While some studies show that people forced into drug or alcohol rehab are just as successful at maintaining sobriety as those who’ve gone willingly, ideally the person enters treatment with some internal motivation to recover.
Sergio Muriel is a certified addiction professional and the executive director of Lucida mental health and drug rehab in Florida. For the last 13 years, Muriel has worked on both the clinical and admissions side of addiction treatment. He offers some advice to people whose loved ones are resistant to getting the help they need to overcome alcohol or drug abuse.
Tap Into Their Internal Motivation
In Muriel’s experience, many people struggling with substance abuse seek out help after a crisis. Maybe they were arrested for drunk driving, fired from their job, at risk of losing custody of their children, or given an ultimatum by a spouse or loved one. Sometimes people waffle in their decision after the dust settles. In this case, he tries to bring them back to that place of motivation by asking them what led them to call in the first place. “It’s helpful to remind people of a specific motivating factor when they become resistant to treatment,” Muriel says.
You can try this same technique in conversations with your loved one. Get to them at a time when they are feeling the negative impact of their addiction, or remind them of a recent unpleasant occurrence. Perhaps there was an event in the past that made them consider treatment. Maybe they’ve recently experienced a particularly bad withdrawal period, lost something important to them or had legal problems due to their substance use. Gently remind them of the harmful consequences of their addiction by asking how they felt during that time and offering hope that they can avoid some of those painful situations in the future with treatment.
Offer Practical Solutions to Excuses
People with addictions tend to have a lot of reasons why they shouldn’t enter treatment. Some are more realistic than others. For instance, financial, family care and job concerns are legitimate challenges, but not insurmountable. In his pre-admissions work with clients at Lucida, Muriel says he works closely with them to help find solutions for these concerns. For example, insurance will likely cover at least a portion of treatment services. Family members are also sometimes willing to help out with out-of-pocket costs. Muriel says money that people have saved in emergency funds can cover bills. “This is it,” he says. “Many times [the client or loved one] doesn’t see addiction as an emergency. I try to remind them that this is an investment in someone’s life. There is real urgency in this.”
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees to take 12 workweeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period due to such serious health conditions as addiction while keeping their health insurance. Additionally, many human resource departments are very supportive of these types of situations, and in some instances will make significant accommodations for employees needing treatment.
With regard to childcare, Muriel says he frequently sees clients enlist the help of their spouses, other family members and friends to help with children. Another important point is that a person with an addiction has likely not really “been there” for their child in many ways. Thirty days away from them in treatment could help them make changes that will positively affect their relationships for the rest of their life. “You may not be with them for 30 or 60 days,” says Muriel. “But after treatment, you may ‘really be with them’ for the first time in several years.”
Tour the Treatment Facility
Often there is a lot of fear around what mental health or drug rehab will be like. Fictional depictions of addiction treatment on television and in movies don’t always paint a pretty picture. The reality is that many treatment centers are welcoming, home-like places. Ask your loved one if they’d be willing to take a tour of a facility and speak with a staff member — no obligations. Even if they don’t commit to treatment after the tour, it might at least take some anxiety away from entering an alcohol or drug rehab when they feel ready.
Enlist an Interventionist
If you’re not making headway with your loved one, and especially if you’re seriously concerned about their safety, it could be time to call in a professional. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, 90% of people agree to enter treatment after interventions with a trained, experienced interventionist. A professional interventionist can coach you and other attendees on effective communication prior to the intervention. They lead the intervention, ensuring your loved one does not feel attacked, and will create a caring space for them where they are more likely to hear and accept others’ concerns. An interventionist can also help ease your loved one’s fears about entering treatment and give them a realistic idea of what it will be like and why recovery will make their life better.
Take Care of Yourself
It’s easy to lose sight of your own needs when you’re constantly worried about your loved one. Don’t forget that your life and your health are just as important. Muriel says that when he talks to the loved ones of addicted individuals he always asks them how they are doing. “A lot of times they start crying because no one has asked them this, and they haven’t thought about themselves in a long time.” Make sure you are attending to your own physical and mental well-being. Attend an Al-Anon or Nar-Anon meeting. Be sure to eat properly, exercise and engage in other self-care behaviors. Consider seeing a therapist to sort out the complex feelings and difficulties that come with loving someone who seems to be self-destructing. “There is only so much you can do here,” says Muriel. “You have to take care of yourself for your sake and for the sake of your loved one and the rest of your family.”