How to Tell Your Parents You Need Help
Coming to terms with your addiction or substance abuse can take a lot of courage after defeat. Maybe you’ve done a lot of self-reflection, had too many negative consequences or are worried about your future because of drugs or alcohol. Accepting or seeking out help is the first major step toward recovery, and it’s always one that is worth taking.
However, sometimes it can feel like telling the people you love that you may need help for drugs or alcohol is more difficult than treatment itself. Learning how and when to tell your family you need some help can ease your mind about sharing this invaluable information with loved ones.
Timing Is Everything
Before we tackle the idea of how to tell your parents you need help with substance abuse, let’s talking about timing. We’re sure you’ve heard the phrase “timing is everything” and rolled your eyes at some point. However, when it comes to telling loved ones about your addiction, time really is of the essence. Once you’ve recognized your drug or alcohol use is out of your own control, talk to your family. Your parents love you and always want the best for you, even when they don’t agree with all of your decisions. Telling them at the beginning can help them become a useful support to you throughout your recovery period.
Why It Can’t Wait
There are so many reasons not to delay telling your parents you’d like help for substance abuse. First, once addiction sets in, the disease can really take over. While you may think just deciding to seek help is enough of a change to keep you safe or from using, it may not be. Telling your parents or loved ones you need help is an extra ‘safety net’ during this stressful time.
Another point to consider is that telling your parents sooner rather than later can have an effect on their response to your message. If your parents feel you are being and honest and open with them from the beginning, they are more likely to be helpful throughout the process. If your parents feel you’ve been hiding a secret or lying to them, they might feel hurt or betrayed and need to work through that before helping you.
What to Say
You know telling your parents you need help with drugs or alcohol is the right thing to do, and telling them soon is the most beneficial way to go about it, but what should you say? Thinking of the best ways to tell your parents something extremely personal can be difficult to do alone. Let’s talk about some things to make the entire conversation meaningful and helpful:
- Be honest. Coming to terms with the fact you need help with drugs or alcohol has already required you to do some self-reflection. When talking to your parents, use what you’ve learned about yourself and what red flags you’ve identified (health concerns, money problems, depression, suicidal thoughts, etc.) as indicators that help is needed. Be truthful about your drug and alcohol use and also about why you think you need help. This is the best way to encourage your parents to understand what you’ve been going through and to be supportive in the future.
- Don’t play the blame game. Maybe you blame your drug or alcohol problems on your parents or some other factor in your life, or perhaps you feel drugs or alcohol were your only option to feel better. This is all valuable, and your feelings are important. However, these are the things to talk about in treatment and/or with a counselor. When talking to your parents, focus on where you are in your sobriety and why you need help — not that you’re angry with them. At this point, you want help and support, but blaming your parents could stifle both in the process.
- Ask for what you need. Be specific with your parents about what it is you need help with now and in the future. It could be alcoholism, drug addiction, prescription abuse or mental illness. Whatever the condition you’re struggling with is, be specific with your parents. Next, tell your parents what kind of help you think you need. You might consider asking your parents to help you determine the right course of treatment, your financial options for treatment, and/or to support you in some other way (ridding the house of alcohol, for example). Being specific about your goals for treatment is the best way to ask for achievable help from your parents.
- Create a follow-up strategy. Talking to your parents about substance abuse and treatment can bring about feelings of embarrassment, shame, anger, hurt and betrayal. It will likely be an emotional conversation and one that may become clouded with feelings and judgment. Once you’ve talked about your concerns and asked for specific help, take accountability by suggesting a follow-up meeting. Saying something like, “Let’s meet again tomorrow evening, and I will bring information about the treatment center I’m thinking of to get your feedback” can go along way in showing your parents you’re serious and responsible about getting help.
Remember, the important thing is to talk to your parents as soon as you’ve identified a need for help in your life. Being open and honest with your parents is a terrific first step in meaningful, long-term recovery. To learn about our specific treatment plans and facility, visit our website.