How to Approach a Family Member Who is in Denial About Addiction

Man in Denial About His Addiction Passed Out At A Bar - Addiction Hope

Man in Denial About His Addiction Passed Out At A Bar - Addiction HopeDo you have someone in your life that is struggling with denial of addiction? Perhaps it is your spouse, your sister or brother, your child or an extended relative. You may have observed red flags that have caused you to be concerned.

Signs of addiction are telling and will be revealed in many ways, such as physical side effects, personality changes, or mood disorders. Although a person with an addiction may attempt to hide their struggles and behaviors, there are usually many indicators that become apparent, especially to those closest to them.

You may find that your relationship with your loved one is becoming strained or communication more difficult.

Addicts are also prone to isolation and may be frequently disappearing from social functions or family events. Finances may also be jeopardized as a result of a family member dealing with an addiction, which may put increasing burdens on the family unit.

Approaching Your Loved One

Man Sitting At A Bar In Denial About His Addiction - Addiction HopeAlthough you may be able to identify that something does not right with your family member, it can still be difficult to accept or understand their addiction. Denial is a powerful force that can prevent action from occurring. Even in the face of destructive consequences, it can be challenging to face reality and acknowledge what your loved one might be struggling with.

A helpful place to begin is to understand what you are feeling and thinking about your family member. Are you able to recognize the signs and symptoms of their addiction behavior? How have you been able to process and deal with the fact that someone you care for is struggling with an addiction?

A Sound Mindset

Before you can take the step towards approaching your loved one about their addiction, it is necessary for you to be in a sound mindset. Are you having trouble processing everything that might be going on or the thought that your family member has an addiction?

These types of situations are overwhelming, and it is understandable if you feel as though you are having a hard time coping with the circumstances.

Be Rational

Approaching the loved one in your life will be more effective if you are communicating rationally and soundly. If you do not yet feel you are at a point to do so, seek out help or support to help you process what you are feeling. Addictions trigger many emotions in both the addict and those closest to them.

By talking about how you are feeling and what you have been experiencing as a result of living with an addict, you will have a clearer objective when preparing to approach your loved one. Talk with a family member that you can confide in, a professional counselor, a support group for family members of addicts, or a qualified therapist.

Prepare for Confrontation

Woman In Denial Yelling And Covering Her Ears - Addiction HopeOnce you have a better understanding of your thoughts, emotions, and position towards your loved one, you can prepare to approach them about their addiction. As difficult as this might be, taking this step may be the necessary push to encourage your family member to seek out treatment for their addiction.

Be clear on what you will attempt to convey to them. This can include your concern about their patterns or behaviors, your fear for their well being and life, and the need for treatment for recovery and restoration.

Understand that your loved one may respond defensively or recoil from you as you reach out to them. Remember that it is the addiction that has a stronghold over them, which has influenced their behaviors and choices.

By viewing your loved one through the lens of compassion and empathy, you can better understand their need for help and treatment, even in the midst of pain and suffering.


Above all else, communicate your love and concern for your family member through your conversation. If your loved one retaliates defensively, remind them that you are on their side and that you want to see them through this.

Offer to help them get connected to treatment and be prepared with resources to assist them in the process. Reiterate your desire to see them flourish and thrive in live and to not be hindered by the burden of addiction.

Heading for Healing

Your actions will also speak volumes to your addicted family member, perhaps even more so than your words. Though the process of addiction and recovery is a complex road, know that as you journey with your loved one through this process, you will find healing in your own life as well.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What is your experience with approaching a loved one that is in denial about their addiction? What strategies have worked well for you? What strategies have not worked very well?

Crystal Headshot 2About the Author:

Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Director of Content and Social Media for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on October 19, 2016
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.