Dos and Don’ts for Approaching a Loved One about Their Addiction
By: Lakeview Health Staff
Published: March 23, 2017

There isn’t a rule book on how to handle approaching a loved one about their addiction. They didn’t teach this type of thing in school and there are certainly no catchy acronyms that would help you through the process, like how ‘Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally’ helped all of us through math when we were younger. The amazing thing about recovery from addiction is it allows us to learn from those who went through hell in hopes that we can evolve and do things better; with more compassion and understanding. While no one should ever have to go through something like watching their loved one suffer from addiction, the truth is millions of Americans experience this every day. Since we can’t eradicate addiction at this moment, all we can do is hope to help and educate as many people as we are able. All of the following tips about the Dos and Don’ts for approaching your loved one about their addiction came from people who went through the process. These are from the people who suffered first-hand, who had families and friends that cared enough to risk their relationships in order to save the lives of their loved ones. This isn’t a seamless process. Our goal is to hopefully help you have a better approach with your loved one, which will lead to a healthier outcome. Do

  • Learn as much as you can about the disease of addiction before talking with them
  • Approach your loved one with concern and empathy
  • Express your side – how it feels to watch them suffer and explain that their actions affect more than themselves
  • Let them know that you’re here to help if they want it and are willing to hear you
  • Tell them that you love them and that your goal is for them to get healthy and be happy
  • Realize there are two different people: the active user and the sober loved one. They are nothing alike
  • Set boundaries (that you follow through with)
  • Provide resources for help and assistance in setting them up for success
  • Let them know you will support their recovery but not their addiction (physically, emotionally, or financially)
  • Let them speak, but not dominate the conversation


  • Expect them to come to you for help
  • Tell them why drugs and alcohol are bad, they don’t care about that
  • Approach with anger and accusations
  • Continue to enable them
  • Personalize when they get mad at you for challenging their unhealthy behaviors
  • Give them money or any help in obtaining their substances (letting them borrow the car, etc.)
  • Expect them to know how to get help on their own
  • Call them names such as druggie or drunk or worthless
  • Give boundaries or ultimatums and not follow through
  • Leave them without direction

Being aware of the dos and don’ts should help you plan your approach to speak with your loved one about their substance use. If you need further help, our supportive e-books may offer additional suggestions you can use.