Few things are more depressing and disturbing than witnessing someone you love willingly hand their life over to addiction. Whether it’s to alcohol, prescription medications like Oxycontin, Vicodin or Xanax or to street drugs like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines, the long term damage is nearly the same. You know that drug rehab treatment is what they need, but getting them to go may feel like a futile endeavor.
It is important to recognize that their incessant use isn’t simply a choice on their part. The vast majority of addicts have tried to quit many times – only to pick it up repeatedly. Let’s face it; if an addiction was easy to overcome, most addicts – including your loved one – would have stopped long ago. Unfortunately, the process of becoming clean and staying sober is more complex than that. That’s why any effective program of rehabilitation – whether a 12 Step program by itself or a residential treatment center – is preferable to the status quo – if you can just get them there.
First of all, understand and accept that the addict is the only one responsible for his or her addiction – NOT you. Even if you’ve enabled and fed in to their addictive behavior, it’s not your fault. More likely than not they even blamed you for their problem, but whatever you do, remember this: don’t blame yourself!
If you do, the familiar pattern of excuses, denial, and blame will pull you right back in, causing your efforts to fail once again. On top of that, anger, resentment, and a sense of utter hopelessness will interfere with your efforts. Keeping all this in mind, one viable option at this point is an intervention with a professional, objective entity, which can be costly and there is no guarantee that it will work.
If you choose to try it yourself, you must go into it with a clear plan. First, select a program in advance and make sure it’s a good fit for the addict. Check with the treatment facility to ensure that there’s an opening available. This is important because if the addict agrees to get help, they can be admitted immediately following the intervention.
Another important aspect is to make sure that the people who attend are individuals whom the addict respects and trusts. An intervention can quickly backfire if there’s anyone there who has a lot of anger or other negative feelings towards the addict. Avoid hurtful comments, playing the blame game or arguing. The atmosphere and mood should be one of genuine caring and concern. The addict has already experienced a lot of guilt, shame, hurt and anger. Be gentle, but straightforward and firm.
Timing is also very important. Morning is generally preferable, while they still have a hangover and/or haven’t had the opportunity to “get well” yet. If there has been a significant upheaval in the addict’s life that’s a direct result of their drinking and using (a relationship breakup or job loss), these events can serve as wake-up calls that it’s time to make a change. They may be more receptive to the intervention and open to treatment under these types of circumstances.
This is also your opportunity to let the addict know that you will no longer cosign the addict’s behavior; that despite the love and concern you have for them, they need to accept this “gift” or you must move away from them. You need to make it crystal clear that none of you will provide any type of help or support, in the form of money, transportation, a place to stay – until he or she agrees to get help. Sometimes this is the turning point that will change the addict’s mind – if not during the intervention then soon after when they ultimately realize how serious you are. This is historically the hardest part for most people, but unless this is done, the pattern will never change.
Naturally, there are no guarantees. This is serious business and people die from it every day. As stated in The Big Book Of Alcoholics Anonymous: “Science may someday find a cure, but it hasn’t done so yet.”