How Do I Tell My Family I Have an Addiction?

The ability to tell yourself “I have an addiction” is the first important step on the long road to recovery. For many sufferers, admitting their addiction to family is the second. Yet addiction is a progressive, chronic and potentially fatal disease that is affecting your life. What affects your life will be important to your family no matter what their views are concerning addiction or your past behaviors.

Whatever roads addiction has led you down are coming to their conclusion as you begin a new path toward sobriety. It’s this path that you are inviting your family to share. Some will only be able to wish you well, some may doubt your commitment to this path and some may hold your hand the entire way. What’s important is that you communicate your news and give your family the opportunity to provide you with the encouragement and support you need to face the challenges ahead.

Communication: Keep It Honest

Each addiction sufferer has their own unique story and set of circumstances that brought them to where they are. If you’re close to your family, you may believe that they already know about your substance use disorder. Some families may be taken by surprise. Yet when it comes to sharing this news, you don’t need to worry excessively about what their reaction will be. Your goal should simply be to communicate to the people you love in a straightforward manner that you are suffering from addiction and you will be seeking help to overcome this disease.1

Open and honest communication is what’s required at this point, and committing to an honest discourse will also serve you as you engage in treatment. Honest communication with your family and addiction specialists will provide you with a solid foundation moving forward into the treatment process.

Communicate Openly—But on Your Terms

When you tell your family your news, it’s probable that they will have many questions for you. Although you’ve committed to reporting your news in an honest and open fashion, you may not wish to address all of their questions. However, you can expect someone to ask “why” and “how.” You might even address these questions before they’re asked.

The fact is, you might not completely understand everything about this disease or how you reached this point in your life. These are issues that will come up during treatment. Therefore, if you can’t answer all of your family’s questions, it’s ok. Simply tell them that you’re not prepared to discuss more than what you already have, but that you’ll be attending therapy to help you confront these and other questions.

Prepare for Negative Reactions to “I Have an Addiction”

Depending on your relationship with your family and what may have prefaced your revelation to them, you may face family members that are skeptical of your intentions. Perhaps you denied your problem for a long time. Perhaps you alienated some family members with your behavior while under the influence.2 In this type of scenario, there’s nothing you can do except reaffirm your intention to enter treatment, because it’s only this step that will demonstrably show your family how serious you are about working through your disease.

Giving the people you love serious news can be a daunting task, but you are brave. You’ve already admitted to yourself that you have a serious disease. Whether your family is supportive or skeptical, they likely deserve to know about your condition so they can ultimately support your recovery goals.

Telling your family “I have an addiction” is important because they love you. If you are suffering, they need to know, because ultimately they will want to help you. Let them. And let them know that you will involve them in your recovery process if you can. As you move forward, you may find that their support can enhance your new-found sobriety in so many meaningful and life-enriching ways.


  1. I agree that being honest is key. However many families are in denial and do not wish to hear the truth. They may see this as a reflection of themselves and are unable to clearly see the addict and meet the need. Sometimes bringing along a sponsor or Support can help the addict to stay open and honest.

    • In the wake of the Opioid Crisis, Alcohol seems to have taken a back seat. There are still a very high number of Alcohol related deaths reported each year. With Over 85,000 deaths annually, it is the 3rd highest preventable death rate behind tobacco, and poor diet.

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