A hidden addiction is a challenge for both individuals and families. Addiction can cause behaviors such as continuous denial, pushing family and friends away, and acting in ways that can damage relationships, goals and character. These behaviors result in emotional stress and frustration for everyone involved.

But in many cases, the denial that fuels secrecy and deception holds more information than what is on the surface.Often, the person struggling with addiction feels ashamed, and denial or avoidance seems like the best option. She doesn’t want to hurt her loved ones, so she tries to shield her loved ones from the self-destruction.

Staging an intervention is often a go-to strategy for concerned family members of an addicted person. However, the repercussions of substance abuse — deterioration of physical health, damage to or destruction of relationships, loss of career or job, financial instability — are enough to make some addicts want to recover. They simply may not know how to go about it. Talking it out — understanding why they should come clean and how to do it — could help a lot of people seek treatment before they become the disease’s next casualties.

Why Come Clean?

Mother comforting addict daughterAlmost everyone who struggles with substance abuse has considered admitting their problem to their loved ones, but for one reason or another they often talk themselves out of sharing the real issues. The many reasons why people don’t admit their addictions have been well documented, but the reasons to admit a substance abuse problem — though somewhat obvious — are talked about less frequently.

There are many reasons why it’s good to come clean. But the best reason is the most basic: because honesty is the first step to recovery.1 Admitting substance abuse can help you and your family begin to heal, and it may initiate long-needed discussions about creating a healthier family.

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Preparing for “The Talk”

Admitting substance abuse can help you and your family begin to heal.

While coming clean is the best thing to do, that doesn’t mean it will be easy. It requires a certain level of responsibility and accountability that many people avoid during active addiction. In fact, having the talk may feel unnatural or frightening at first because people struggling with substance abuse disorder want to protect the addiction by whatever means necessary.

Even when a person chooses to give up substance abuse, the idea that he or she has the option to return to the drug of choice in the future often remains in the back of his or her mind.

Family support and wellness can play a major role in the recovery of an addicted person. Families can help their loved ones by seeking support of their own in the form of family therapy, support groups, and individual counseling. It is common for those who choose the path of recovery to admit to the occasional thought of using “one last time” because addiction is a disease that warps the mind and one’s ability to behave rationally.2 

This is also why it’s beneficial to include family and friends in the recovery process. However, instead of sitting them down and laying everything out in the open, there are ways to prepare for the discussion ahead that can help a person be more open and less defensive.

Attend Support Groups for Practice

Support groups have remained an essential recovery tool since the genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935. These recovery fellowships offer people in recovery communities in which they feel understood, supported and encouraged by the examples set by others who have gone through the same process. There’s been much evidence to suggest that support groups reduce a person’s chance of relapsing, but support groups can also be used as practice for coming clean to one’s family.

The only requirement for membership to most support groups for addicts is the desire or willingness to get sober.

The only requirement to attend or join most support groups is the willingness to get sober. When it comes to preparing for talking to your family about being addicted, support groups provide an opportunity to observe others as they speak openly to a group of people.

Speaking to the group can even be great practice, and the promise of anonymity and a nonjudgmental audience take away much of the pressure, allowing you to become more comfortable conveying your message.3 Additionally, online support groups and message boards offer an even greater level of anonymity and the opportunity to solicit advice from other members who are happy to offer their feedback and advice.

Take Time to Map Out Everything You Want to Say

In addition to practicing your delivery, it’s good to take the time to plan out what you want to say. This is a step that’s easy to overlook because many assume that sitting down and admitting the addiction is all there is to it. That’s likely why so many people struggling with addiction are daunted by the prospect of telling their loved ones.

Instead of simply blurting out a confession, it’s important to give one’s family and friends a little more contextual information that will help them to be more understanding.

Tell Them How They Can Help

Rather than admitting an addiction to loved ones and leaving them to wonder how to respond or proceed as the situation moves forward, tell them how they can contribute to your recovery. This will show them that you’ve put a lot of thought and intention into this exchange and that you’re serious about getting sober.

If there is anything that loved ones can do to facilitate or expedite treatment and recovery, allow them to help. By encouraging their involvement, it will give them hope for the future, which is important during what is already a very emotional time. In essence, after a period of separation during substance abuse, having “the talk” with loved ones can be the step that begins your reunion with family and friends, as well as your first step toward addiction rehabilitation.

While it’s not necessarily easy to overcome an addiction, we can help you or someone you love get the support and treatment necessary to become healthy and sober once again. Call us at 269-280-4673 anytime, day or night, speak with one of our recovery specialists and begin the recovery process today.

Written by Dane O’Leary


1 Hartney, E. “Addict Games That Frustrate and Manipulate Those Around Them.” Very Well. 23 Aug 2016. Retrieved 2 Jul 2017.

2 Spencer, R., Popovich, N. “The Mind of a Heroin Addict: The Struggle to get Clean and Stay Sober.” The Gardian. 11 Feb 2014. Retrieved 2 Jul 2017.

3 Rothman, J. “How Support Groups Can Aid in Addiction Treatment.” Everyday Health. 20 April 2009. Retrieved 2 Jul 2017.