Opening up to friends and family


Christmas time should be family time; a chance for everyone to relax and catch up on all the news.
That time is so precious and the last thing you want to do is upset anyone or kill the good mood by opening up about your addiction. However, it’s actually the perfect time to open up to friends and family about the challenges and struggles you face.
People often need time to process what’s happening with you, time to talk, to ask questions. What better time than when everyone is together at Christmas?

Let’s talk

Revealing your addiction can engender feelings of shame or embarrassment on your part, while simultaneously inducing a sense of fear or resentment in your loved ones.
Still, telling them is so important for many reasons, one of which is that maintaining a disposition of secrecy can precipitate a relapse into the world of addiction.

Feel the fear and do it anyway

Explaining addiction to loved ones is challenging, but necessary if you want to begin and complete the recovery process in a healthy, transparent way.
Addiction is defined as the inability to stop engaging in a behaviour, irrespective of the adverse consequences that result from the conduct.

Addiction can be physical or psychological; and is often both. This is especially the case with addictions to substances such as alcohol and illicit drugs. Although many people think of drugs and alcohol when the term ‘addiction’ is used, there are a plethora of other addictions an individual could have; including gambling, pornography, food, gaming and the internet. It remains a profound and potentially problematic issue in this contemporary era.

Opening up – the benefits

  1. Family co-operation removes the stigma that causes many addicts to refuse treatment out of fear of being judged. Action must be taken and the sooner the better.
  2. Family members must understand what led to the development of the addiction. When one family member is addicted, for example, he or she is generally looked at as being the sole cause of the problems related to the substance use disorder. The reality is that addiction might itself be a symptom of other physical or emotional complications that could be relieved with family co-operation.
  3. Family members who aren’t educated regarding addiction may form unrealistic expectations that can lead to disappointment. An actively addicted person may be unable to accomplish his or her share in household duties. These duties may include the responsibility to provide emotionally or physically for others in the family circle. The resulting frustration will only distract from progress.
  4. Family members who know what triggers relapse can help recovering addicts to stay sober.
  5. Opening up to family and friends might be of practical help to highlight and work towards individual career, relationship, education, health, or other goals.
  6. Families draw closer together when the truth is out there. Family members who recognise negative behavioural patterns and correct them bring joy to those who love them.
  7. Economically speaking, family involvement is usually the way to go if you are seeking residential treatment.

How to explain your addiction

If you feel uncomfortable, or don’t have the knowledge necessary to talk about your addiction with your loved ones, think about speaking with an addiction counsellor first.

These individuals have education and experience in matters of addiction, and they will likely be able to give you advice regarding how to talk with your family and friends about your struggles.

Develop a plan of action

Know what your plan is before speaking to them. Whether your recovery strategy includes detox, residential treatment, extended treatment or a combination of many different ideas, it’s important that your loved ones know that you have a plan for recovery.

Warn them

Let your loved ones know what types of actions, attitudes, objects and situations precipitate or trigger your addiction. This will help prevent them from becoming ‘enablers’, who in some way facilitate the perpetuation of your addiction.

Acknowledge and apologise

Apologise for anything you have done that has detracted from the quality of life of your loved ones. Because addiction is a problem that affects everyone in the addict’s world, there are possible actions and attitudes you’ve manifested which have adversely affected your friends and family emotionally, physically, and/or spiritually.

Be honest

Sugar-coating your addiction, or downplaying how profound it is, will not help your friends and family understand your issue and subsequently play a role in helping you recover.

If you’re currently still purchasing illegal drugs, say so. If your alcohol addiction is so strong that you feel you can’t go out with your loved ones to a bar on a Friday night, tell them.

This type of honesty will be the key to enabling your loved ones to help you get on the path to permanent recovery.


Tabor Group is a leading provider of residential addiction treatment services in Ireland. We provide support and care to hundreds of clients suffering from addictions to alcohol, substances, gambling and eating disorders. For more information on Tabor Group’s services click here.