When someone you love is addicted to methamphetamine, you’ve probably confronted them dozens, maybe even hundreds, of times in your head. But the powerlessness, lack of control, and hurt you feel can make having that conversation, in reality, feel impossible. Wyoming Licensed Professional Counselor Erin Ford sympathizes with this common struggle. “You have all of these competing emotions of love, hate, hurt, confusion, helplessness. You want to lash out at this person and fix their problems for them all at the same time,” she said. Unfortunately, talking to them is the only thing you can do. To help start this conversation, Ford suggests starting with an unexpected approach. Know what you’re not going to say, and the right words may fall into place.
1. This is my fault. Addiction is complicated. It’s layered. Abuse or neglect notwithstanding, no one is responsible for someone else’s addiction. Parents, especially, can carry this weight, but there are a multitude of reasons your loved one started meth. You may never truly understand how or why your loved one got addicted, but it wasn’t your fault. Ford says this mentality can put an unnecessary and undeserved burden on you while enabling the meth user to evade accountability, which is harmful to both of you.
Instead, try: You have my support through recovery.
2. This is your fault. Personal accountability is crucial. Accepting responsibility for his or her behavior and choices is a critical step to recovery, but placing blame oversimplifies addiction. Unfortunately, addiction is the reality now, and there’s no going back in time to reverse it, so Ford proposes thinking forward rather than looking back.
Instead, try: What are you going to do now to get sober?
3. Why don’t you just stop? Your loved one desperately wishes he or she could. Unfortunately, meth’s physical and psychological hold over a user is devastatingly uncontrollable and enormously consuming. Reducing addiction down to sheer willpower and asking this question belittles the disease and what your loved one is feeling, even if that isn’t your intention. Ford says this question typically comes from a place of inexperience. If you’ve never been addicted to a substance, it’s difficult to comprehend why someone can’t just stop, but sadly, addiction doesn’t work that way.
Instead, try: I believe in you.
4. Isn’t your family/kids/job/____ important to you? Aren’t I important to you? If you’re willing to have this conversation with him or her, there’s at least one person that’s important to them. If a user is even considering recovery, their love of you, their family, job, hobby, etc. is at the heart of why they want to stop using.
Instead, try: Your family/kids/job/_____ is worth fighting for. I am worth fighting for.
5. Let’s grab a drink.
Substance use is easily transferred, and though legal, alcohol is another mind-altering, addictive drug. It can reduce further reduce impulse control and increase depression later. Encouraging your loved one to replace meth with alcohol isn’t a solution to addiction. Instead, Ford says to remind your loved one that he or she can have fun without substances.
Instead, try: Let’s go for a walk.
6. Everything will be fine once you’re sober.
Hedonic happiness is the release of dopamine; it’s why we seek instant gratification through retail therapy or ice cream for a breakup. Meth fulfills that type of gratification multiplied by thousands. Hedonic happiness by getting high is what your loved one has been chasing through addiction, so assuring them that they’ll be happier when they’re sober sets them up for disappointment. Recovery is a lifelong uphill battle. Ford’s clients are often surprised when she tells them they may not always be happier after they’re sober. Of course, they’ll find happiness, but it will be different, Ford says. The pursuit of long-term, meaningful goals like sobriety is called eudaimonic happiness, and this is what they’ll experience post-recovery. Though gratifying and rewarding, it’s not as powerful as hedonic happiness, but unlike hedonic happiness, it will last.
Instead, try: Your hard work will eventually be worth it.
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