What to Do When a Loved One Refuses Addiction Treatment
Watching a friend or family member struggle with substance abuse is heartbreaking.
Planning an intervention to express your concern and stress the need for treatment is a great idea, but interventions aren’t always effective. When your loved one refuses to admit the severity of his or her addiction, you need to adapt your strategy.
Follow Through on Consequences
If you’ve expressed your concern to your loved one and urged him or her to seek treatment, it’s time to turn empty threats into real consequences. This may be as simple as removing all drugs and alcohol from your home or as serious as moving out. Your goal is to send a clear message to your loved one that refusing to seek treatment is not acceptable.
Stop Enabling Addiction-Related Behavior
In many cases, people who suffer from drug or alcohol addiction have friends and family members who make misguided gestures that allow the behavior to continue for longer than necessary. This might include providing financial assistance after money has been spent on drugs and alcohol, lying to cover up mistakes at work that are the result of being under the influence, handling certain household chores yourself, or making excuses for behavior that hurts relationships with others.
Breaking patterns of enabling behavior can sometimes be easier said than done. Seek support from others in the addict’s life so you’re presenting a united front in your desire to see him or her get help. Write down the behaviors you are pledging to stop and place them in a place where you can refer to them as a reminder when you’re tempted to go back to old routines.
Addiction can be difficult to understand if you’ve never experienced substance abuse yourself. People who are struggling with drug or alcohol addiction are often dealing with a significant amount of anger, shame, frustration, and guilt related to their behavior. Making statements such as “You would quit if you really loved me” or “All you need is the willpower to stay sober” is unhelpful and only likely to drive a wedge between you and your loved one.
Keep conversations with your loved one focused on specific behaviors that indicate a need for treatment, such as missing work, being arrested, or suffering from health problems related to drug or alcohol use. A factual, objective tone that doesn’t assign blame is most likely to be effective.
Get Help for Yourself
Having a close friend or family member who is struggling with addiction can significantly impact your mental health. You may start to suffer from anxiety, depression, insomnia, headaches, or stomach troubles as the result of the time spent worrying about how addiction is affecting your loved one. Attending a support group such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon can help you better understand how to meet your own needs during this challenging time.
Taking time for general self-care is also a smart move. Exercise, proper nutrition, good sleep hygiene, and time for stress-relieving activities can provide you with the energy and mental clarity you need to support your loved one.
Be Prepared for the Fallout
When your loved one realizes that you’re no longer going to ignore his or her addiction, the dynamics of your relationship will change. He or she may make false promises, threats, or emotional appeals to try to convince you to go back to the way things were.
Unless there is a reason to believe your loved one will become physically violent, simply ignore this attempt at manipulation and repeat your instance that seeking treatment is the best way to ensure a brighter future. If feel your safety is being threatened, you need to get law enforcement involved and/or seek assistance from a domestic violence resource center.
Consider Seeking Professional Assistance
If you planned an intervention on your own and didn’t experience the results you hoped for, it may be worth trying again with an experienced interventionist leading the session. These mental health professionals have the education, skills, and resources necessary to plan an intervention tailored to the specific needs of your loved one.
Intervention: Help a loved one overcome addiction.
The Myth of Hitting Rock Bottom: The Power of Intervention.
When Addiction Gets Violent: Get Help And Get Out.
Is legally mandated treatment effective?