Does this sound familiar?
"I'm not an alcoholic, it's you. You're so controlling. I'm sick of you telling me I drink too much. I work hard, provide for this house, and take care of the kids. If I want to have a drink at the end of the day, who cares? I deserve it. You need to stop being so uptight."
Believe it or not, it's possible to take someone from that state of denial to take the steps necessary to get sober. You cannot make someone get sober, but you can influence them to do so.
Strategy #1-Build credibility with your loved one
If you don't build credibility, your opinion won't matter.
Not only does your opinion not matter, but when you don't have credibility with your loved one, sometimes they do the opposite of what you want despite you.
This last one is a bit controversial.
Building credibility with your addicted loved one is about helping them feel like you understand them and knowing their situation. Your opinion and advice won't matter when they think you don't get it.
To get in the right frame of mind, you have to get past being stuck in the idea that it's not fair. Why am I doing all the work? They're a jerk. They're the ones not pulling their weight.
That's fair thinking. You're right, but it isn't going to get the job done when your emotions are blocking you from being able to intervene with your loved one.
Strategy #2- Learning to see the good within the person
Now, there are a few ways you can do this, but what you're doing here is seeing their strengths, good intentions, gifts, and the parts in life where they try hard. Acknowledge that you see the good part of someone, will go a long way in helping them feel like you get it.
The first thing I want you to do to pull this off effectively is to ask yourself this question, how does this person (your addicted loved one) want to be seen? Once you have the answer to that question, you can think of positive reinforcement statements that let them know that you see that quality in them.
Now you can use any of the examples I'm about to give you here, but know you have to adapt this to fit your loved one and how they want to be seen.
Here are some examples of statements I've used before:
I love that you're so creative.
You are such a hard worker.
You always make me laugh.
You genuinely care about other people on a deep level. That's one of the things I've always admired about you.
The key here is to find their strength and comment on it.
A word to the wise about this technique; it must be genuine because if it's not, it won't work. When you genuinely notice these strengths about their intentions, motivations, and trying to do good, they will feel seen and heard on a deeper level.
Strategy #3- Empathize with your addicted loved one's frustrations.
That doesn't mean that you agree with everything that they say. It's about seeing things from their point of view. It doesn't even mean that you agree with their perspective, but you at least have to let them know that you understand their side of things.
To make this work for your situation, I want you to start by asking yourself, what are your loved one's top two or three frustrations? Notice it and have empathy for it.
Comment on the parts you can understand, agree with, and empathize with.
Here are a couple of examples:
"I can't believe your sister asks you to come to take care of that again. It feels unfair that she always expects you to solve her problems. Not only that, she expects you to drop everything you're doing and do it right away. "
Here are more examples of empathy statements:
"I can't believe you got overlooked for that promotion. You have worked your butt off, and for the big boss to just come in and hire his nephew isn't fair to you."
The key here is to empathize with what frustrates them and try hard to see their point of view.
Strategy #4 - Be able to show your vulnerabilities
Show them your weaknesses and imperfections. You might be thinking, well, why is that important? I don't want them to believe it's all me because they try to blame me already. I know you're thinking that, but there is a strategy here. When someone is struggling with an addiction, they feel like everyone's judging them. They feel like the world is against them. They feel like your family thinks they're better than them. Because of that, they feel defensive.
One of the ways you can help your loved one feel less defensive is to show them your not-so-great sides. Not only are you helping them feel less defensive, but you're also role modeling vulnerability and being able to admit when you did something wrong, made a mistake, or admit that you have character defects. This is an important strategy because it makes the relationship a safe place to talk about things that you don't feel great about.
One effective thing you can do immediately to show your vulnerabilities is to admit that you haven't always responded in the best way in the past. You can even give some examples of some things you've said or done that you feel kind of bad about and that you regret and you wish you had handled differently.
You're admitting your flaws, your own mistakes, and your weaknesses.
I can't tell you how many clients I see come in and tell me their spouse or parent never admits when they're wrong.
It goes a long way to show humility, vulnerability, and honesty.
We go into this even more in-depth in our Invisible Intervention online program. To kick start your journey, I have a free download for you called, Say this, not that. It goes through situations and says what you probably want to say but shouldn't.
Strategy #5- Build your loved one up.
Not only do you want them to be able to admit they have a problem, but you want them to know that they have the strength and ability to overcome the problem.
You can say things like, "I know you can do it or
We're in your corner." There's a way to do this more effectively. Think about something that your loved one has done in the past that was difficult to help them see that they have strength, resilience, & courage. You want to start bringing attention to the fact that they have all those ingredients.
You can remind them about the time they made the right decision, even though it was difficult.
The key here is to let them know they have strength, ability, willingness, resiliency, courage, or any of those things.
Strategy #6 Have their back! (controversial)
I know, you're probably thinking Amber, that's enabling! Hear me out.
This is where you want to help them strategically solve a problem or take up for them when someone else is bad-talking them.
You want to do something nice for the person now and then. I'm not talking about paying all their bills month after month. I mean stepping in to help out when appropriate. Doing this will send the message, "Hey, I'm on your side." I might say, "Hey, would it help if I wrote a letter for you to your lawyer or if I made that phone call with you?"
You're not trying to fix everything for them. You're just trying to be their helper, and teammate and be on their side.
If you can use these strategies effectively, the person you're trying to help will feel like you get them, you're noticing their strengths, and you see their struggles. You understand that you have weaknesses too. You're on their side. Your loved one will care about what you have to say and listen to your opinion. They're going to seek your advice.
The next big step in this process is about natural consequences. That will make them want to seek your advice and listen to what you have to say.