Facing a Decision Point: Telling Your Family About Your Drug or Alcohol Problem
Whether you’ve been struggling with drug or alcohol abuse for just a few months or for many years, one of the most difficult things you will have to do is to tell your family about the problem. Reaching out to them may seem like an insurmountable task, but it’s a critical part of your recovery. They can provide logistical and emotional support, and having the issue out in the open will make it much easier for you to get the healing you need in a rehab program.
You’ll want to plan and prepare in several ways before telling your family about your substance abuse. If you’re ready, the time you spend talking with your family is more likely to go smoothly and lead to positive results. Through all of this, remember that your family ultimately cares about you and your well-being, and they are probably eager to do anything they can to help you in your road to recovery.
Set a Time and Place to Meet
One of the last things you want to do when telling your family about your substance abuse is to drag out the process by talking with all of your family members individually. Plus, once one knows, that person may start telling others, which is not ideal because you want to be the one taking responsibility for the task of telling people about your substance abuse. Therefore, the best way to tell your family is to hold a meeting where you can all talk together.
Choose a place that feels neutral and safe to you, and that’s large enough for everyone you want to tell to comfortably gather. Then let your family members know that you have some important life changes to discuss with them, and set a time for your meeting. If you can’t find a time when everybody can meet, you can touch base with others later, but plan on doing this the same day or the following day so they aren’t out of the loop. If your family members live too far away to tell them in person, consider having your discussion through a video conferencing program so you can see each other as you talk.
Be Honest About the Problem
Your main goal during the conversation with your family is to be completely open and honest about what you have been experiencing and how you currently feel. This is not the time to hide information or downplay the extent of your substance abuse. Even if you think the news will come as a surprise to them, there’s a good chance at least a few of them suspect that you have a problem and are just waiting for you to make the first move.
Before you start, it’s helpful to ask your family to listen until you’re done with what you have to say. This allows you to hit all of your talking points without being distracted by their questions or emotions, ensuring that you can be completely honest without leaving anything out. It helps to bring some notes with you to make sure you hit every topic. Some things you may want to address include how long you have had this problem, what substances you have been abusing, what effects they have on your life, and why you’re telling your family now.
Once you’ve outlined the situation, give your family a chance to ask questions. Your honesty remains critical as you answer them. Rather than being nervous about what they’ll think about you, see this conversation as a chance to let them in on the full situation you have been experiencing, and trust that they will respect your honesty and stick by you regardless of what your honest answers are.
Describe Your Proposed Solution
Another key component of your discussion with your family is what you’re going to do about your drug or alcohol problem. It’s best to have at least some ideas of what you plan to do now that you have revealed your problem. Research your options ahead of time so you can at least present them to your family for input. For example, you may recognize that you need to go through a detox program and then have therapy to address the underlying issues, but aren’t sure whether you should use a residential program or one that’s primarily an outpatient program.
Be Specific About How They Can Support You
One of the best parts about telling your family about your drug or alcohol problem is that you can lean on them for support. They have a key role to play during your rehab, and it’s your job to let them know what you need from them. Particularly if this news comes as a surprise, they may not know how to react, so don’t be shy about laying out your requests. For example, you may ask some close family members to participate in your counseling sessions, or you may just need logistical or financial help getting through your desired rehab program.
Ask for Input and Take it Seriously
Your family will likely have a lot to say about your situation, and you need to listen at least as much as you talk during your conversation. Directly ask family members for input several times during your conversation so they have a chance to ask questions and offer their own observations and suggestions. Especially if they already suspected a drug or alcohol problem, they probably have been thinking about ways to address it.
If your family members don’t have much to say during your initial conversation, follow up with them a few days later after they have had more time to think. This is one of the best ways you can show that you really do respect them and want them to be involved in your rehabilitation. And of course, come with an open ear when you ask for input. Your family knows you well, and the suggestions they offer are likely to be useful ones.
Be Thankful for the Help Your Family Can Provide
Throughout all of this, it’s important to remember that your family will play a key role in your recovery process. As the people who have known you for the longest and are stuck with you in the most permanent way possible, they will likely be more invested than anyone else in helping you deal with your drug or alcohol abuse. Even if they don’t react as well as you had hoped at first, they are eager to see you get your life back in order, and that’s something you shouldn’t take for granted.
As you continue to move forward through the drug or alcohol rehabilitation process, keep your family informed about how you’re doing and how they can help. Don’t be shy about expressing your gratitude for their support so far to help them feel involved and encourage them to stick with you as you finish off the process. Recovery is possible, and your family has a key role to play as you take steps toward freedom from drugs and alcohol.