Family and Friends
What can you do?
The person you love isn’t here anymore.
Whether your son is a hollow-eyed shadow of the boy you raised or your spouse’s vodka habit is endangering the children, you know that alcohol or drug rehab treatment is the only way to save him or her.
But can you get them into treatment even if they haven’t been willing to take the step themselves?
- Yes! A common myth about addiction is that a person must willingly enter treatment for it to be effective. The fact is that many addicts choose the path to recovery because family and friends recognized the problem and took the necessary steps to get them help.
That doesn’t mean it will be easy and for real change to be permanent it has to come from within the individual. It can be downright challenging to convince someone you love that they need addiction treatment. But this is about your loved one’s life. Helping them get the treatment they deserve may be the only chance they have to overcome their addiction.
Following are some do’s and don’ts for getting your loved one into alcohol and opiate addiction treatment:
Do educate yourself
Start by learning more about addiction. One way to do that is by attending meetings for local addiction support groups, like Al-Anon. Members may be able to provide guidance for finding nearby addiction resources, but, more importantly, they’ll be able to share their own experiences with you. Also, these connections will help nurture your own emotional well-being because they will help you see that you are not alone in this fight.
Consider an intervention
When it comes to how to get someone into alcohol or drug treatment, an intervention is often one of the most effective tools. An intervention is a meeting in which concerned family members and / or friends show the addict how the problem has affected his or her life-and the lives of those around them. It doesn’t physically force them into rehab, but it does give the addict a real-world view of what happens each time they drink excessively or get high on drugs.
Don’t go in without a plan
In the drama of addiction, it can be tempting to hold an impromptu intervention. And even though it’s well-intentioned, the lack of planning can sabotage the effort. An effective intervention requires everything from inviting concerned family and friends to participate to providing transportation directly to an inpatient or outpatient clinic. You’ll also need to outline the consequences if your loved one refuses help. For example, you might choose to withdraw all financial support. Avoid the urge to hold the intervention until you have all the pieces in place-it will give you a much better chance of getting the addict into alcohol or drug rehab treatment.
Do consider a professional interventionist
Not only does an intervention require planning, it also requires reasoning with a person who’s judgment and logic is impaired by their addiction. An interventionist is a mental health professional with the skills and know-how to plan, manage, and carry out the process. In addition to handling the logistics, an interventionist will act as a non-judgmental presence in what can sometimes become a heated experience.
Do tell the addict how the addiction affects everyone
Use “I” statements that present their addiction from your own point of view. Make a maximum impact by saying exactly what concerns you: “I worry about the cops showing up at 4 a.m. to tell me you’re dead or I’m scared you’ll put the kids in the car and hurt or kill them by driving drunk or I miss the sister who used to bounce into my bedroom and raid my closet before a date.”
The purpose of the intervention is to make your loved one realize they need alcohol or drug rehab treatment-it’s not the place to beat them up over every bad decision they’ve ever made. Avoid statements like “You should never have started abusing prescription drugs…” or “You’d be fine if you hadn’t hooked up with that guy…” Also stay away from religious or philosophical arguments. Instead remain laser-focused on painting a vivid picture of how the addiction hurts the addict and everyone they love.
Do get them to treatment immediately
If your family member or friend chooses recovery, have transportation ready to take them directly to inpatient treatment if you determine that’ the best option; or a pre-selected, carefully chosen detox facility or in most cases an outpatient specialist. No “one last drink/hit” stops allowed. The most important thing is to get the addict to the facility as soon as possible.
Don’t enable the addict by making idle threats
Ultimately, the decision whether to enter treatment or not is one only your loved one can make. If, when the intervention concludes, he or she decides not to enter alcohol or drug rehab treatment, the consequences you’ve outlined need to start immediately. For example, if you said you wouldn’t provide any more financial support, then don’t give them a single penny from that point forward. This “tough love” approach can be hard on you as well as your loved one, but making idle threats will only teach the addict that you’re not serious about getting them into recovery. Stand firm. Don’t give your addicted loved one any support that allows them to continue using.
Do support your loved one’s treatment
Help him or her on the path to recovery by following the advice of the treatment center’s addiction specialists. As a friend or family member, your role is to provide the healthy encouragement and support the addict needs so he or she can focus on battling the addiction.
Additional Things You Can Do For the Addict
- Educate yourself on addiction and recovery.
- Try not to accuse or judge. Avoid name calling. This is a difficult time for both of you.
- Provide a sober environment that reduces triggers for using.
- Allow the addict time to go to meetings.
- Understand that your lives will change. Do not wish for your old life back. Your old life to some extent is what got you here. You both need to create a new life where it is easier to not use alcohol or drugs.
- Make sure that you both have time for fun. People use alcohol and drugs to relax, escape, and as a reward. The addict needs to find alternative ways to relax, escape, and as a reward otherwise they will turn back to their addiction.
- Do not enable. Do not provide excuses or cover up for the addict.
- Do not shield the addict from the consequences of their addiction. People are more likely to change if they have suffered enough negative consequences.
- Set boundaries that you all agree on. The goal of boundaries is to improve the health of the family as a whole. Do not use boundaries to punish or shame.
- If you want to provide financial support, buy the goods and services the addict needs instead of giving them money that they might use to buy alcohol or drugs.
- Recognize and acknowledge the potential the addict has within them.
- Behave exactly as you would if your loved one had a serious illness. What would you do if they were diagnosed with heart disease or cancer?
Things You Can Do For Yourself
- Take care of yourself. Living with an addict is exhausting. You also need time to recover.
- Avoid self-blame. You can’t control another person’s decisions, and you can’t force them to change.
- Do not work harder than the person you’re trying to help. The best approach is to not do things for the addict, but instead to be an example of balance and self-care.
- Being a caretaker is not good for you or the addict. Understand that there is only so much you can do to change another person.
- Ask for help. Talk to a professional. Go to a support group such as Al-Anon. (More support groups are listed below.)
- Do not argue or try to discuss things with the addict when they are under the influence. It won’t get you anywhere.
- If at all possible, try not to be negative when dealing with the addict. That may only increase their feelings of guilt and push them further into using.
The Three C’s of Dealing with an Addict
- You didn’t Cause the addiction.
- You can’t Control the addiction.
- You can’t Cure the addiction.
Helpful Links for Family and Friends of Addicts
- Al-Anon.org (al-anon.org) For family members of alcoholics.
- Nar-anon (nar-anon.org) For family members of addicts.
- Gam-anon (gam-anon.org) For family members of gamblers.
- Coda.org (coda.org) For co-dependent individuals.
- Adultchildren.org (adultchildren.org) For adult children of alcoholics and addicts.
Getting your loved one into alcohol or drug rehab treatment may not be easy-but his or her life is worth the effort. Start making plans today to help guide your family member or friend onto the road to recovery.
To get help and support for your loved one, contact or call to speak confidentially with the igotsober team. Our thanks, Dr. Steve Melemis.