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Asking Friends & Relatives About Suspicions

By: Robin Mizell - Updated: 12 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
Addict Abuse Crime Misconduct Wrongdoing

Talking to friends and relatives about your suspicions has benefits and risks. There’s no such thing as a secret among three. Once you reveal your concerns to others you’ve tipped your hand. Sharing the burden, however, can be in the best interests of those directly affected by the misbehaviour of a family member or loved one.

Living with someone who is an addict, a criminal, or an abuser can be isolating and harmful. The person exhibiting the problem behaviour may be the one perceived as needing help, but household members are also suffering.

If an addiction or abusive conduct has existed for a very long time, the troublemaker’s family members may have adapted to the difficult conditions by refusing to acknowledge the truth. They may be ashamed, emotionally exhausted, or paralysed by fear. Knowing there are only certain circumstances in which a person can be legally penalised or forced to undergo treatment, the friends and relatives of an addict or criminal may become resigned to circumstances they feel powerless to change.

Expect the Unexpected

The people closest to the individual you suspect of wrongdoing may tend to be protective. They may resist discussing their predicament with you, particularly if they somehow benefit from it. It’s not unusual for a person dependent on income from a drug trafficker or thief to turn a blind eye to the illegal activity. They may rationalise the crime as a necessary means of survival. As long as they can deny knowing about the problem, they feel assured no one will hold them morally or legally responsible.

It’s impossible to anticipate the potential reactions of friends and relatives to your questions. A subtle approach can help you gauge whether you stand a chance of gaining worthwhile assistance from them. The best method of questioning is a cautious, diplomatic one. Don’t burn any bridges.

It’s common for someone who opens up to you about the turmoil caused by an abusive or disturbed household member to later deny the assertions and turn against you. If you believed you could help by bringing a perilous situation to light, it might be difficult to avoid interpreting such a reversal as a personal affront. In fact, a hostile reaction is merely a defence mechanism, and not an unusual one.

Another unintended consequence of your intervention can be a family member who repeatedly seeks your counsel. The person may want to relieve the pressure of a stressful unhealthy relationship while doing nothing to improve or escape from the dysfunctional environment.

Remain Approachable

Going in, you should recognise that any problems you discover could take years to resolve. Your chance of making a difference is incalculable. It’s certainly not guaranteed, no matter how much is at stake. The efforts of more than one person on separate occasions over many years may be required.

If you’re realistic about the obstacles you face, you’ll be better able to avoid blaming or accusing. Ideally, you should remain approachable. If your initial efforts are fruitless, there’s a chance the addict, offender, or cheat—or a household member who has reached the limits of tolerance—will seek help another day.

The person involved in substance abuse, crime, or other misconduct must choose to acknowledge the problem and to make changes. The support of friends, relatives, and self-help groups can show the way to improve a situation, but a loved one who’s out of control won’t always accept assistance.

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