Get Confidential Help 24/7
It’s difficult to watch a friend or loved one struggle with addiction. The feeling of helplessness—of standing on the sidelines while someone you care about does harm to his or herself—can be overwhelming. If you’re caught in this situation and are looking to find help for a loved one, the most common and understandable reaction is to attempt to convince the user to go to rehab—but how exactly should you go about this?
Most people dread the “rehab conversation,” or don’t think they have the strength to make a convincing argument. There are many reasons why people struggling with initiating this vital talk, and none of them have to do with how much they care about the user in question. Often, the problem is that they care too much; they don’t want to hurt the feelings of the user, or they have convinced themselves that the problem is not as serious as it actually is.
If you truly want to help someone who is struggling with addiction, it might take an act of bravery on your behalf. However, it’s vital that you initiate the conversation. While it may be difficult and uncomfortable for everyone involved, the consequences of inaction can be dire. The lingering sense of regret—the “what if?” question—is often more difficult to manage than the helpful, if uncomfortable, process of suggesting and then placing someone in a rehab facility.
Identifying Drug Addiction
If you’re wondering how to get someone into rehab, the first step is identifying the signs and symptoms of addiction. You may have a gut feeling that someone is addicted, but that often isn’t enough to make a convincing argument for rehab placement. You need to be able to identify specific things—uncomfortable moments, problematic habits, behavioral changes—that directly connect the user to his or her pattern of abuse.
Changes in Behavior
Behavioral changes are one of the most common symptoms of drug addiction. Some of these changes may include:
- A concerted effort to block others from discovering details about their personal life
- Changes in the way they interact with friends or family
- Mood swings and/or frequent paranoia
Many users avoid obligations, such as work and school, because they don’t want their peers to know about their problem. Serious users also see these obligations as secondary in importance to their drug use.
It can be expensive to maintain a habit, especially a secret one, and users will often turn to family or friends for money.
- If you’re receiving such requests, or if you know that they’re being made, a sign that they may be used to support a drug habit is the absence of explanations.
- Often, users will avoid offering a reason why they need money and will say whatever they can to get it.
Drug use takes a physical toll on the body. Many users take on an unkempt appearance—they begin to disregard the state of their clothes and may experience intense fluctuations in weight; their eyes are often watery, red, or dilated. Their skin may look sallow and they may ignore dental hygiene. These clues can provide some of the most powerful ammunition you have when trying to convince someone to enter rehab.
What You Shouldn’t Do
While the steps for convincing someone to enter rehab are incredibly important, perhaps of equal importance are the various things you shouldn’t do when trying to make your case. Often, well-meaning people make mistakes that end up backfiring, which push the user even further into their addiction and away from rehab.
Guilt-tripping or Shaming
Addiction is an illness. If someone was stricken with cancer and was resisting treatment, would it be fair to shame or guilt-trip that person into accepting help? The answer, obviously, is of course not.
- In the same way you wouldn’t guilt trip a cancer patient, you shouldn’t use shame or guilt-trip a user. They are dealing with intense physical and emotional turmoil, and to add a layer of negativity on top of an intense mental burden can lead to collapse.
- It’s common to react to guilt-tripping or shaming with obstinance. When users feel personally attacked, they may retreat even deeper into their use.
Anger begets anger. If you approach someone with hostility who you want to guide into rehab, they will either retreat or retaliate. Neither of those responses results in listening, which is what you want them to do.
However, it’s also important to acknowledge the anger you may feel. It’s not an uncommon reaction. When you care about someone, it can be deeply frustrating to see them in the grips of addiction. Maybe they resorted to theft to finance their habit or they’ve taken to lying. In normal life, an angry response would be understandable, but users are not experiencing normal life. If you approach them with anger, there is almost no chance that they will listen to you.
Ignore the Problem
The consequences of ignoring the problem can be dire. Especially if the user is someone you care about, it can be incredibly difficult to address the topic of their addiction. Many people will convince themselves that the problem is in fact a non-issue—something small that will eventually pass, like bad weather. This is almost never the case.
When you ignore the substance abuse problem, you may be helping to strengthen their addiction. Most addictions are not static; they ramp up over time as the user requires more of the drug to achieve their high. The higher the dosage, the more likely that they will pass that redline and consume a lethal amount.
Wait Until They’ve Hit “Rock Bottom”
There’s a mistaken notion that users must achieve a certain level of dependency before entering a rehab facility for drug or alcohol treatment. This is far from the truth. If you can catch the problem early, it can be treated before it gets out of hand.
- Waiting until they’ve hit “rock bottom” often means that they’ve done serious harm to themselves, those around them, and face an immediate threat to their life.
- It’s like beginning a fight with grave illness once it’s entered the late stages. If you can, move as quickly as you can to address the problem.
What You Should Do
There are several tactics you can use to approach the subject of a loved one’s addiction, and all of them should be applied with a single end-goal in mind; admitting the user to an outpatient or inpatient treatment facility. Remember, don’t become angry or try to use guilt or shame tactics when discussing their illness. This is a selfish and useless maneuver and one that will only push the person you want to help further away from you.
Admit Your Ignorance
This may sound strange, but it’s an incredibly useful tool for getting a user to listen to you. Addiction is an intense experience, and the user may feel that the people who are trying to help him or her can’t relate to what they are going through—and, in most cases, they can’t.
- It is helpful to admit that you don’t know the extent of their problem, but to then transition into an explanation of how the observations you have made have deeply concerned you.
Document Their Behavior
Don’t shove a camera in anyone’s face who is under the influence of a substance. It can quickly get dangerous. But if you’re able to safely record evidence of someone behaving erratically, and then show them later, it can be a powerful eye-opening tool.
- Often, words alone don’t have the strength to sway someone to accept rehab.
- Witnessing themselves in the act of frightening friends or family can force a reality check.
Make Rehab A “Gift”
If you’re dealing with a loved one who does not see or admit to the extent of their problem, it’s unlikely that they will go to rehab by their own volition. In these cases, especially if it is someone who you are close with, you can ask rehab to be a “gift” from them to you.
- By expressing your concern and your deep desire to see them improve, they might be moved to enter rehab “for you.”
By all accounts, withdrawing from drugs is a nightmarish experience. The list of withdrawal symptoms is long and unpleasant, and if a user attempts to go through withdrawal unaided it can prove fatal.
- Rehab centers for alcohol and drug addiction offer trained medical staff who have helped hundreds if not thousands of patients through the process of detox.
- They offer 24-hour medical assistance and do everything in their power to ensure the safety and comfort of the person going through withdrawal.
How to Hold an Intervention
If you’re serious about admitting a loved one into a rehab center, it’s often necessary to hold an intervention. The goal of an intervention is to show the user how his or her behavior is harmful to themselves and the people around them. Interventions are incredibly delicate, and if aggressively handled the plan may backfire.
No matter what the user might have done in the course of his or her addiction, employ kindness, empathy, and patience during the intervention.
Pick Your Team
Interventions shouldn’t be conducted alone, and if the “team” is filled with people who have no experience conducting an intervention, it can be helpful to bring in a professional interventionist.
- Select people who love and care for the user, and who have their best interests in mind.
- Those involved in the intervention should have a meaningful relationship with the user, otherwise the user might be put off by their presence.
- Hire an interventionist if you aren’t sure how to plan an intervention. They are professionally trained and will make the process flow as smoothly as possible.
Choose Your Spot
It’s important to conduct an intervention somewhere private. If you select a public space, the process may be interrupted, which would be detrimental to your end goal. It should also be somewhere that the user will not feel overly comfortable, such as a family home—they might simply leave to their room or lock themselves in a familiar bathroom.
- Pick a private space where a stranger won’t stumble upon the situation. The environment should be controlled, neutral, and safe.
Stage actors don’t show up on the day of their performance and simply “wing it.” In the same way, you shouldn’t show up on the day of the intervention and gather yourself for the first time. Make sure you’ve fully prepared your remarks and know the order of speakers beforehand. When the intervention begins, emotions can run high; it’s important to have a game plan.
- Practice the intervention by gathering your team together beforehand. Thoughtfully select the order of speakers, beginning and ending with people who would have a powerful impact on the user.
Warm Body Language
If you sit across from the user with your arms crossed and your brow furrowed, you will give the impression that you are scornful or angry. If the user feels attacked, it’s unlikely that they will be receptive to your message.
- Relax your body and try not to assume a judging or angry posture. Don’t cross your arms or legs, and make sure you’re looking at the subject of the intervention while you speak.
Have A Plan Prepared
Before you begin the intervention, research rehab options. If by the end of the intervention the user is ready to accept treatment, you must be prepared with a course of action.
- Make sure you have a course of action prepared. Take the time to research rehab options and then, if the intervention goes according to plan, be prepared to present your suggestions.
Prepare For Failure
While it would be comforting to think that all interventions go smoothly, the reality is that most don’t. Often, users are not yet willing to confront their addiction and will roundly reject the intervention. Be tenacious. If this happens, be willing to meet again for another intervention at a later point.
- Not all interventions go according to plan, and you should be willing to accept a failed outcome, which is common.
- Be willing to try again. The more you show the user how much you care, the more receptive to treatment they become.
Hopefully, by avoiding certain tactics and embracing others, you will be able to show a loved one how much better their life could be without addiction. The process might be difficult, but it’s worth every hard moment. You could be saving the life of someone you care about, and in the long run they will be grateful.