It can be difficult to watch a loved one lead an unhealthy life. Whether it is a parent, sibling, or spouse, you want them to be able to live a long, happy life without complications. Often it seems as if they don’t even realize they are harming themselves as they continue unhealthy behavior. It is important to talk with your loved one about the problem and help them make a plan to overcome it, but it can be terribly difficult to bring the subject up, especially if the behavior is an ingrained part of their daily lives. The best you can do is hang in there, stay patient, and keep trying.
Talking Through the Stigma
Problems like substance abuse, obesity, and mental health issues are not as simple to address as other types of physical illness. A social stigma is attached to everything from being overweight to being dependent on drugs or alcohol. The odds are good that your loved one is already aware they have a problem. When you mention it to them they may respond defensively and either argue or refuse to discuss it altogether. They may be embarrassed or fear that people will judge them for being weak or unable to control themselves. Don’t let their unwillingness to have a discussion or acknowledge the problem stop you from trying to help or find alcohol treatment for a loved one, but don’t expect them to be ready to have a real conversation right away.
Couch your language in terms that are not accusatory. Remember that addiction and mental illness are not related to a person’s willpower or strength, but are usually due to chemical imbalances in the brain. Help the person understand that you don’t blame them for their condition, but you recognize that it is not healthy for them and you want to help them find a way to change.
Wait it Out
The person you want to talk with may need time to acknowledge out loud that they have a problem and need outside help to overcome that problem. Patience is essential if you really want to help. Don’t pressure them to come up with a plan before they are ready to admit they need one. Be available to talk when they need to talk. Make sure they know you haven’t forgotten, but don’t make them feel like every time they see you there will be a reminder of what they may perceive as an accusation of their shortcomings. If they realize you honestly want to help them feel better and live more successfully they will eventually come around to having the necessary conversations about how to achieve that goal.
Be Prepared to Make a Plan
Be ready for when they are ready to make a game plan. Do research on their condition and have information available so that you can honestly help them decide the best course of action to take. It is important to create a real plan for recovery or treatment. Avoid vague agreements. Talk with them about their resources and help them create a timeline and concrete expectations with measurable results. That may include making medical appointments, planning meals, or creating an exercise regimen. A good plan is something you can both refer to as you move through the sometimes difficult process of helping them work toward a healthier life.
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