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Communication Check

Do you...
(select all that apply)
Avoid talking about addiction at all.
Plan specific points to cover ahead of time.
Get others on board.
Let them have a say on when conversations happen.
Find yourself judging their behaviors.
Try to talk when they're high.

Planning the Communication

Decide what you want — Before you approach your loved one, make sure you’re clear on what you want to get out of the conversation. If not, they can prey on your doubts or talk in circles until you’ve lost track of the point. Planning ahead will help you stay focused on the message instead of the emotions.

Get others on board — Discussing with other family members ensures your loved one receives a consistent, supportive message. If a boundary needs to be set, everyone must be willing to follow through or it will likely not be effective.

Ask to Talk — You may feel the conversation has to happen now or on your terms, but you can ease defensiveness by informing them you want to discuss their addiction and allowing them to choose a time today or this week. Be clear that you want to express concerns without judgment. If they feel a speech is coming, they’ll tune out before you even start. If you feel they have been drinking or using, reschedule. Nothing is going to get accomplished in that state.

Planning the Communication

Decide what you want — Before you approach your loved one, make sure you’re clear on what you want to get out of the conversation. If not, they can prey on your doubts or talk in circles until you’ve lost track of the point. Planning ahead will help you stay focused on the message instead of the emotions.

Get others on board — Discussing with other family members ensures your loved one receives a consistent, supportive message. If a boundary needs to be set, everyone must be willing to follow through or it will likely not be effective.

Ask to Talk — You may feel the conversation has to happen now or on your terms, but you can ease defensiveness by informing them you want to discuss their addiction and allowing them to choose a time today or this week. Be clear that you want to express concerns without judgment. If they feel a speech is coming, they’ll tune out before you even start. If you feel they have been drinking or using, reschedule. Nothing is going to get accomplished in that state.

Do you...
(select all that apply)
Say directly how your feel.
Summarize for them what you're hearing.
Invite them to talk about their ideas for change.
Only talk about what you think their problem is.
Seek to understand them.
Walk on eggshells to avoid conflict.
Discuss what behaviors bother you.
Raise your voice if they frustrate you.
Let them change the subject.
Constantly tell them what to do.

During the Communication 

Say directly how your feel — You may be intimidated at first. It’s a lot easier to avoid the topic or resort to lectures, but both are unhelpful. Be open and honest about how you feel. Subtlety is counter-productive. You’re telling them something they don’t want to hear and manipulation is often a side-effect of addiction. Communicate simply and powerfully. Ask direct questions and seek direct answers. Your wants and the consequences of not respecting these wants should be easy to understand and presented as requests, not demands. Never apologize for a boundary you’re setting. Asking for what you want is not selfish. Be assertive with your body language too — hold eye contact, sit or stand straight and speak firmly. Use “I statements” to describe what’s going on with you (I care, I worry, I’m concerned, etc.). They’re more likely to process this than if you’re pointing a finger and telling them what they need to change.

Listen — A conversation should never be two people having a monologue at each other. Check in with your loved one as you talk, and actively listen as they respond. Allow them to express themselves without making assumptions or judgments. (They already feel deep shame). If it’s not going how you want, do your best to remain calm and show respect. Walking on eggshells doesn’t work, but yelling is guaranteed to shut them down and make them less willing to discuss in the future. If they agree to treatment, get down to specifics of what, when and where. Anything less isn’t a plan they’ll likely follow-through on.

During the Communication 

Say directly how your feel — You may be intimidated at first. It’s a lot easier to avoid the topic or resort to lectures, but both are unhelpful. Be open and honest about how you feel. Subtlety is counter-productive. You’re telling them something they don’t want to hear and manipulation is often a side-effect of addiction. Communicate simply and powerfully. Ask direct questions and seek direct answers. Your wants and the consequences of not respecting these wants should be easy to understand and presented as requests, not demands. Never apologize for a boundary you’re setting. Asking for what you want is not selfish. Be assertive with your body language too — hold eye contact, sit or stand straight and speak firmly. Use “I statements” to describe what’s going on with you (I care, I worry, I’m concerned, etc.). They’re more likely to process this than if you’re pointing a finger and telling them what they need to change.

Listen — A conversation should never be two people having a monologue at each other. Check in with your loved one as you talk, and actively listen as they respond. Allow them to express themselves without making assumptions or judgments. (They already feel deep shame). If it’s not going how you want, do your best to remain calm and show respect. Walking on eggshells doesn’t work, but yelling is guaranteed to shut them down and make them less willing to discuss in the future. If they agree to treatment, get down to specifics of what, when and where. Anything less isn’t a plan they’ll likely follow-through on.

Do you...
(select all that apply)
Take what they say personally.
Leave the door open for further conversations.
Remind yourself that they're capable of making their own choices.
Make it clear you support recovery.
Backtrack on your boundaries depending on their reaction.
Feel guilty for saying "no."

After the Communication

Don’t take it personally — The “win” is being a healthy communicator. You’re standing up for yourself and leading by example, regardless of how they respond. The hardest part of setting boundaries is accepting the outcome. Your loved one doesn’t have to accept the boundary, but you have to enforce it. Boundary conversations are about informing, not negotiating or agreeing. Set healthy boundaries for yourself and only yourself. Make sure you are meeting your own needs to avoid developing an unhealthy dependency on one person. You deserve to be happy, regardless of the choices of those around you.

Leave the door open — Let them know you’re always open to talking in the future. If there are boundaries you need to set around future conversations (they be sober, there not be yelling, etc.) state them. You’re a lifeline and, when they’re ready to get help, they need you.

After the Communication

Don’t take it personally — The “win” is being a healthy communicator. You’re standing up for yourself and leading by example, regardless of how they respond. The hardest part of setting boundaries is accepting the outcome. Your loved one doesn’t have to accept the boundary, but you have to enforce it. Boundary conversations are about informing, not negotiating or agreeing. Set healthy boundaries for yourself and only yourself. Make sure you are meeting your own needs to avoid developing an unhealthy dependency on one person. You deserve to be happy, regardless of the choices of those around you.

Leave the door open — Let them know you’re always open to talking in the future. If there are boundaries you need to set around future conversations (they be sober, there not be yelling, etc.) state them. You’re a lifeline and, when they’re ready to get help, they need you.

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