A Tough Task
Since most substance abusers do not want treatment and may even deny there’s a problem, it’s often up to friends and family to persuade the loved one to seek help. Interestingly, higher success rates are found with rehabilitation programs that pressure individuals to confront and overcome their drug use, and it’s been proven that treatment doesn’t have to be voluntary to be effective. Detox is usually the first step.
What does this all mean for concerned family members who believe their loved one may need assistance? It means that they shouldn’t feel guilty or bad about trying to convince someone to go through detox, even if he/she doesn’t want to. Once the individual is on the road to recovery, everyone–the user included–will be glad they did so. With that goal in mind, here are three great ways to convince a family member to go through detoxification. In some cases, using just one technique is successful, while other situations require a combination of methods.
1. Confront the Loved One Carefully
This can be done in two different ways: through a private talk or a group intervention.
- Wait until the user is sober.
- Plan ahead regarding what to say, especially for an intervention.
- Speak in a loving, concerned manner.
- Be specific about the behavior changes and what elements cause concern.
- Identify the behavior as the reason for concern.
- Challenge the user to consider his/her behavior.
- Offer options for seeking help.
- Offer support and encouragement.
- Condemn, intimidate or threaten the user.
- Criticize the person.
Procedure for a Private Talk:
The family member should choose a time and quiet place carefully for the conversation, remaining sensitive to possible feelings of embarrassment, anger or denial that may be amplified if other people are present. For instance, going on walk together or sitting in a comfortable coffee shop may offer good environments for the talk.
Generally, the conversation should begin with small talk–trivial, non-threatening topics unrelated to the substance abuse. As the comfort level grows, the conversation can be brought gently around to the harmful behavior, focusing on the concern and the behavior itself. Depending on the individual’s response, the family member may be able to challenge the user to think about his/her behavior or discuss possible underlying causes for the behavior. The worried family member should offer options for obtaining assistance, such as accompanying the user to counseling or meetings.
Procedure for an Intervention:
A family intervention brings everyone together for a loving conversation to help the individual understand how his/her abuse hurts themselves and their family. When planning an intervention, the family should consult a professional who is trained to help with the intervention. Each person should share a personal story of pain and demand that the user go through detox and obtain treatment. This way, it becomes difficult for the individual to deny the problem or a need for treatment. Again, the concern should remain focused on the behavior while the person is showered with love and support.
2. Offer Active Assistance
Depending on the situation, a family member’s support and active assistance can make a big difference in the user’s determination or ability to seek help and start a detox program. This support can take many forms, including:
- Accompanying the user to counseling, groups or meetings
- Encouraging participation in detox
- Watching for and providing support to get through withdrawal symptoms
- Helping the user manage and take medications properly
- Providing transportation to the doctor’s office and, if desired, staying with him/her through the appointment
- Going through the user’s home and disposing of the substance being abused
Help the User on Specific Terms Only
Family members are often eager to assist the abuser, but they may sometimes be drawn into the abuser’s manipulations and end up enabling, rather than helping, the individual. This can be avoided by only providing help that directly helps the person to become clean and sober.
For instance, the abuser may ask for money to feed his/her children. This sounds like a worthwhile reason, but the problem is that the money that should have fed the kids was used instead to purchase drugs. Providing money for food now makes it OK for the abuser to spend the grocery money on drugs because the he/she knows that family will chip in to feed the children; as a result, the substance abuse behavior is inadvertently encouraged rather than discouraged.
Instead, help should be offered only on the family member’s terms–specifically, to get professional help only. This could take the form of calling a detox program, searching for the right treatment program or visiting a substance abuse counselor. It may be hard to stand firm on this, but sometimes the user must go through pain and misery until he/she is willing to change. The family member should continue to offer help, of course, but only in the form of professional treatment.
3. Obtain Professional Counseling for Family Members Too
Substance abuse affects family members, who in turn affect the abuse as well. In many cases, the family members are not even aware of the extent of the impact of the abuse on their own lives. Whenever possible, family members should obtain their own counseling or therapy to help them learn about the substance abuse, new ways to communicate and how to best support their troubled loved one. For an even better understanding, in some cases the family members can also attend the user’s counseling or therapy groups.
As the loved one goes through detox and addiction rehabilitation, the entire family will notice changes. To help the loved one stay clean and sober while strengthening the bonds between individuals, family members should learn how to navigate these changes together.
Don’t Give Up
Having a family member going through substance abuse struggles can be a scary experience. However, in many cases, firm and loving family members were the key element that pushed the abuser to obtain the professional help he/she needed and to go through detox. The battle may be tough at times, but it’s worth it to have the loved one back.