How to Help an Addict Who Doesn’t Want Help

Addiction drives a wedge between addicted individuals and their loved ones that often feels like an impossible obstacle to overcome. Today, it is understood that professional treatment is the most successful way to treat addictions to alcohol and drugs. However, users often persist in their resistance against admitting that they need help. For family members and friends, the process of trying to get someone to accept their need for treatment can be frustrating at times. It does help to know that the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that those who do seek treatment have similar rates of relapse as people with other chronic illnesses. Once a user chooses to accept their need for help and sticks to their plan, they have a strong chance of enjoying a long-term recovery. Although it may be hard at times, finding the right way to get through to your loved one gives them the best opportunity to overcome their addiction.

Stop Feeling Helpless in the Face of Addiction

It is common to feel helpless when your loved one continues to engage in behavior that you know is detrimental to their well-being. If you share a household with a substance abuser, then you may have watched as they did things such as drained your bank account to obtain drugs or alcohol. Other family members and friends may feel sad when their loved one lies to them or gets angry at the first mention of going to treatment. Shame, guilt, and fear are emotions that you may feel when your loved one continues to use drugs or alcohol. The negative emotions that you feel are natural, but you no longer have to feel helpless. When you develop a plan to address your loved one’s refusal to seek help for their addiction, you put the control over how you choose to deal with their actions back in your hands.

Reasons Why Users Refuse Help

There are many reasons why an addicted individual refuses to admit that they have a problem. Denial is a common reaction to a loved one’s attempt at an intervention, and your loved one may outright deny that they have a problem out of embarrassment or a fear of change. Drugs and alcohol also alter the way that a person’s brain functions. Over time, these substances flood parts of the brain with dopamine, which causes the body to stop making its own. To get more of this feel-good hormone, a person with an addiction will crave and then eventually cave in to their need to use drugs or alcohol to feel normal again. Once a person is stuck in this cycle, it is hard to think rationally about anything else. Your loved one likely believes that they can stop at any time, even if their past history shows that it is not true. As you prepare to talk to your loved one about their need to seek treatment, be sure to consider possible reasons for their refusal and look for cues in their body language and behavior that let you know if shame, guilt or confusion is driving their reaction.

Dispelling the Myth of Hitting Rock Bottom

“Hitting rock bottom” is a term that people often hear referred to when addiction is discussed. It is often used in media to portray the escalation of an addiction, and people sometimes use these references as a bar upon which to measure the severity of their addiction. While watching as someone’s life spirals out of control heightens the drama in a movie, you know that there is nothing fun about someone losing their house, marriage or even kids to drugs or alcohol. It should also be mentioned that rock bottom can look different for everyone. For some people, losing their job could be the worst that could happen while others may not consider that they have a problem until they’ve been hit with permanent consequences such as a long-term health problem caused by an overdose. Waiting to hit rock bottom is fruitless since it may never come, and it simply isn’t necessary for an individual to lose everything to their addiction when treatment is effective and widely available.

The Dangers of Waiting to Intervene

The cycle of addiction tends to get worse every time it continues. Unfortunately, the greatest consequence of continuing to watch as a loved one uses drugs or alcohol is the potential for an overdose. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, there were 70,237 deaths from overdose in the United States in 2017, which represents a 9.6 percent increase over the previous year’s rates. Many of these deaths might not have happened if a person had been able to accept that they needed help. While you may worry about what will happen if you intervene in your loved one’s addiction, your actions may prevent them from experiencing the worst of consequences. Additionally, the issues that arise when a person uses drugs or alcohol only continue to increase. Over time, your relationship may suffer if you do not try again to talk your loved one into seeking help.

What Is an Intervention?

An intervention is simply a meeting where the people who are closest to a user gather to talk to them about their need to seek treatment. Although interventions are sometimes portrayed as being dramatically full of heightened emotions and yelling, the truth is that they are not designed to work this way. Ideally, an intervention should only take place when the person is sober, and it is best to plan one to take place in a private location. Each member of the team should be trained on how to maintain a calm but firm stance throughout the meeting, even if the addicted individual gets upset. Although it is common for the members of the intervention team to share the negative impact that a person’s addiction has had on their relationship, it is important to remember that the purpose of the meeting is to get the person help. For this reason, it is best to start the meeting with the person who has been impacted the most, such as a child or spouse. Then, continue to move through the team until either the addicted individual accepts their need for help or everyone has had their say.

People to Include on the Team

The intervention team should include the main people in a person’s life, but you also want to avoid having too many people involved since this can cause things to be overwhelming. Typically, teams consist of older children, spouses and other close relatives such as siblings. You may also include a best friend or close colleague if they have often been viewed by your loved one as someone to turn to for advice. Intervention specialists are another member of the team to include as these professionals add a neutral touch to the meeting that helps keep things calm. You can also tailor their assistance to fit the situation. For instance, you may only need to consult with one specialist before you host your meeting to learn strategies such as how to keep things positive. Alternatively, you could include the intervention specialist in the meeting so that your loved one feels as though there is at least one neutral perspective they can turn to for advice.

Types of Resources to Have Available

The realization that they need help may be all that your loved one can handle during the intervention. However, it is critical to act immediately to your loved one’s acceptance so that they can get treatment before they change their mind. Always prepare for an intervention by having a few options for treatment on hand so that you can immediately transition into making a plan if you loved one admits that they need help. As you gather resources, try to have several different options that your loved one can choose from to fit their lifestyle. For example, they may need residential treatment if they struggle with an addiction to opiates or anticipate severe withdrawal symptoms. Alternatively, your loved one may need to go to a partial treatment program if they still need to prioritize work or kids. Having different options for treatment in mind also helps you overcome any objections your loved one tries to throw your way since there is a program that is available to fit every possible situation.

What If They Still Refuse Help?

Sometimes, a person’s denial or cravings are too strong for them to accept help despite your best attempt at an intervention. In this instance, you must be prepared to set firm limits on your relationship if the person continues their behaviors. For instance, you could refuse to give them any money that might be used to fund their habit until you know that they have maintained sobriety for a specific period of time. Setting limits is difficult when you love someone, but this is the only way that you can continue to establish control over how your loved one’s addiction affects your life and relationship. You can also take heart to know that most people eventually will seek treatment once they see the consequences of how their actions affect the people that they love the most.

Solutions to Reach an Agreement

Your loved one may not want help, but you know that they need it. As you share the ways that they have demonstrated a lack of control over their use of drugs and alcohol, ask them to share their thoughts. As they do, avoid falling into an argument by practicing active listening. Allow your loved one to voice their opinions about treatment since these could give you further talking points regarding how to get them help. For instance, your loved one may claim that they do not have time to go to treatment, which is when you can go over their options to find one that works into their schedule.

Showing Support During Recovery

Your loved one needs your help throughout the entire recovery process. For some addicted individuals, a fear of losing the people that they love keeps them from admitting that they need help, and telling your loved one how you will be there makes going to a treatment center less scary. Offer to visit and call your loved one during their treatment. You can also let them know that you will attend family counseling and other group therapy sessions as you are invited to help rebuild your relationship. Showing your loved one the bright side of recovering from their addiction is the best strategy that you can use for ending the negative effects of drugs and alcohol on your lives together. There are times in life when you have to stand up for what you know is right. Although it may take several attempts to get through to a loved one who is strong-willed, you do have the ability to make a difference in their ability to obtain sobriety. By putting together an intervention that focuses on explaining their options for treatment, you can get them to finally see your side and begin to work through the process of regaining their health and happiness.

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