How to Talk to an Addict About Addiction in Alberta

How to Talk to an Addict About Addiction in Alberta

Realizing someone you care about in Edmonton, Red Deer or Calgary has a problem with addiction is extremely difficult to process and accept. Once you get over your denial and recognize there is a real problem, you need to take action whether or not a loved one is ready to get help. But what can you do? Addicts and alcoholics are often in denial too; it’s their nature. 

Unfortunately often any feedback you give them about their behaviour will likely be seen as a misplaced concern, or worse, criticism. It won’t matter how you approach the conversation either. You can be civil and say all the right things and calmly present the facts, or you can raise your voice and threaten divorce or jail. But if they aren’t ready to see reality, there’s likely not a lot you can do to convince them otherwise. That doesn’t mean you should stop trying. Make repeated efforts to talk to them about their behaviour. Every time a new incident occurs, whether it be a forgotten appointment, missed workday, or financial calamity, use it as an opportunity to nudge the conversation toward convincing your loved one to seek help. 

Involving a professional interventionist in Alberta is often your best chance for success. Success is getting your loved one to agree to go to treatment or rehab in Alberta (or elsewhere) and gaining long-term recovery from alcohol or substance misuse. 

The first step is to talk to the person and help them recognize that there is a serious problem. Then you need to help them understand that they can overcome this problem.

Do – Talk When They Are Sober

talk when they are sober

You want to make sure your loved one is sober and clear-headed when you confront her. That is why catching him or her upon waking and before he or she has had the chance to take the first drink might be your best chance of having a level-headed conversation. 

You probably won’t make much progress if you try to convince a person that they have a problem while they are suffering under the influence of the very problem you want to talk about. Occasionally you might get a response, but any revelations made under the influence tend to be short-lived. Try to predict when the person you need to help will be sober and catch up with them then.

You may think that because he isn’t “that drunk” that he’ll be able to handle the conversation, but the reality is that substances of any sort are mood and mind-altering by design, so even just a little can cause your loved one to react in an irrational and overly emotional manner. Be patient and wait until he has sobered up. Remaining calm and withholding judgment may be well and good, but what exactly are you supposed to say when you finally have your loved one in front of you? Are there particular phrases or words that might have more of an effect than others? We put that question to some of the staff at Las Vegas Recovery Center and here is the advice they had to share.

Do – Listen

Everyone wants to be understood. Everyone wants to be heard. A lot of what those struggling with addiction will say when you talk to them about addiction will be evasion, denial, or rationalization but it is all-important. You need to let them discover and express all the ways they want to duck out of realizing they have a real problem. Only by doing so can you address these dodges. If you don’t listen, they can keep their excuses hidden. If their excuses are hidden, you can’t explain why they are not good reasons for using drugs or alcohol.

Do – Stay Calm

stay calm

Trying to help someone in active addiction in Alberta can be frustrating. Very frustrating. If you get emotional, that is going to put stress on the person you are talking to. Someone with a substance misuse disorder under stress is going to be tuning you out and thinking about how to get back to the safety of their addiction, not hearing your plea for them to start taking care of themselves or caring about others around them.

Save the venting for other friends and family members. Not the addict themselves. When it’s time to talk to your loved one about his or her substance use, it’s important to remain as cool and calm as possible. Stick with the facts and whatever speech you’ve rehearsed (use one of our interventionists in Edmonton or Calgary to help you write your letter and stick to the facts). Your loved one will likely get angry and defensive and may try to pick a fight, but resist the urge to be drawn into an argument. Say what you need to say and then exit the conversation.

Do – Be Compassionate and Show Empathy

You are trying to help. So focus on being helpful. Don’t get mad or try to punish the addict. That is not helpful. Be careful to avoid shaming the addict. A person who feels ashamed will lack confidence and will to change. Shame and addiction LINK make a vicious cycle and you need to help the person that you care about avoid that self-destructive whirlpool, not throw them into it.

During an intervention in Alberta empathy and support can be shown when a family member could use these sentences as softer approach tactics…

  • Please consider that you might have a drug or alcohol problem. Just think about it.
  • I’m worried about you and fearful of something bad happening to you as a result of your drug or alcohol use.
  • It is a real problem for me to see you hurting yourself and I am not willing to justify seeing you do this and not say or do anything about it.


It can be easy to judge, especially when the person’s behaviour seems so wrong and the solution to her problems seems so clear. Why can’t you just get your act together!? Is something you might be tempted to yell. Reacting harshly will likely only cause your loved one to shut down or get defensive. It can help to remember that addiction is not a choice; it’s a disease. Your loved one may have made a choice to use that first time, but once addiction sets in, the freedom to choose to use or not use longer exists. Any rational decision-making skills she may have once had are now completely clouded by his or her mental illness.

Do – Explain How Their Addiction Affects Other People

couple discussion

Addicts are often self-centred and selfish. It;’s the disease of addiction, not the true nature of the person suffering. They live in denial. You may be amazed at how an addict is able to ignore the impact they have on not only their own lives but on those around them too. Many people in Alberta struggling with addiction or alcoholism suffer from believing they don’t deserve to be happy, so trying to convince them to stop harming themselves can be very difficult. In these cases, pointing out how they are harming others may help them realize that they have a problem.

Rather than discussing the relative merits of his or her behaviour, focus on how those specific behaviours have made you feel. Use “I” statements and don’t hold back. Be brutally honest. There is no reason to protect him from the truth or feel guilty about your feelings. If you felt humiliated by the way your loved one acted at that party, tell him. If you feared for your life when your loved one drove drunk, you need to let him know. Those in the throes of addiction are so completely preoccupied with their own feelings, desires, and needs that they are often completely clueless about how their behaviour has been affecting others.

Do – Promote Treatment and Rehab

By a definition that is broadly accepted by people working to help people overcome addiction, an addict cannot beat addiction on their own. Some outside help is needed. Maybe an addict can succeed in recovery just by going to AA meetings in Alberta but for most that are not enough. Most people need individual therapy, and some people need full-on in-patient rehab to succeed. One way or another, help is needed. Try to get the person to commit to taking specific steps to seek help in the form of evidence-based addiction treatment in Edmonton or Calgary. Our team of interventionists and addiction specialists can help you sort through the many options available to you and your loved ones in Alberta or elsewhere

Do – Consider a Professionally Run Intervention

Sometimes one person talking to an addict is not enough. And sometimes a lot of people are not enough either. But a lot of people who care about working together under the guidance of a skilled therapist will often succeed where other approaches have failed. So if you cannot convince an addict to seek rehab on your own, you should definitely consider an intervention.

Learn More About Our Addiction Recovery Program

addiction recovery program

Those with a substance abuse problem can be analyzed, counselled, reasoned with, prayed over, threatened, beaten, and locked up, and they will not stop using until they are ready to stop using. The way a person is living with a drug or alcohol addiction usually becomes unacceptable to everyone around them long before it becomes unacceptable to themselves. When it is unacceptable to the addict, change is possible. 

At Andy Bhatti Intervention and Addiction Services, we offer support for people throughout Alberta who are struggling with all types of addiction and we offer support for their t families. You are here reading this, so it is probably time for you or someone you care about to take the first step towards a much better life. It takes work but you can leave the unfulfilling cycle and the suffering behind.

If someone you care about has a problem with drugs or alcohol or any other form of addiction, talk to someone who understands. We are here to help. Call one of our Interventionists or Addiction Specialists today. It is never too early or late to intervene when it comes to alcoholism and addiction.

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