How to confront someone who is in denial about an addiction?

Confronting some one with an addciton.

Addictions cause people to behave in ways that they normally wouldn't. Whether it is drug addiction, alcoholism, sex addiction or any other addictive behaviour, it eventually causes harm and distress to family friends. Watching someone you love in the throes of an addiction is devastating.When thinking about confronting someone with an addiction there are some very important points to keep in mind.

1. Think about why you want to confront this person now. What outcome would you like to achieve. You probably want the person to stop their behaviour but you cannot make them do that. That is up to them.

2. What part of their addiction is causing you the most distress. Be specific. Is it violence, theft, illness, money, sexual behaviour, verbal abuse or other problems. You may be worried they will harm themselves. You may be worried about the effect on children.

3.Write down how their addiction has affected you. It might include: worry, illness, loss of income, legal problems, loss of friends and family, depression, fear, loss of trust and others.

4. Think carefully about what you will and won't accept in the future in this relationship. If you can't carry through with what you ask for then there is no point in stating your requests. Some ideas might be 'if you continue to do .... I will (leave you, move out, divorce you, have separate bank accounts, not spend time with you when you are drunk / stoned etc"

5. Think through how the person is likely to react to your confrontation based on their past behaviour. Most people do not like to be reminded of their problems. Chances are they know deep down they are out of control but are not ready to admit it. will they get angry or break down? Is there a risk of self harm if they are distressed? They may blame you for their problem.

6. The goal of confronting someone in denial about their addiction is for you to express your concern, your feelings and state what you will and will not accept in the relationship in the future. You cannot make someone stop being addicted so don't make the situation worse by thinking you can. Addiction is a serious medical and psychological problem that this person needs professional help with.

7. Choose a time when they are most coherent and least under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Don't confront someone in a group setting, It is more likely to result in them denying the problem even more. Don't confront them if there is any risk of violence.

8. Use "I" statements not "you' statements. Don't criticise or name call, verbal abuse won't help. State how you feel, how their addiction affects you and what you want to change. Here is one examples of how to get started.

"I feel really upset that you are using drugs/ drinking/ using pornography/ gambling as much as you do. I am worried sick about you and I am angry that your behaviour is affecting me and our relationship.

When you drink/ drug/ act out you treat me badly, you become angry and abusive and I feel scared, lonely and angry with you. I am angry that you have taken money from our accounts to pay for your problem and that you have lied to me. I find it difficult to trust you anymore.

I hate seeing you like this and I hate living like this. I want you to get help for your problem. I know you think you can beat if on your own and you have tried really hard to stop. You need help.

In future if you are drunk / stoned etc I will not spend time with you. I will not accept your abusive behaviour when you are affected by your problem and if you are violent I will leave and report it to the police..

I care about you and I want to see you happy and healthy again."

Then just listen, don't interrupt. It is up to them now to arrange help, not you. do not get caught up in their blame or remorse.

Groups like al-anon, or nar-anon are really helpful for family and friends of addicts. Living with an addict often results in co-dependent behaviour. You need to look after yourself now and stop trying to fix the addict.

Here are some links that may be helpful to family and friends of addicts.

Do you need nar-anon?

Nar-anon Australia

Al-anon UK

Al-anon & alateen (English / Spanish/ French)

Gam-anon US

Gam-anon UK

Comments 12 comments

teeray profile image

teeray 9 years ago from Canada

Great suggestions, Elouise. I particularly like point #8 about using "I" statements instead of "YOU" statements. Your suggested statements (with some pointedly simple choices for the addict) will also be really helpful little 'scripts' for someone to remember and memorize before going into intervention situations or confrontation situations with an addict. I think that some of the statements, because they contain 'choices' offer the addict a way to bypass feeling helpless and controlled in a critical situation.

You've given humane choices and suggestions with both the welfare of the person who will approach the addict as well as the addict in mind.

Thanks for sharing on hubpages!

Elouise 9 years ago Author

thanks teeray, I think it can be really hard for everyone involved to stay calm in these situations so a lthinking things through first can help reduce a bit of the stress.

Kate Tudor 8 years ago

Very responsible advice. You may also consider the service of an interventionist. It is very difficult to confront a person that you love, especially if they are deep in denial.

Kate Tudor 8 years ago

Very responsible advice. You may also consider the service of an interventionist. It is very difficult to confront a person that you love, especially if they are deep in denial.

sara 8 years ago

Great advice, but wut uf this person doesn't know i caught him with his hard core pornography? should i say i saw it by accident or should i say the truth?

recovering addict profile image

recovering addict 8 years ago

Thanks for this hub...

Do you think that it is helpful to have some form of treatment lined up for them for after your confrontation - so that you can say "I want you to get help....and I've already arranged for someone for you to talk to..." or something like that?

WHat you wouldn't want, and what happens a lot, I think - is that they 

Deepak 7 years ago

I was an addict of alcohol for 12 years and i was powerless over it and my lives had became unmanageable.After 12 years i accepted all these and now i am soberthrough AA(alcoholic anonymous)

scottys thoughts 6 years ago

Good Job, but its hard to confront someone with an addiction, I didn't listen to people!! I had to decide it was time for me!!

HattieMattieMae profile image

HattieMattieMae 5 years ago from Limburg, Netherlands

Very nice article, and very accurate. If only it always worked, most of the time, people want to hold on to their addictions. It's been there best friend for years. It is there crutch and they fight themselves trying to let go and let God. Some succeed and others don't! It's an amazing adventure when you see the ones that do recover!

Mike the "quit smoking weed" man 5 years ago

You made some very good points here. Denial is always big part of addiction and I guess if my wife would not have confronted me with the consequences of doings, I would most likely still be blowing my mind off.

Okbob 2 years ago

I think there are some good points, but it sounds like this was written by a woman. I recently told I friend that is an addict strait up what I felt. I said look, Even with a cursory glance I can tell your on drugs, everyone can. Everyone at work can, don't kid yourself. Whatever your on, quit it, you look like shit and your going to loose your job. He was shocked but didn't get mad.

HotNickelsNYC 2 years ago

My beat friend is a addicted to sex I've known for abt two years now...I've been supportive...I've listened...I've suggested multiple options for outreach purposes...I've actaully contacted several therapist support groups...I've given her several dosages of tough love in which has greatly effected our friendship...I am at wits end...our friendship is on the rocks to a point she won't speak to me...I want to give up...I am devastated and fear for the worse...she has a 13 year old daughter she is a teacher she has contracted genital warts...and she is obviously in denial...I feel helpless!!

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