- Jan 24
Addiction is a disease, not a moral failing or a lack of willpower. If you’ve encountered obstacles with explaining what addiction feels like to family and friends, you’re not alone. Remember that your experiences with addiction are valid. To help explain addiction to a non-addict, use this guide and helpful tips to start the conversation.
Helping Loved Ones Understand Addiction
When you’re describing addiction, your family and friends may find it challenging to put themselves in your shoes. Others may have formed an opinion of drug or alcohol addiction based on movies, television shows and the media. Before starting the conversation, it may be necessary to do some research showing that addiction is a disease that deserves medical attention.
To help explain your experience with addiction, consider describing a few general feelings that you’ve been through before and during addiction. These could include:
- Feeling isolated and alone
- Feeling stuck
- Feeling afraid of failure
- Feeling “not okay” or “not normal”
At some point in life, we all experience similar feelings. Opening the conversation by talking about your emotional experiences as they relate to addiction can help you find common ground with family and friends.
How to Explain Addiction to Family Members
You are struggling with addiction and want to explain how it feels to close friends and family. First, it’s important to acknowledge your addiction and ask for help. Then, take these steps for explaining addiction to loved ones:
- Confide in a professional: An addiction recovery counselor can help you navigate communication with others about the true nature of your addiction.
- Formulate a course of action: Before talking to your loved ones about your addiction, come up with a strategy for how you want to overcome it. Letting your friends or family know that you plan on enrolling in a detox or rehabilitation program will ease their mind and show that you’re serious about recovery.
- Use brutal honesty: Honesty often sets the stage for a successful recovery. Don’t sugarcoat your feelings or situations to avoid conflict — both you and your loved ones will benefit from the truth.
- Apologize if you need to: The people closest to you have likely suffered, just as you have, as a result of your addiction. If you feel they deserve a genuine apology, offer one.
Addiction Support Resources
Recovery from addiction is always possible — no matter how long you’ve been addicted or what age you are. The key to overcoming addiction and claiming a life of sobriety is facing the emotional and psychological patterns that drove the addiction in the first place.
At Gateway, our goal is to help you get back on track and enjoy a life free from guilt, pain and suffering. Our caring and compassionate team provides safe and effective treatments to address underlying issues like grief, trauma, anxiety, depression and loss. We utilize nine evidence-based treatments along with a variety of treatment programs to create personalized services.