Sometimes the kindest thing you can do for someone is the precise thing they really do not want you to do. With drug addicts this is certainly the case, and most addicts would far prefer that they could continue along with their addiction without anyone drawing attention to it. They’ll have created a whole host of lies to tell themselves they are not hurting anyone (including themselves) and addressing the issue will only hurt their pride and their dignity. We know that that is not the case however. We know that they are hurting themselves and those around them and that they are putting themselves in great danger and at great risk unnecessarily. It is important then to speak to them if you really care bout them, but you need to be prepared for an unpleasant or even violent reaction at the same time.
Fortunately there are some ways to help make this reaction less explosive and to address them so that they stay as calm as possible. At the same time talking to them in the right way will help to improve your chances of being effective and of their actually listening to you. Here then we will look at some things you need to bear in mind when speaking to a drug addict.
First of all, we have mentioned that they are trying to hold on to their dignity. If you are going to be successful in helping them to overcome the drug habit then you need to try and make sure they still feel they have some of their pride left. To do this you need to speak to them like an adult who is capable of making their own decisions, and not like a child or too much of a victim. At the same time associate with them and relate as best you can – perhaps you have struggled with an addiction in the past? If you open up to them then they might open up to you, just make sure that they know there is no shame in what’s happened to them. At the same time hit them with the facts – tell them what the chances are of their getting worse if they continue or recovering if they try right away.
Try to sound sincere and make sure they know you are doing this because you love them. While it can be a good idea to demonstrate how they are hurting other people, this can risk coming across as your only motivation – so make sure they know how concerned you are about them hurting themselves too. It can be a good idea to stage an intervention which means addressing them as a group. Make sure you have assembled a group of people who they know care about them, and whose opinion matters to them. The more of you agree, the harder it will be for them to shrug it off, and the more touched they’ll hopefully be by your display. It is hard when you see a grouping of all the people closest for you not to be moved and not to give some weight to what they have come to say. Meanwhile though, try to keep the group fairly small and intimate. This way they’ll be more comfortable opening up to you than they would be if every one of their work colleagues was there.
Remember to let them talk too, which feels less like being ganged up on. Ask them questions and try not to judge them for what they say (if you do, they will know). Do not gasp at the shocking things they say, do not contradict them (except for where absolutely necessary) and do not ‘steam roll’ over what they have to say. Try and think of it as a discussion, and for them as an opportunity to let some weight off of their shoulders – not as your forcing them to do what you recommend.