Get help today or sign up for 24/7 text support.
American Addiction Centers National Rehabs Directory

How to Explain Addiction to Your Loved Ones

Very few people who haven’t experienced addiction themselves really understand it. For those affected, it can be a source of shame and humiliation — something they’d rather not discuss.

But addiction needs to be discussed. The people in your life will have questions and you should try to provide answers. Start with someone you trust, it might be someone who has already noticed you have a problem. Find a quiet place to talk, somewhere you can speak privately, and discuss your problem honestly. Stay calm and don’t argue.

The following are commonly asked questions an addict might be faced with, and suggestions for how to answer in a way your loved ones will understand.

Why can’t you just stop using?

Quitting takes time. You don’t become an addict overnight and in some cases trying to stop cold turkey can be dangerous. Consistent use of drugs or alcohol causes the brain to believe that those substances are necessary for survival — the same way breathing, eating, and sleeping are necessary for survival. When you suddenly deprive the brain of those substances it goes into shock, and the result can be seizure, heart attack, stroke, and even death. The safest way to detox is under medical supervision at a detox center.

What is this going to cost? How will you pay for it?

Detox and rehab are covered under most medical insurance plans. Check with your provider to see what type of alcohol or drug addiction treatment they will pay for, and for how long. Some commercial insurance companies will pay for a 28-day program, while others might allow for extended care. If you don’t have insurance, you may be eligible for state coverage. Check with your state’s government website or contact them by phone.

Fortunately, we live in an age where addiction is finally being recognized as a real disease. Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, offers increased benefits for treating mental illness and addiction, and because of this, more people will finally be getting the help they need. Check out the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) for more information.

How long will you be in rehab?

Your stay in rehab depends on a lot of factors, including the severity of your addiction, the amount your insurance company or the state is willing to pay, and your commitment to the treatment. You can leave rehab any time you want; it’s not jail. After a few weeks or even days you may feel that you no longer need treatment. They call this feeling the “pink cloud” — it happens as your head begins to clear and your body starts to recover. A lot of addicts fall victim to this feeling and leave rehab early believing they are cured. The fact is, addiction is never cured, it’s managed, and your mind and body can take up to a year or more to fully recover depending on how long you were using. It’s best to complete the program and have a plan ready for when you leave rehab.

Will you be cured?

There is a common misconception that addiction can be cured, but there is no cure for addiction — not yet anyway. Right now, all we can do is manage our addiction, first through treatment at a rehab center and then with the help of a customized recovery plan recommended by treatment providers. A recovery plan could include 12 step meetings, outpatient services, one-on-one therapy, medication, or all of these things combined.

How can I help?

Understanding is the most important thing any addict can ask of their family and loved ones. It can also be one of the hardest things to receive. There is a negative stigma attached to addiction, and not without reason. You might have said or done things that hurt the people around you. You might have caused problems in the family. It is important for everyone to understand that the person you are while on drugs is not the person you are when you’re not on drugs.

Mind-altering substances are called that for a reason. They can also be called personality-altering substances, morality-altering substances, behavior modifiers, etc. The list goes on. Explain to the people in your life that you are suffering from a disease, and you are ready to accept treatment.

Once you make the decision to enter rehab for alcohol or drug addiction, a lot of people will be relieved and some will wish you’d done it sooner. Your family and friends want to see you healthy and happy. Don’t be afraid to include them in your recovery plan. It will be important to have a strong support network available when you leave rehab. Be honest and open with the people you feel closest to, educate them, and never be afraid to ask for help.