One of the most difficult and frustrating situations to deal with is the knowledge that your loved one has a substance abuse problem. You’ve seen the telltale signs of addiction. You’ve probably researched to find out available resources and worried about how you can help your loved one get the assistance he or she needs to overcome their addiction.
You’ve probably also met with considerable resistance to any sort of formal help. You can’t involuntary commit someone to treatment in many states, unless there are legal problems or a court order.
This may feel like the end of the road, but it needn’t be. What is the impetus to go to treatment? Here are six ways to motivate a loved one to get help for addiction:
- Arrange For a Medical Checkup
Something may be wrong physically and/or emotionally (or a combination of both) that is the reason behind your loved one abusing alcohol or drugs or engaging in other forms of addictive behavior. To rule out any physical conditions — and to get proper treatment for any that may exist — arrange for your loved one to have a checkup with the family physician or another medical doctor.This shouldn’t be a cause for concern on the part of your loved one. You can call it an annual physical or, if your loved one doesn’t generally go for a physical every year, suggest that now is a good time to have a complete checkup. Offer that you’ll have a checkup, too. When two people agree on this healthy physical exam and both go to the doctor to obtain it, there’s no stigma or suspicion. It’s just practical and preventive action you’re taking to ensure optimum health.During the course of your loved one’s complete checkup, the doctor may discover a condition that has been unknown and untreated — or treated incorrectly. This will give the doctor an opportunity to perform a casual questioning for any drug-related problems. Many physicians are beginning to ask a simple questionnaire to determine the presence of addiction — so they can offer recommendations on treatment, whether that’s inpatient or outpatient. The key point to the medical checkup is to get an accurate diagnosis of any suspected problems with substances and a clear idea where to go to get help. When a medical doctor offers this advice, it may be more palatable to your loved one and motivate him/her to get treatment to overcome the addiction.
- Leave Recovery-Oriented Materials in Plain Sight
Knowing that addicts in general and your loved one in particular don’t respond well to threats and constant harping about getting help and going into treatment, after educating yourself about the disease of addiction and doing some research on how to heal from it, another suggestion is to leave some of the recovery-oriented materials you’ve obtained in plain sight. Mix them up with your favorite novel or a book or magazines your loved one likes to read so it’s not so obvious what your underlying intent is.If asked, you might say that your close friend struggled with an addiction and found this book helpful and asked you to read it so you could provide the support he or she needs on a continuing basis. If your loved one believes that you find the book or materials helpful, there may come a time when your loved one decides to pick it up and check it out. This is an opportunity to do something proactive and non-intrusive to potentially jumpstart your loved one’s motivation to get help to overcome addiction.
- Enlist the Help of Someone in Recovery Themselves
Perhaps you know of someone who was addicted and went into treatment to overcome the addiction. If that person has remained sober for some time following treatment and seems to be functioning well in recovery, this could be an important ally in your quest to get your loved one help for addiction.You might arrange for this sober friend to come to family barbeques or get-togethers or suggest an activity you and your loved one enjoy and invite the sober friend along. The opportunity to be with someone who’s been there and knows what it’s like to overcome addiction and live a meaningful and productive life in sobriety may be just the impetus your loved one needs to look at treatment and getting help in a more positive light.
- Set Specific Boundaries
Denial, lying, disappearing for periods of time with no explanation and acting as if there’s no problem with drugs or alcohol or other addictive behavior is common. You’ve likely seen and heard it all already. That doesn’t mean you have to continue to go along with this type of behavior. You either suspect or know that your loved one needs professional help, but you also know he or she isn’t ready, willing or possibly able to go for it now. What can you do?One suggestion is to set specific boundaries for your loved one. Perhaps he or she has been unavailable for nightly dinners with the family and the children and you are suffering as a result. The family dynamic is slowly eroding. You can insist that your loved one be home for dinner with the family no less than “x” times per week. Another tactic is to say that no further withdrawals from the checking or savings account or charges for alcohol or other addictive pursuits (like compulsive gambling, compulsive shopping, etc.) will be allowed. The consequence for this is to close the accounts or put a block on the charge cards, neither of which your loved one will relish. The point is that you set specific boundaries and also clearly indicate any potential consequences for violations of these family rules or boundaries.Will it be easy? No, it likely will not. Will you encounter resistance? Most likely you will. Will this tactic be effective in getting your loved one motivated enough to go into treatment? On its own, maybe not, but together with some other strategies you may decide to use, it very well can be.
- Do a Professional Intervention
When things have spiraled out of control — as they often do when one person in a family has an addiction — sometimes the best hope for getting your loved one into treatment is to set up a professional intervention. What is a professional intervention? Like it sounds, this is an intervention — a meeting — conducted by a professional interventionist. Its purpose is to convince your loved one to accept and go into treatment.There is preparation and advance work on the part of the participants of the professional intervention. These include listing the names and getting in touch with the parties that may be interested in taking part in the intervention to help convince your loved one to get help for an addiction. The professional interventionist will give you a list of what you’ll need to do beforehand and what happens and you should be ready to do during the intervention itself.An intervention is a highly emotional experience for all concerned, but the ultimate end-goal of having your loved one accept and go into treatment is worth the temporary discomfort. Look for a professional interventionist and inquire about the process. This may be the best way of all to motivate your loved one to get help for addiction.
- Consider Ultimatums
Depending on how strongly you feel that your loved one won’t go into treatment without some forcefully stated ultimatums, this is an approach that might work. You know your loved one better than anyone else and only you — perhaps in conjunction with support from other family members and close friends — can decide if you’re willing to go this route. The difficulty that many loved ones have with delivering ultimatums is that if the addicted individual refuses to comply and they have to go through with the consequence attached to the ultimatum, the loved ones aren’t willing to follow up on what they said they’d do as a result. This defeats the purpose and only reinforces the addict’s belief that he or she can continue their addictive behavior.What would be an ultimatum that you’d consider? If your spouse’s drinking has taken a drastic toll on the family dynamic, if physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse has occurred as a result of the addiction, one ultimatum you may feel compelled to give is that you’ll leave and take the children. Clearly this isn’t a healthy situation, remaining in the home where your addicted loved one defiantly continues his or her self-destructive behavior that is also severely jeopardizing you and your children’s well-being. A corollary ultimatum might be threatening a divorce if your loved one refuses treatment or a temporary separation unless he or she accepts rehab.Again, this is a tough call on your part. You need to be willing to commit to the course of action that the ultimatum dictates. For some addicts, only an ultimatum — giving them the opportunity to do something proactive to stop their addiction — will cause them to be motivated enough to finally go into treatment or get professional help.
By Suzanne Kane