How Families Can Encourage Their Loved Ones To Get Substance-Abuse Treatment

Few things are more painful than seeing someone you care for making him/herself seriously ill with chemical addiction—and insisting, “It’s not that bad, I can handle it, and it’s really your fault for all the stress you put on me!”

Sooner or later, everyone comes face to face with the reality that sometimes you just can’t force someone to do what you know is best for them. Perhaps not even if they’re legally under your custody. Probably not if all you can think of to advise is “Just stop drinking!!!”

If what you’re advising them to do is get professional help, the advice has a better chance of working out—if taken. But the decision to take it is still ultimately theirs, and constantly pushing the suggestion may simply encourage them to retreat further into their addiction.

Fortunately, your other options aren’t limited to watching helplessly. Here are some proven methods for encouraging substance abusers to seek help of their own free will.

Don’t protect them from the consequences.

If they throw up in their bedroom, leave the mess for them to clean up. If they spend all available money on drugs, keep your own money where they can’t get at it, and let them worry about dealing with their creditors. Whenever you help them avoid the worst, you’re reinforcing their own argument that things aren’t that bad.

Talk to a counselor yourself.

It’s easy to blame the person with the most obvious problem, but chances are you’re also reinforcing the status quo—in ways and for reasons you can’t see. Anyone who shares a household with a substance abuser can benefit from professional help.

Research treatment options that might meet your loved one’s needs

—not to shove the options in their face, but so you’ll have suggestions ready when the person is face to face with the folly of continuing as is. You don’t have to wait for them to hit bottom completely; every addict thinks frequently, “I want better than this.” But if no one can offer any immediate practical suggestions for finding something better, chances are the addict will have forgotten it and be right back at the bottle by the time the next trigger hits.

As far as possible, involve the rest of the household in all the above.

The fewer enablers and the more informed thinkers exercising influence on the addict, the better—and even small children, guided by counseling, can learn ways to help the situation.