How to Talk to Your Partner About Their Substance Abuse

1. Do Your Research

Read books and articles about drug and alcohol addiction. If necessary, talk to a doctor, addiction specialist, or other medical or health professional to give you a better idea about what you should expect. It is vital to understand what substance abuse is and is not, for example it isn’t a disease, nor is it a moral failing. Try to read up on the most common aspects of the condition, such as denial, co-occurring conditions, and the concept of enabling.

2. Prepare Your Points in Advance

When you feel ready, write out your points and have them to hand during the conversation. It will undoubtedly be a difficult one, your list will help you stay clear-headed about your goals and what you want to say, for instance that you love them and are worried about them.

3. Create Clear Boundaries

There is a good chance your partner will not agree to stop abusing substances or get treatment. Clearly explain what actions you require them to take, and the consequences if they don’t. Perhaps you have reached the point that if they do not agree to treatment, you will leave them. Or maybe you want them to cut down to a certain number of alcoholic units a week, before considering next steps. Take some time to work out what your expectations are before explaining them calmly.

4. Do Not Enable

Enabling a loved one’s addiction is a complex relational dynamic that can be both hard to spot and stop. Signs to watch out for include:

5. Seek Professional Help (For You, Too)

Encourage your partner to speak to a doctor, nurse or a mental health professional. If a loved one is struggling with addiction, it will take its toll on your emotional wellbeing too. Look after yourself by prioritising adequate sleep, a healthy diet and exercise when possible. Speaking to a professional can also help ease your own fears.

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At Paracelsus Recovery, our treatment is grounded in our core principles of empathy, pragmatism and care. We design comprehensive treatment programmes tailored to each client’s unique needs.

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