You care very much for your loved one. So naturally, you’d like to see them get the help they need for their drug or alcohol addiction. There’s just one problem: they don’t seem to want help for themselves as much as you may want them to accept it.
This is a frustrating position to be in: you fear for their safety, but you can’t simply drag them against their will into a treatment program. They have to want it. So, as their loved one, you need to recognize that getting help for them is less about reprimands and screaming fits, and more about persuading them to make the choice for themselves.
Now that you see that, go ahead and ease delicately into experimenting with a few of these ways to help them take that first step.
1. Empathize. Don’t Criticize. Yeah – you’re probably really angry right now. But you need to set that aside for a minute. Every time you point a finger or raise your voice, you’re pushing your loved one farther away. Somewhere inside them, they know they have a problem. Bring that to the surface in them through genuine trust and understanding. Ask questions. Listen. Truly understand their fears and obstacles.
2. Protect Yourself. Your loved one isn’t the only one in danger. While you might make try to monitor your loved one’s activities around the clock, make it a point to enlist some healthy boundaries and allow yourself some personal time to regroup and re-energize. You need to help yourself and maintain your own sanity if you’re going to try and help them.
3. Be Firm, But Fair. If you’re in a situation where you live with an addicted loved one, you need to specify some ground rules. You know they have an addiction. They know they have an addiction. So make it clear to them that you will not support their habit in any way. If this means removing financial accesses, do it. If it’s your child struggling with addiction, take the car keys. Revoke privileges. Limit opportunities to sneak away and get drunk or high as much as you possibly can. With these restrictions in place, they may just be motivated enough to start thinking about quitting.
4. Tell Them How You Feel. Sometimes, an addict may not realize how their habit has affected you and others in their life. They become so fixated on their next drink or fix that they don’t stop to think how much they’re hurting you. Don’t be afraid to share your feelings with your loved one. It could be quite an eye-opener for them.
5. Use “I” Statements. As you express your emotions to your loved one, make sure not to point fingers or fault toward them. They already suffer from their own guilt and shame, so you may risk them shutting down completely. Rather than passing blame and telling them what they did, turn it back around to you. Making statements using “I feel” instead of “you” can keep you clear of getting stonewalled. They may even become open to a conversation about their problem.
6. Cut Ties. Yes, it sounds brutal, but it’s effective. If you just can’t seem to get through to them with empathy, separate yourself from them (without jeopardizing their safety). Disengage all contact, suspend interactions with nieces, nephews, etc. Put some distance between them and their loved ones. Make sure that they understand your intentions come from love. You need them to recognize this as a consequence of their continued substance abuse.
7. Hold An Intervention. It may sound like a cliche, but a formal intervention can be extremely effective in allowing a loved one to listen to how their habit has impacted the lives of others. The problem in facilitating a full-blown intervention is that its success is dependent on the work you put into it. You need to prepare every element and coach each participant on the format of the meeting. A professional interventionist can help. When done correctly, an intervention is a great method to finally have that open forum discussion that could nudge them into the next step.
8. Address Their Fears. A huge factor in resisting addiction treatment is the fear of withdrawal during the detox period. What’s often overlooked, though, is that clinical treatment programs can ease the discomfort of withdrawal. Hop online and do some research to educate yourself. Knowledge is power when it’s time to have that conversation. You need to be prepared to address their fears and hesitations.
Just remember not to become frustrated when your effort seems to yield no result. It often takes time and many attempts at persuading a loved one to get help for their addiction. But, when they finally do agree to get help, it will likely be because of your determination, persistence and love.