set down in writing, you can turn back to those words when things get tough.
- Get help from someone with experience in interventions. There are a lot of professionals who have experience at talking with people who are abusing alcohol or drugs. This kind of conversation is often known as an intervention. You probably have someone in your life who could help you arrange an intervention: a counsellor, school nurse, coach, priest, or rabbi who can help you set up a meeting with a parent or refer you to someone who can act as an intervention leader.
- Ask other relatives or concerned persons to participate. If someone in your life is abusing substances, it’s likely that other people are affected too. These people might include siblings, aunts or uncles, neighbours, or employers. Any of these people could help you state your case when you talk with a parent; remember, there’s strength in numbers.
- Arrange a time when your parent will be sober. When you approach a parent about drinking or drug use, it’s best to talk to them when they are clearheaded and sober. Talking to someone who’s high, drunk, or hungover probably will not be productive.
- Keep the conversation calm. It’s hard not to get angry, upset, or emotional when you’re talking with someone about the damage they’re doing to themselves and to the rest of your family. But if you can stay reasonably calm and avoid outbursts of emotion, you’ll be able to express your feelings more clearly, and in the end, you’ll be more persuasive.
- State your expectations clearly and in writing. Before you talk with a parent about substance abuse, make sure you know what your goals and expectations are. Do you want them to go to rehab? Go to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting? You can work on these goals with the person you chose to help you in Step 2, then write them down in the form of a recovery plan or agreement. Other people in your life, such as relatives, employers, or spiritual leaders, can help you set these goals.
- Get help making sure your parent follows through. People who are confronted about their substance abuse may promise to get clean and sober, and a lot of times, they mean it. But addiction is a powerful disease, and it’s easy to fall back into old habits, especially where intoxicating drugs are concerned. You’ll need at least one strong person to help you make sure your parent goes through with the promise to go to detox or rehab, and to follow up with them on a regular basis.
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