Written By:Amber Hollingsworth,LPC
There are two aspects of addiction disease that make treatment particularly difficult when compared to medical treatment for other diseases:
People don’t usually know that they have it.
They don’t want to get better.
There are things that you (family/loved one) can do to help! Okay, here are a couple of options…
1. You could have an old school intervention. You know, the type where everybody gets in a circle and reads letters to their loved one asking them to get help. I have some experience with this type of intervention and they can be very powerful. My advice about doing this is GET PROFESSIONAL HELP. DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS ON YOUR OWN! While these types of interventions can be effective they can also be harmful, especially if not done well. I know you have probably seen the TV show and it looks pretty simple, but what you don’t see on the show is the 2 days of intense coaching (from an intervention specialists) that goes on behind the scenes with the family.
2. You could get yourself into counseling with an addiction specialist. I know this sounds strange (I mean you aren’t the one with the addiction right?!?!), but the specialists can coach you on ways to approach the situation that can help guide the person into getting help. This approach does take a little longer but can be much more effective in the long run. At Hope For Families we work with individuals on how to communicate their concerns in a way that will not create defensiveness and will allow the addicted individual to eventually feel safe enough to get some help. There are many things that can be done to help guide someone into treatment, and each individual responds differently to various approaches. This is why I suggest you get in with an addiction specialist that can help guide you based on your particular situation. The counselor should ask you lots of questions about your loved one’s personality, history, state of mind, and substance abuse patterns. All of this information will be useful in the process of coaching a family through the situation.
We call this approach REVERSE RECOVERY, because it means the family gets better before the addict starts to get better. Recovery usually happens the other way around, but I always advocate for my clients to stop waiting for the addict to “want to get better.” This just isn’t likely to happen due to the nature of this disease.
Lastly, I usually tell my clients to avoid seeking advice on this topic from “just anybody.” If you talk about it too openly with friends, family, neighbors, etc, you are likely to get a lot of “Big Talk” (meaning a lot of “well… I’ll tell you what I would do!” and “I wouldn’t put up with that”). For most people this just makes them feel worse. They feel ashamed because they start to think that something is wrong with them because they aren’t strong enough to be tougher on the person, or kick them out, or that somehow they may have caused the problem.