AiR member Desperate Aunt wonders how honest she should be with her Loved One…
"Thank you for the modules and education on how to be more effective in assisting those I love, to recovery. I can't thank you enough for the support.
Since my last post, I have visited my family and am very happy and encouraged that one family member has gone onto a 30-90 program and continues to thrive.
His brother continues to do it his way and says he's going to meetings and we had a very scary conversation where he lied to me in person about not being high, then called and apologized that he lied. When I was completely honest with him about something I thought he did, and that the thought was outside of my norm, he became defensive and felt he was dead to his family and thought it best to not talk for a while. I was relieved when he texted me the next day and said I love you, and he knew I loved him and needed some time. Since then he has called and didn't want me to think he was mad at me, that he was in a bad way. Yet, he was very happy about a court case that was dismissed and he was going to continue to work and go to meetings.
How honest should I be with my Loved One?"
Hello Desperate Aunt:
How to talk with a Loved One is one of the most important things to learn. If you’re close to someone with an alcohol or drug problem, chances are you get lots of chances to interact.
70% of any relationship, whether alcohol and drugs are involved or not, is based on verbal communication.
So being aware of how you communicate and improving communication where you can is a critical skill you need now and going forward.
Module 4 provides the basics of communication:
- Stopping the negative talk
- Incorporating positive talk
- Learning to listen
Prepare yourself: there are at least three reasons communication skill-building may be hard:
1) You’re pretty fed up and exhausted from all the effort you have already put into trying to help your Loved One…. and here we are suggesting this (frankly challenging) piece of work!
2) I can almost guarantee that your Loved One is super-sensitive. You may think that there are no options for talking to your Loved One that won't cause a strong reaction. (Being over-sensitive is a hallmark of addiction. It is my belief that it is part of the reason drugs and alcohol were so attractive to your Loved One in the first place. They helped buffer the feelings of vulnerability that come with being in this world). Finding a way to communicate with someone who is very sensitive can be especially challenging.
3) Your Loved One may trigger you, since the relationship is intimate and stressful, making it that much harder to communicate thoughtfully.
You’re the aunt of two young men with opiate problems. I commend you for stepping in and learning how to help. Not everyone would. People with addiction need family and friends willing to do what you are doing. You are the hand reaching in that can pull them out and guide them to treatment.
Your goal is to keep that bridge between you open so that when it hurts, your Loved One will come to you and tell you so. You’ll be ready with a list of treatment options and the skills taught in Module 8 for how to suggest that treatment.
You had a conversation with one nephew that upset both of you. It sounds like you called him out on some weird behavior you suspected had to do with his being high. He reacted strongly, in a way that was really concerning.
Being direct with a Loved One and telling them they are high or their behavior suggests they are high…. is choppy waters. That sensitive nature I mentioned before is likely to get you two reactions: deny the use, or defend the right to use.
A couple of pointers when you're talking to your Loved One
Don’t talk to them when you suspect they are using. You’re wasting your precious energy. Say you are busy or don’t feel well and disengage.
If you do bring up use, do so later and as a stepping stone to your request that they get help. Use our request form (KO #15) to prepare and script out some good positive communication. Like this:
The following exercise is from KEY OBSERVATIONS #15: Making a Request
We make requests all the time. Use this form as a guide to construct a request that will get you to a "YES." When you're done filling in the exercise, read it out loud a couple times, skipping the questions.
Write out what you want from your Loved One below. Example: I'd like him to do the dishes.
I want my nephew to explore additional help for his addiction
1. Put yourself in their shoes with an understanding statement. Example: I can understand that doing the dishes is no fun.
I understand you are going to meetings and that you feel this is enough.
2. Own your part. Example: I am the one who likes the sink free of dishes.
I guess I am the one who is worried and feel strongly that more is needed.
3. How does it make you feel? Example: I feel so overwhelmed when the sink is full of dirty dishes.
I am feeling a lot of stress, worrying about you and your brother and I so want to help. I didn’t want to upset you at the time, but when X and X happened, I took it you were high. Your behavior scared me.
4. Offer to help. Example: Would it help if I got a different kind of sponge or a second dish rack?
I have found this recovery coach in your area that may give you a little more support than you are getting now.
5. Be positive, be brief, be specific. Example: Please put your dishes in the dishwasher before I come home from work.
How about we call him together, tonight at 7. He said he would be able to talk them.
Now put your answers together without the prompts:
I understand you are going to meetings and that you feel this is enough. I guess I am the one who is worried and feel strongly that more is needed. I am feeling a lot of stress, worrying about you and your brother and I so want to help. I didn’t want to upset you at the time, but when X and X happened, I took it you were high. Your behavior scared me. I have found this recovery coach in your area that may give you a little more support than you are getting now. How about we call him together, tonight at 7. He said he would be able to talk them.
I am very glad to hear your nephew got back in touch and admitted he had lied. That shows you are maintaining that bridge with him. This is how you guide a Loved One towards treatment and recovery. Knowing when and how to talk about use or treatment and when not to, will help you to be even more effective going forward.