Have you ever heard the story of a ferocious lion with a thorn stuck in its paw? The cat was in such great pain that he thrashed around and scared others away. He wasn’t able to remove the thorn on his own. While some wanted to help him, he lashed out at anyone who came close. He was in complete agony – an agony that could have been easily resolved if he would just let someone give him a hand.
When we talk about addiction, it’s easy to understand and see that our loved ones are suffering immensely from their substance abuse. We know that with the right help, they could be free from their struggles. As a parent, spouse, sibling or friend, our hearts break in their pain. But, helping a loved one with their addiction is not always as simple as reaching out to them. In fact, many times, when we do what we think is right – it ends up backfiring, causing a rift, creating arguments, your loved one isolating, and their usage continuing.
Families Plead With Addicted Loved Ones
When someone we love is addicted, it’s natural for family and friends to worry. In that worry, there is a natural tendency to plead, nag and preach. However, it seems as though our typical pleas with addicted loved ones go unheard.
“You have to stop drinking!”
“You’re going to die if you don’t quit using pills.”
“When are you going to clean up your act?”
“Your drug use is killing me.”
“Your drinking is tearing apart our family.”
“Don’t you care if you get caught with heroin and go to jail?”
Unfortunately, while family members may view these statements and questions as motivation – they aren’t exactly actionable for the addicted person. The problem with these types of pleas comes down to the fact that many people trapped in the cycle of addiction can’t bring themselves to care enough about these consequences to seek help – because their thoughts are flooded with their drug of choice. Addiction isn’t logical.
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How To Motivate A Loved One To Go To Rehab
If you feel pushed to your limit with your loved one’s addiction, providing empathy may be the last thing you want to do right now. As angry, exhausted and frustrated as you may feel right now, it’s important to remember:
People always want to make decisions for themselves.
If someone feels as though they’re being forced into something, they’re more likely to be resistant. However, if a person feels as though something is their own decision, they’ll be much more likely to do it.
Providing empathy when it comes to a loved one’s addiction means:
- Asking open-ended questions – rather than making statements
- Keeping conversations generalized – rather than acquisitory
- Walking away from a conversation, rather than disagreeing or arguing
- Avoiding criticism
- Demonstrating concern
Remember, the point of your conversations is not to justify yourself – but rather to point your loved one in the direction of accepting they may have a problem with drugs or alcohol.
Create (And Maintain) Specific, Healthy Boundaries
The healthiest, most important decisions you can make about a loved one’s addiction are about yourself.
Healthy boundaries are possible – even when our loved ones aren’t healthy. Boundaries help to bring a measure of sanity and control into our lives, even when addiction creates chaos. Without them, you lose yourself, your freedom and your personal space – compromising what makes you, you.
Setting limits isn’t about the addicted person – it’s about you. The boundaries you establish need to directly reduce the amount of stress and chaos you experience due to their drug or alcohol use. For a great list of some of the most important boundaries to set with an addicted loved one, check out this article.
In creating healthy boundaries, it’s crucial to be specific about what you will and will not do. Make your intentions clear to both yourself and your loved one, without making idle threats.
When a loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol, the family is often blamed for their struggles. It’s difficult to an addicted person to take ownership of their own problems – but it’s necessary in order for them to seek help. If a person is going to make changes in their life by going to drug rehab, they must accept that it is their own responsibility to make these changes; no one else.
Encouraging responsibility is a fine balance between not helping, but not hindering. By striking a balance, it means that you don’t excuse their behaviors or actions caused by being drunk and high – and you also don’t soften the blow of their consequences.
For example: if your loved one is too hungover to go to work, you should not call in sick for him or her. But, if he or she wants to call in sick on their own – you should not prevent it.
You are not solely responsible for motivating a loved one to go to addiction treatment. While it may feel as though you are on your own, embarrassed to talk to others about the addiction in the family, or scared of the consequence – remember that there is power in numbers.
Enlisting help to motivate a loved one to go to rehab can entail several different avenues:
- Attending local chapters for family and friends.
- There are groups such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon specifically for people who love and care for those in active addiction and recovery.
- Reaching out to a counselor or therapist for yourself.
- Doing so, you’ll learn how to set yourself up for numbers one through three above.
- Connecting with another friend or family member in long-term recovery.
- Someone who knows what it is like to go through addiction, treatment, and recovery can help to serve as an ally in your quest to help your loved one.
- Contacting an addiction treatment specialist before your loved one is ready to accept help.
- That way, when he or she reaches out for help, you already have a wealth of information.
- Considering a professional intervention.
- When things spiral out of control with addiction in the family, emotions can run high. A professional interventionist can serve as an unbiased third party who can help convince your loved one that change is necessary.
If you are hoping to motivate a loved one to seek help for an addiction, remember that you don’t have to be alone, and you don’t have to sacrifice your own health and sanity to do so. Ultimately, while it must be your loved one’s decision to accept help and healing – you do have the power to make healthy decisions for yourself and encourage your loved one through those healthy actions.