It isn’t always easy to get a loved one to residential treatment1 when he or she needs it. In addition to strong resistance on the part of your loved one, there are practical considerations to contend with. These include choosing the best treatment facility (drug rehab center or alcohol treatment center2) to meet your loved one’s needs, figuring out how to pay for the treatment at the residential treatment center, helping your loved one make plans to handle his or her absence from work and other obligations during the time he or she is away at treatment for addiction3, and so much more. The process can be exhausting and emotionally draining.
Yet the biggest hurdle is convincing your loved one that residential treatment for substance abuse is in his or her best interests. Once you’ve secured the agreement, the rest is more housekeeping and detail than anything else, not that any of the arrangements are unimportant, for of course they are. Here are some suggestions on getting a loved one to residential treatment – and maintaining your own sanity in the meantime.
Be Prepared for Resistance
When you broach the subject of getting treatment at a residential treatment facility, be prepared for resistance. Depending on how long your loved one has been addicted and what other problems caused by his or her addiction have already transpired, the idea that treatment is necessary may not be a new one. Still, even if the topic has been discussed before, it’s likely that your loved one still harbors a lot of denial4 and is not going to welcome the idea of going away for treatment.
Here are some of the reasons you might hear for why your loved one doesn’t want to go into treatment:
- I don’t need treatment because I don’t have a problem. I can handle drugs and alcohol on my own.
- How could you even think of sending me away like that? I’m not some low-life drug user or skid-row alcoholic.
- I can’t afford to be away from my job for that long. I’ll get fired or demoted. It’s too risky and I’ve worked too hard to get where I am to lose everything.
- It will be too hard on the kids and you to have me gone. I don’t want to put you guys through that.
- If you love me, you won’t send me away.
- I don’t want to tell my thoughts to a bunch of strangers.
- I don’t need or want a therapist.
- I’m not going, period.
- I can’t stand the thought of being stuck with a lot of drunks and drug users. That’s not me.
- Treatment won’t do me any good. Besides, is it so bad at home now? I’ll try to do better.
- I promise I’ll give up drugs and alcohol.
- I’d feel like a prisoner.
- I wouldn’t like the food, the beds won’t be comfortable, there’s too much distraction from everybody moaning and complaining.
- If you make me go, I’ll hate you forever.
There are, of course, many variations on the comments loved ones make when they’re refusing to consider treatment, even when they know in their heart that they need professional help in the form of psychotherapy5, group therapy, evidence-based treatment modalities, education, training in coping and relapse prevention6. It isn’t that you’ll hear the arguments, you absolutely will. What’s important is being prepared for them, not taking anything that your loved one says personally, remaining calm and encouraging and being consistent.
How to Offer Encouragement and Support in the Face of Denial
Facing opposition from a loved one over the need for treatment needn’t cause you undue stress7 and emotional pain. The key is to have allies you can turn to, people who are familiar with what you’re going through because they’ve been there themselves. Consider joining a 12-Step group for the family members of those addicted to alcohol or drugs. An offshoot of Alcoholics Anonymous8, Al-Anon9, is specifically organized for the loved ones, family members and friends of addicts. When you go to Al-Anon meetings, you don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to. Just listening to others telling their stories, relating what solutions worked for them, and hearing the suggestions of other group participants can be incredibly helpful.
These fellowship members will offer nonjudgmental support and encouragement to you as you wrestle with how to get your loved one to residential treatment. You need people to talk with, a safe place to share your concerns, even time away from the demands of your addicted loved one.
Another important part of being able to continue to offer encouragement and support to your loved one when he or she adamantly denies the need for residential treatment is to gain as much knowledge as you can about the disease of addiction. You will benefit from learning the reasons why your loved one’s addiction started, symptoms, warning signs of relapse, triggers, how everyone in the family is affected, how to offer support without enabling your addicted loved one, and more. Check out the literature available on the 12-Step websites, as well as book title suggestions and links to other useful sources.
Other helpful resource10 links include the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)11, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)12, National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)13, and the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information14.
The more you know about addiction, the better prepared you’ll be to deal with denial from your loved one while offering him or her the necessary support and encouragement to accept treatment.
When an Intervention May Be Necessary
Sometimes, an addicted loved one won’t get to the point of accepting and going into residential treatment without outside help. In this case, addiction experts recommend hiring the services of a professional interventionist. While you could try to stage an intervention15 yourself, it’s not recommended. You’re not equipped to handle the highly emotional aspects of the intervention.
The professional interventionist, on the other hand, is specially trained in everything that happens before, during and after the intervention. The sole purpose of the interventionist is to get your loved one to acknowledge that his or her addiction is a problem and to accept and be willing to go into treatment. During the intervention itself, family members and close friends read prewritten statements out loud that let the addict know how his or her alcohol or drug abuse has affected them, while also reiterating that they are here out of love for the individual and a sincere desire to get him or her the help they need.
After the intervention, if your loved one agrees to accept treatment and the arrangements have already been made, the interventionist often accompanies him or her directly into a residential treatment facility. There’s no opportunity for your loved one to back out with this intervention outcome.
Look for a professional interventionist that is registered and board certified by the Association of Intervention Specialists (AIS)16.
Remember, the goal is to get your loved one to residential treatment. By enlisting support for yourself, gaining as much information about addiction as possible so you feel adequately educated about the disease, planning for the residential treatment and possibly using the services of a professional interventionist, you’ll be doing all you can to ensure your loved one gets the help he or she needs to heal.
Do be prepared for the long haul, however, because treatment for addiction is just the beginning of a lifetime of recovery17. Think of it this way: recovery is an ongoing journey and treatment is the first step. Help your loved one by giving him or her all the love, encouragement and support you can, both during and after treatment.