Addiction plays a dangerous game with our hearts and minds, and when a loved one – especially a son or daughter – is addicted to drugs or alcohol, it’s easy to become desperate.
You’ve watched helplessly as they’ve lost relationships, their children, their jobs, their freedom – almost everything that makes life worth living. The haunting thought that the next fix may be the last fix. keeps you up at night, every night.
We’ll do anything to stop them from picking up another beer; anything to stop them from meeting with their dealer; anything to stop them from bumping another line of cocaine, taking another Xanax, or sticking another needle in their arm.
Sometimes, that “anything” is the right thing. Most of the time, however, “anything” isn’t helping. Incentivizing, bargaining and bribing will get you nowhere when it comes to getting your loved one into drug addiction treatment programs.
Loving someone in active addiction is terrifying.
Loving someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol can be one of the most stressful and painful situations we could ever encounter in our lives. Especially if that person is your child. There is likely not an hour that goes by that you aren’t worried about where your child is, what he is doing, and if you’ll ever see him again.
When your patience and emotions are shot, and you don’t have anyone to help you figure out what to do to help him – it’s easy to resort to compromising, bargaining – or even bribing your child to take steps to get help for their addiction. Although your actions are purely done with the best intention in your heart – you need to know that these actions can be dangerous and even deadly.
If you’re a parent, chances are – at some point, you’ve incentivized your child to do something, or not do something. “If you eat all of your carrots, you get to have dessert!” or “If you are on your best behavior at the store, you can pick out one toy when we’re done.” or “If you get all A’s and B’s this semester, I’ll buy you a new iPad.”
Addiction isn’t anything like the bad or good behaviors you’ve dealt with over the years as a parent. Addiction is a serious and progressive disease. You can’t love someone into addiction recovery. You can’t buy their desire to get healthy.
At Vertava Health, we often speak with parents and grandparents who have reverted to old methods of dealing with their child or grandchild. Unfortunately, bribes and rewards won’t heal the addiction, mental or behavioral issues.
Here’s how to change your approach.
Example #1: “If you quit drinking, I’ll pay for you to go to college.”
At first thought, this seems like a great idea – right? Going to college gives a person a sense of responsibility, structure, and a higher education. Paying for college is investing in your child’s future. She’d spend less time drinking and more time studying, writing papers, and taking exams.
Reality: Addiction isn’t a series of poor decision and bad behaviors. Addiction and alcoholism are disease that aren’t cured by midterms and higher education. Only drug and alcohol rehab can treat this disease. Your tuition money would be better spent on treatment to save his or her life.
Change your Reasoning: “I’ll help you find and pay for rehab. Until then, I can’t support or pay for anything else – even college.”
Example #2: “If you clean up your act, I will buy you a car.”
Reality: In many cases, people who struggle with drug addiction can sober up for a short period of time in order to get something that they want. In fact, someone who is incentivized by something big – like a car – may even be able to keep up sobriety for a few months. Bribing your son or daughter with addiction with a big ticket item like a car may give you short-term glimmers of hope. He’ll go to any length to show you he’s sober – clean shaven, showing up for dinner, spending more time with you.
However, getting sober and addiction recovery are completely different. “Getting sober” means stopping the drugs and alcohol – “addiction recovery” involves addressing the emotional, behavioral and mental aspects of addiction. If the underlying issues of the addiction aren’t treated by professionals, it is most likely that your son or daughter will return to drinking or using drugs.
Above all else, if your son or daughter is using opiates, benzos or any other drug – you DON’T want them operating a vehicle anyway. Not to mention all the fees that come with an impounded or wrecked vehicle – insurance fees and car notes, by giving your child a vehicle, your putting his or her life into even greater danger. It also give her direct access to her dealer. Instead of buying a car – give him or her a chance at life with treatment.
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Change your Reasoning: “I’ll help you find and pay for rehab. I’m not going to purchase something that hurt you more than it will help you.”
Example #3: “If you promise this is the last time, I’ll pay off the dealer.”
Reality: If you pay off the dealer one time, you’ll continue to pay. Your son or daughter is not going to stop just because their balance is now zero with their dealer. In fact, it’s all the more reason the dealer will want to sell to him or her – because the dealer knows you’ll pay. Your child knows that if he scares you enough, cries enough, or threatens enough, you’ll fork over the cash.
Change your Reasoning: “I’ll help you find and pay for rehab. If you go to treatment, you’ll be far away from your dealer, and you won’t need to worry about paying him.”
If you’re trying to convince your adult child to go to drug rehab, bribing doesn’t work. Here are the things that do:
- Talk to them about the problem.
This is where the solution begins
- Look at insurance.
If your son or daughter isn’t on you insurance, help them find a plan.
- Seek out an interventionist.
This isn’t something you have to do alone – talk to a professional.
- Research treatment programs.
Someone struggling with addiction needs to heal mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. This can all be done through the right program.
- Get help for yourself.
Addiction is a family disease. If your child has been suffering from drug or alcohol addiction – you’ve also been suffering. Most treatment programs can help you heal as a family.