4 Things to Say (And Not to Say) to a Loved One Struggling with Addiction

Talking to a loved one about their addiction is hard. 


It takes a lot of courage and honesty to speak up. And oftentimes people are afraid of saying the wrong thing and worried it will only make matters worse.


Take a deep breath and remain calm. It’s important to remember that emotions can run high, for both parties.


Your loved one may try and avoid focusing on the issue, and may not be willing, or able, to have a real conversation about it. They may lash out in anger, guilt, aggression, or try to rationalize their addiction.



It’s important to remember that addiction is a disease, not a choice, and often takes professional help before things get better. If someone you love is struggling with addiction, here’s a list of some things to say and not to say:


4 Things Not to Say


  • Why can’t you just stop – No one chooses to become addicted and if was that easy to just stop, no one would be addicted to anything. Also, it is more than likely that your loved one has already tried to quit multiple times. Most people need to seek professional help to break their addiction. Instead, understand that if your loved one could simply stop, they would have already and avoid making their addiction sound like an easy fix.


  • You should be ashamed of yourself – Insulting and belittling the character of your loved one is only going to make the situation worse. Individuals suffering from addiction already deal with shame and guilt on a daily basis. They are living in a lonely and dark place most of the time and they don’t want to live this way. Instead, showing compassion, encouragement, and kindness in your words is what your loved one needs to hear right now.


  • You need to try this treatment  – Everybody is different. Each path to recovery varies and is specific for each individual. When it comes to substance use disorder, people are often comfortable offering treatment advice without fully knowing what is best for a particular individual. Telling your loved one to do a specific type of treatment that they are not interested in can make the situation worse and discourage them from getting help. Instead, try suggesting a type of treatment to do some research on and see how they feel about it.


  • I’m so mad at you right now – It’s common to feel angry towards your loved one, that is why it’s important to understand the nature of the addiction and how your loved one is struggling. If you need to vent your anger about your loved one’s addiction, talk to a third party, friend, or therapist. Adding to the guilt that your loved one is already dealing with will not help them. Instead, hide any anger that you may feel towards your loved one and remain calm. 


4 Things to Say


  • If you want to get better, I’m here for you – Express your unconditional love and support to your loved one, without enabling. This can be very moving and powerful especially if your loved one has lied or hurt you physically or emotionally in the past. It’s an opportunity to show them that the relationship between you two is not completely damaged and gives them motivation to rebuild trust.


  • You haven’t failed, you just need guidance – Addiction is a disease and no one intends to become an addict by choice. Telling your loved one that they haven’t failed and they need more help is what they need to hear. The first step to recovery is to stop pointing fingers and start taking responsibility for the choices that allow the addiction to continue.


  • Things can get better – Addiction is painful and it can seem hopeless. Your loved one is in a dark place and needs a reminder that there are brighter days ahead if they are willing to take the next step. Simply reminding them that life doesn’t have to remain bad if they are willing to take action.


  • It’s okay to ask for help – Tell your loved one that getting help is the bravest and best thing they can do for themselves. Make sure they understand that getting help is nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone needs help, regardless of what it is at some point in their life and it shouldn’t be looked at as a weakness.


Next Steps


Your loved one must choose to get over their addiction on their own, you can’t force them. It’s difficult knowing that you can’t do it for them but you can be there and support them through their journey to recovery.


The best course of action for you to take is being there for your loved one, offering help when they need it, and support them without enabling. 

If your loved one is struggling with addiction and you need additional help, Arbor Place is here to support you. Visit our site for FREE resources for addiction treatment, contact us, or give us a call at 715-235-4537 to talk confidentially.