How to Confront an Addict About Their Problem

Mar 11, 2020

Being emotionally present and connected while we are confronting another person is the first essential of any good conversation. It truly requires a work of grace in us. And if you're taking the first steps to address a problem with an addict, emotional tone means everything. 

Being present refers to being in touch and in tune with our own feelings as well as those of the other person. This is an important skill, because when we are “there” – that is, emotionally present – we are available to the other person. He is not shut off from us while we are telling him a difficult reality about himself and the relationship. It is hard for anyone to absorb a confrontation. Presence and connection help to make that tolerable.

A boundary conversation is very difficult, especially if you're talking to someone who struggles with addiction, because it feels unnatural – and it is unnatural, in that the natural person within us does not think this way. On our own, we seek to protect ourselves from discomfort. We don’t want to be vulnerable and emotional in a confrontation, as we might be hurt. This is why grace is essential.

Also, when you are present and connected with an addict, you are doing something very important for the relationship: You are providing what you are requesting. You want the other person to be “there” with you. This is why you are confronting a problem in the first place; addiction has affected your relationship. 

Because you have taken the first step, this helps him be emotionally present with you. Here are ways to help you “be there” in your confrontation.

Be Warm

Remember that although confrontations can be uncomfortable, this does not mean you need to be angry, detached, or distant from the other person. As much as you are able, be warm and available to him. What you say is highly colored by how you are with the person. If you are warm, he is much more likely to receive what you have to say. If you are not present, he can’t be sure of your intent, motives, or your heart, and you run the risk of failure.

Be in a Conversation, Not a Lecture

Being present also means allowing the other person to respond. You have a side to present, and so probably does she. Be there with her feelings as well as your own. Listen to her heart even when you don’t agree with her stance.

Connect Even with Differences

Staying present means being “there” not only when you agree with each other, but also when you disagree, when there is tension, and when you are confronting. We tend to connect when people are on our side and draw back when they are not. However, as much as possible, be safe enough to be present with the person even when he resists or gets angry.

Discomfort Versus Injury

We need to be willing to suffer discomfort – to a point. The limit here is the limit of injury. If you get in a bad situation with a person who can truly injure you because of where you are emotionally, or because of how powerful and influential he currently is with you, you will need to guard your heart to avoid having wounds. Sometimes you may need to not let the person in too deeply, or even end the conversation until a better time to protect yourself. At the same time, if the talk is more discomforting than injurious, you may want to press on towards a reconciliation.

Observe Yourself

Be aware of how present or absent you are in the talk. Monitor what makes you shut down and what makes you open up. When you are aware of yourself, you have more choices and options available. 

[RELATED: Watch Dr. Henry Cloud's NEW conversation on setting boundaries with addicts and how to get desirable results for everyone involved.]

Need a safe place to relate to others about this topic? Join one of Dr. Henry Cloud's Boundaries Peer Groups. 

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