Admitting you’re an alcoholic is the first step in a 12-step program, and for good reason. Doing so allows you to accept your dependence on alcohol and begin to forgive yourself. It also gives you the opportunity to reach out to friends and family whose support you will need during recovery.
Even if you understand how important it is to tell your family about your addiction, actually admitting it isn’t easy. This post discusses how to talk about addiction with your loved ones and helps you create a plan that leads to a positive conversation.
Know You’re Not Alone
Alcoholism can be very isolating. You may feel ashamed or embarrassed by your inability to quit drinking on your own or of things that you did or said while you were under the influence. Before you consider how to tell your family about your addiction, it’s important to put things into perspective.
An estimated 14.5 million people aged 12 and over in the United States have alcohol use disorder. Alcoholism and other types of addiction are diseases that require treatment just like any other condition. You wouldn’t expect family or friends to judge you if you developed cancer or heart disease. Understand that admitting you’re an alcoholic is similar and remind yourself of this when you feel nervous or anxious about having that important conversation.
Set Goals Before Admitting You’re an Alcoholic
When people plan an intervention for a loved one struggling with alcoholism, an addiction specialist will encourage them to set goals. Coming into the conversation with a clearly defined purpose helps to keep things productive and focused.
As you prepare to tell family about your addiction, take this same approach. Ask yourself what you hope to accomplish with this conversation. Picture the ideal outcome you hope to have. Do you hope your family pledges its emotional support? Are there practical matters you need help with, such as having someone help with your children while you’re in treatment?
When setting goals for your conversation, assess how reasonable they are. Consider the thoughts and feelings of your loved ones and how your behavior may have affected them. For example, if your drinking has caused abusive behavior, a loved one may not be ready to forgive you and lend their full support.
Prepare yourself to accept the reactions of your family, both good and bad. Recognize that you might not accomplish your goals. If you don’t, make sure you’re ready to continue on your journey toward recovery and that you don’t allow any disappointment to deter you from improving your life.
Tips on Talking About Addiction
Following these tips may be beneficial when talking to your loved ones and admitting you’re an alcoholic.
1. Speak From a Place of Honesty
Now is the time to be completely open about your struggles with drinking. Don’t sugarcoat things or hide anything during your conversation. If your loved ones believe you’re leaving something out or being dishonest, they are less likely to put faith in your desire to change and to lend their support.
Prepare to be vulnerable during this conversation. Allow yourself to become emotional. Don’t try to hide what you’re feeling. Describe your emotions in the moment. Take responsibility for your actions and avoid blaming others for your drinking.
Many people become very skilled at concealing their drinking and may default to old habits if the conversation grows stressful. If someone asks you a difficult question, say that you need a moment to put the answer into words, so you’re less likely to resort to lying out of impulse.
2. Make Your Desire for Help Known
Early in the conversation, be sure to point out that you want to get help for addiction. Having already spoken with a treatment center like FHE may be beneficial, as it can show your loved ones that you’re serious about changing your life. The more certain your family and friends are that you’re committed to quitting drinking, the more likely they are to willingly lend their support.
3. Describe Your Journey to This Point
Often, one of the first things people ask when being told about someone’s addiction is, “Why now?” The people you love have likely known you have a drinking problem for some time. In some cases, they may have given up trying to help you. Now that you’re admitting you’re an alcoholic, they may be tempted to make it about them and wonder why they didn’t succeed.
To keep the conversation going in a positive direction, tell your friends and family members what led you to this point. Describe how you came to terms with the truth. Did something specific happen or did the realization come to you slowly? Offer as much detail as possible, so that your loved ones understand your motivations.
4. Ask for Specific Help You Need Without Making Assumptions
Seeing a friend or family member caught in the cycle of addiction can lead to feelings of helplessness. There is a good chance that your loved ones desperately want to help you but don’t know how. If you just say, “I’d like your support” or “I need your help,” you put the responsibility of figuring out the best way to help on them.
Instead, be prepared to tell your family specific ways that they can assist you. You could say something like, “Would you come with me to visit the treatment center?” or “Could you write to me while I’m in rehab?” Whether you need something small or big, ask for it, but don’t assume that your loved ones will be willing to do it. If they decline, do your best to be understanding.
5. Follow Up if Necessary
Don’t view the conversation with your family as your one chance to connect. If you don’t achieve your goals, remain in contact. Write a letter or send a text or email to follow up. It may take time to repair and rebuild some relationships.
What to Do Before You Tell Family About Addiction
Admitting you are an alcoholic may feel less overwhelming if you can tell your family what steps you intend to take to overcome your addiction. FHE Health can help you begin your journey toward a life free of alcohol through outpatient or inpatient treatment. Contact FHE today and take the first step toward getting help.