How Can We Help A Loved One Who Is Struggling With An Addiction?

by Substance Abuse0 comments

The following information is from OAR in Holland, Michigan

Helping a loved one who is struggling with addiction is not easy.  When the opportunity to speak with our friend about their struggle arises, we are often caught off guard and don’t have the right words to express our concern for their wellbeing.  What follows is a guide to help you compose your thoughts in four simple statements.  It’s based upon the acronym – LOVE, where each letter will remind you of what to say.

L – Let them know that you love them
O – Offer an example of why you’re concerned
V – Validate the difficulty of their situation and struggle
E – Encourage them to get the help they need

It is a good idea to write down your response to each of the statements represented in the acronym.  Putting your thoughts on paper will help you to communicate clearly and will also allow your loved one to take your thoughts with them.

“L” – Tell your loved one that you love them.  Start simple with something like:

Dear John
There are so many reasons why I love you and care about you.  John, when we were growing up, I used to love when you would take me fishing.  Remember how you always had to put the worm on my hook for me?  For me it wasn’t about catching fish, it was about the time you spent with me and how you made me feel important.

“O”Offer an example of why you’re concerned. You need to do this without being angry or judgmental.  Your purpose is to show your loved one how their addiction or abuse has negatively impacted their relationships or health; it is not to blame or shame them.

“Last month you had made plans to take the kids to Michigan Adventure.  It was something that Tom and Ben were looking forward to doing with you.  It was all they could talk about during the week.  But, when you showed up on Saturday morning, I could smell alcohol on your breath.  I was afraid to let our boys ride with you in the car.  When I asked you if you had been drinking, you began yelling at me in front of the boys.  You eventually walked out and slammed the door.  Because of your drinking, you weren’t able to keep your promise to your boys.  I was so angry with you for letting them down.  I assume Tom and Ben were disappointed too, because they didn’t talk much the rest of the day.”

“V” Validate.  Tell your loved one that you can see their struggle and that you acknowledge how hard it must be for them.

“Jim, you’re battling a disease.  I can see that you’re struggling and I can’t begin to understand what it must be like from your perspective, but….”

“E”Encourage your loved one to get help and express your hope for healing and recovery.  Repeat how much you care for them and how concerned you are for their health and emotional well-being.

“Dad, I can’t imagine life without you.  You mean so much to me and it is so painful for me to watch as this disease of addiction kills you.  I’m telling you this today because of my concern and love for you.  I’ve taken some time to learn about addiction, and I know you can get better.  I know you can do it if you will just accept the support and help that’s being offered to you.”

If you would like to learn more about supporting your friend and the facts about addiction, visit us at or call OAR’s Community & Family Program at 616-396-5284.

Sherri Maat

Sherri Maat