There are few things in life that make you feel more helpless than to sit back and watch a loved one destroy themselves – and everyone around them – because of a substance abuse problem. Addiction is an insatiable disease, and unless its insidious progress is arrested, it will continue to take and take and take, until the person has nothing more to give, not even their life.
The vast majority of people who are suffering from drug addiction or alcoholism are completely unable to stop on their own. They need professional help – alcohol and drug rehab and everything that that entails – detoxification, alcohol/drug rehab, counseling, group therapy, support groups, and follow-up care.
Yet, even knowing all of that, it can be confusing and frustrating when you don’t know exactly how to get from Point A – where you are right now – to Point B – a clean and sober life for your loved one. At this point, you do not know what to do or what to say that might have any sort of real impact upon your drug-addicted loved one.
To that end, we have put together a few guidelines and words of advice that can help you choose what you might say when it comes time to try to convince your loved one to go to drug/alcohol rehab.
DON’T—Listen to “everybody else”. According to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, one out of every ten American adults considers themselves to be in recovery for some form of substance abuse.
That means nearly everyone you come in contact with knows someone who has or has had a problem with drugs or alcohol…and that means you are going to hear an endless chorus of unsolicited, “free” advice—all of it well-intentioned, but almost all of it wrong for your situation.
There is enough misinformation out there that, if believed, can actually hamper your efforts to help your loved one in their battle against addiction.
DO—Educate yourself about the DISEASE of addiction. Read all of the literature that you can get your hands on. Go to local addiction support groups. Most importantly, speak to a professional about your situation, and perhaps even therapy yourself.
Why is this so important? By now, your loved one’s addiction is probably driving you crazy and making your life unmanageable. The very first thing you need to do is find out how to restore balance and serenity and sanity to your own life. You can’t help someone else if addiction has control of YOUR life.
DON’T – Constantly nag, harangue, or beg the addict to stop drinking or using. Incessant pleading will fall on deaf ears at this point. Most probably, up to this point, you have played the role of enabler in their addiction. They have broken up after promise to you, and yet, you have still always been there to clean up their messes and pick them up when they fall. They have no reason to listen to you.
DO – Hold an intervention. This can be one of the most effective tools that you can use to convince your addicted loved one to accept rehab. When a person’s entire circle – their spouse or partner, their parents, their siblings, their children, their other family members, their friends, their coworkers – all get together to directly inform the addict how his/her actions have negatively impacted their lives, it can be a powerful motivator.
Addicts live lives of denial. For the most part, they blithely and self-centeredly go about their daily routine, not caring – and more often, not knowing – just how wide a path of destruction they leave in their wake. An intervention can make that apathy impossible.
DON’T – Blame or judge the addict. Obviously, the disruptive influence of the addiction means that the addict will make some poor, usually hurtful, frequently dangerous life decisions. You, being close to the addict, will often suffer the worst of any consequences – lost money, embarrassment, infidelity, and even emotional or physical abuse.
Difficult as it may be, the road to for the addict means that you have to put all of that aside for the moment. You have to be able to separate the person from the disease. There will come a time when a man’s will have to be made, but when you’re trying to get someone to go to rehab to seek real, professional help, that is not the time to mentally “beat them up” over every single bad decision they have made with an addict’s mind.
DO – Be strong in your love and support, even while letting the addict plainly know how their disease has hurt them and everyone they care about. It needs to be evident that your words come from a place of love, but that the catastrophes and uncertainty caused by the addiction will no longer be tolerated in your life.
Stay focused. The purpose of listing all the ways the addiction has negatively impacted your life is not to punish the addict. The purpose is to make an emotional connection that compels that person into accepting treatment.
DON’T – Fail to plan. An intervention is, by definition, emotionally-charged, and it can be easy to get off track and veer away from what is supposed to ultimately be a positive encounter.
You need meticulous preparation – everything from which family members and friends should participate, to a detailed outline of the consequences that will occur if the addict refuses help, to the choice of a safe location, to a pre-registration within addiction treatment facility, all the way to how the addict is going to be transported if they agree.
DO – Consider using a professional interventionist. For all the reasons above, the services of a professional can be invaluable. Everything that you might fail to take into account because you are too inexperienced or too emotionally invested, they will remember. They will be able to plan, manage, and execute each step properly.
In addition, a professional interventionist has the mental health training to be able to coordinate the entire encounter in a nonjudgmental and dispassionate manner. Because they are not emotionally involved in the process, they will be able to keep a cool head when the situation becomes heated.
Ultimately, a person suffering an active addiction has to make a conscious choice to participate in their own recovery. It is their own decision.
However, it doesn’t necessarily need to be their idea. Even if the intervention is what compelled them to agree to go to treatment, that’s ok. Whatever works is just fine. The road to recovery is made up of thousands of little steps, and THIS part of the process is just meant to get them to rehab. That’s it.
Once there, the addict will drug detox and then receive the counseling, therapy, and tools they need to live a clean, sober, and productive life.