How can I Convince my Loved One to go to Rehab? Photo

How can I Convince my Loved One to go to Rehab?

Substance use disorders can wreak havoc not only on a person’s life but also on the lives of those around them. And these conditions may not be visible at first. Many people go to great lengths to hide or justify their behavior, and some take a long time to even admit they have a problem. If you believe a loved one is engaging in substance misuse, it’s natural to want them to get help for their addiction

Loving someone with a substance use disorder can be hard, and many people struggle to balance their loved one’s needs with their own. You may even find yourself enabling them or falling into codependent patterns. But it’s absolutely possible to help them without hurting yourself. In many cases, the first step is simply talking to your loved one about their behavior.  

Planning the Conversation

If you believe it’s time for your loved one to attend rehab, you can start by having a conversation with them. Because this is such a delicate subject, it’s very important to plan what you’ll say ahead of time. You might even want to take notes and refer to them during your conversation. The act of doing this might show the other person how important this topic is to you because you’ve put so much effort into thinking about it in advance. 

In some cases, it’s appropriate to stage a more formal intervention. Normally, interventions are group conversations between a group of people who care about each other, all of whom plan what to say very carefully. If possible, it’s best to hire a trained interventionist to facilitate. These professionals may have access to more resources than a layperson, making them well-equipped to support both you and your loved one through the process.

However, interventions aren’t right for everyone. Facing a group may make some people feel attacked. Others, when in the throes of substance misuse, may have trouble keeping appointments. In these situations, it may be best to approach the person one-on-one. 

The Dos and Don’ts of Talking to a Loved One about Substance Misuse

As you get ready to talk to your loved one, it’s important to check in with yourself first. Make space for your own emotions, and set aside time to process them both before and after you speak with them. Talking about someone else’s unhealthy behavior may be triggering for all involved, but this conversation should not be about your experience. You can use these dos and don’ts to communicate effectively, without compromising your own needs.

DO Be Kind, Be Kind, Be Kind

When you speak to someone about their substance misuse, it’s natural to feel strong emotions, such as anger, frustration, or sadness. However, it’s important to display as much compassion as you can. Data shows that self-compassion may prevent substance misuse, and modeling this behavior may help them begin to recover. 

DO Validate Their Struggle

Throughout this process, it’s important to stay compassionate. Because of the way addiction works, it’s beyond your loved one’s ability to manage. While substance misuse may look more willful than other conditions, most people have very little control over their experience. 

During this conversation, make space for the other person to talk about their experience. Listen to what they have to say, and know that it may be very hard to hear. This may be the first time they’ve been confronted with the idea that they need help. And their reaction may surprise you. They might respond with grace, vulnerability, anger, fear, or blatant denial of the problem. 

DO Be Honest

No matter how close you are to the person, there are probably things you haven’t yet said to them. You may not have explained the effect their behavior has on your life or described your fears for their safety. This is the time to (thoughtfully) share any and all relevant information.

You can be compassionate without being vague. For example, imagine that your loved one has lost a job after showing up at work while using. Saying “I know you’re unemployed right now” invites them to blame their former boss, or explain how substances help them cope with anxiety. Instead, you can come right out and say “I’m concerned because you lost your job because of your substance misuse.” These statements are hard to say and even harder to hear. But speaking plainly lets them know that you see the extent of the problem. It also lets them know that they’re not alone.

DO Be Specific

It can be powerful to share specific examples of your loved one’s unhealthy behavior. This makes it harder for them to justify or ignore the ways that substance misuse is impacting their life. You can even write a list in advance, to make sure you remember all the pertinent details. 

This tactic works best when you can discuss isolated incidents, even if they’ve happened repeatedly. Telling someone “you’ve been late a lot lately” is less effective than saying “you’ve been late to pick your daughter up from school six times this month.” Statements like this one help paint a clear picture of the scope of the issue.

DO Plan Ahead

Before you begin the conversation, do some research about ways your loved one can get professional help. This may include finding rehab centers that take their insurance, speaking with the admissions team at a certain facility, or finding a sober companion who can accompany them on the drive to treatment. Depending on how they respond, you might finish the conversation by telling them about these options, and offering to connect them with specific resources. 

If you don’t have the ability to do this research, ask a third party to help you collect information. A person with a serious substance use disorder probably won’t be able to follow through without direct support from their community.

DON’T Make or Accept Excuses

Denial is often a symptom of substance use disorders. As a result, it’s likely your loved one will try to ignore or deflect whatever you have to say. If that happens, it can be tempting to let them steer the conversation and avoid conflict. Doing this won’t encourage them to get help, and may even enable them to continue using.

It’s also important to note the strong relationship between addiction and codependency. If you behave co-dependently, either in general or just during this conversation, you may unintentionally exacerbate the other person’s symptoms. To put it simply—don’t offer excuses for their behavior. If you give them the chance to deny what’s happening, they’ll take it. This is your opportunity to hold them accountable for their actions and to lead by example.

DON’T Make Accusations

When you’re talking to a person who has hurt you, there’s a fine line between being honest and being aggressive. It’s important to be as honest as you can, without encouraging your loved one to feel ashamed. 

Shame plays a major role in substance misuse. Many people either use substances to escape feelings of shame or feel shame about their unhealthy behavior. However, “there can be shame without blame.” For the purposes of this conversation, it’s not helpful to identify a villain. 

Over time, and with professional help, they may eventually be able to take responsibility for their actions. But as a partner or family member, you can’t provide them with the clinical therapy that will make that possible. Instead, you can simply avoid terms like “bad” and “wrong,” and focus on the facts. Trust that their treatment team will help them understand the nuances of their behavior at a later time. 

DON’T Lead with Anger

Your feelings are valid. But acting on them, or even expressing them, can sometimes cause harm. If your loved one’s substance misuse is severe enough to warrant this conversation, then they’re not equipped to help you process your anger. And picking a fight will simply damage their trust in you, making it more difficult for you to help.

This conversation will almost certainly cause you to have a strong emotional response. Take note of that, and stay present in the moment. Make a plan for your personal aftercare, and save your feelings until then. If you have a therapist, for example, it might be helpful to schedule a session for the same day or shortly thereafter.

Following Through

If all goes well, you’ll finish the conversation by making a plan of action. This may include contacting a rehab center, finding a therapist, or arranging for your loved one to take time off work. Whatever you both decide, it’s important that you take the lead on the next steps

Even if the conversation goes well, a person with a serious substance use disorder probably won’t have the capacity to handle logistics. And if substance use has compromised their memory, they may need you to remind them of your agreements. Just by opening the discussion, you’re committing to helping them find a way forward. 

And if the conversation goes poorly, don’t give up hope. It may be time for you to set boundaries with your loved one, or even take a break from interacting entirely. But there’s always a chance that they will remember what you’ve said, and eventually, seek out the care they need.

Ultimately, you can’t control another person’s behavior. All you can do is offer support, recommend resources, and continue to meet your own needs. But if they accept your offer of help, be ready to follow through. 

If you’d like to learn more about enrolling a loved one in a rehab program, you can connect with our admissions team.

Kelley Alexander JD. photo

Kelley Alexander JD.  is the co-director of The Sanctuary at Sedona and has worked over the last decade to develop its innovative Integrative Addiction Recovery Program that has helped hundreds of clients to be recovered from addiction and co-occurring disorders. Through her pioneering work, Kelley and her team at The Sanctuary also work with clients to overcome issues related to codependency, anxiety, depression, and PTSD. A JD and former practicing attorney, Kelley holds a BA in World Religions and has done graduate work in psychology. She is an ordained minister, certified shamanic breathwork facilitator, and a graduate of the Four Winds Healing The Light Body School, the premier energy medicine program founded by Alberto Villoldo. Kelley has also been a student of Dr. Joe Dispenza since 2009. She is a member of the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology and the Institute for Holistic Addiction Studies. She is a frequent lecturer at seminars and conferences throughout the United States.
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