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Revealing your alcohol or drug use to a loved one

It takes a lot of courage to be open and honest about your drinking or drug use with someone you care about.

But it’s only by being open and honest that you can be free of secrets and start to make some positive changes.

If you’re considering talking to a loved one about your drinking or drug use, these tips may help.

Find the right moment

The right moment is not when you’re having an argument or when the other person is feeling emotional or angry.

Aim to have a quiet, face-to-face conversation in a private place where you won’t be interrupted.

Explain why you’re telling them

Explain that you’re ready to take responsibility for the times you put drink or drugs before the people you love and that you want to change.

You could say that you’re hoping they can support you or at least understand you better.

Help them understand

People who don’t have issues with alcohol or drugs can find it difficult to understand what it’s like. Some ways you could explain it to your friend or family member include:

  • It wasn’t a choice – you didn’t wake up one morning and decide to have a problem with drink or drugs. Often a drink or drug habit is something that’s just crept up over time.
  • Tell them how it started – it can help the other person to know how the problem started: “I started drinking to cope with stress” or “Cocaine made me feel more confident”.
  • Find something they can identify with – everyone has habits that they would find uncomfortable to change. It could be alcohol, drugs, coffee, chocolate or watching soaps. You could say something like, “Imagine you could never drink coffee again”. Explain that, if you took it away, it wouldn’t mean that they didn’t want it any more. They would have to find new ways to cope without it. And it’s the same for you with drugs or alcohol.

Be prepared for different reactions

It’s difficult to know how the other person is going to react when you open up to them.

Opening up to people often helps them to be more understanding. They may recognise everything you are saying and feel relief that it’s all out in the open.

Or they may feel hurt and angry that you have not been honest with them till now.

Be patient

It will take a while for your loved one to process what you have told them.

They may want to end the conversation and pick it up again when they’ve had a chance to gather their thoughts.

It’s important to give them the time and space to do this.

You don’t have to tell everyone

It’s up to you who you tell. It’s OK to only tell the person or people who can help you move forward right now.

There may be other people you don’t want to be open with just yet, and that’s fine.

Make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons

It’s important to be clear that you’re doing this because you want to.

You’re ready to take ownership of who you are, where you’ve been and where you’re going.

Get support

It’s easier to change when you have the support of someone outside your circle of friends and family.If you need support to cut down or stop drinking or using drugs you can:


Online advice and tools sections

Stay on track

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