My Loved One Refuses Addiction Treatment. Now What?
If your loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol, you’re not alone. Today, an estimated 46.3 million Americans have a substance use disorder, meaning that almost 1 in 4 of us has a close friend or family member with a substance abuse problem. When your loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol, getting them into addiction treatment is a logical first step. But, what happens when they don’t want to go? Or if they won’t go?
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that just 4.1 million people, or less than 10% of the total number of people with a substance abuse problem, received addiction treatment in 2021. Most people aren’t getting help – although reasons for not getting help are diverse. Understanding some next steps, you can take will allow you to continue supporting your loved one and hopefully eventually get them into treatment as well.
Be There for Them
It’s important to try to avoid enabling behavior, such as paying for your loved one’s rent, lying to their boss, or otherwise making decisions that are likely to enable them to continue using. It is true that any kind of support and care will do this to some extent, however, you can be there for someone to help them stay safe without helping them to use.
Being there for someone might look like:
- Picking them up at any time of night, no questions asked, providing they sleep on your couch after
- Giving them access to sleep on your couch or in a guest room if they have to
- Taking time to listen and offering emotional support
- Offering to help with things like cleaning up (rather than doing it for them)
- Offering to go to the doctor, to AA or NA meetings, and to other treatment
If you live with someone, it’s important that you don’t take on all of their responsibilities. However, you can offer to help, you can listen to them, and you can try to make it known that you’re trying to support them without overloading yourself.
Addiction is a complicated behavioral disorder that can stem from a vast number of causes and vulnerabilities. Taking time to learn about addiction, doing so with your loved one where possible, and discussing what you learn with them can be helpful. For example, you can learn the basics of how addiction works, you can read books about recovery, and you can read about different types of therapy and treatment. You might not be able to get through to your loved one in this way. However, you will show them that you care, that you’re continuing to invest time and energy into them, and that you want what is best for them.
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Being nonjudgmental can be extremely difficult. Most of us are raised with old-fashioned ideals about addiction as a personal failing, as poor choices, and as a disease, which is incurable. None of these ideas are correct. Instead, addiction is a behavioral disorder that’s often complicated and very often resulting from a complicated range of addiction risk factors including mental health, social situation, physical health, social standing and social behavior, stress levels, epigenetics, genetics, and other factors. People become addicted for a variety of reasons but it’s never a choice.
Understanding that your loved one isn’t flawed and that they can get better is an important part of approaching addiction nonjudgmentally. However, it’s also important to let go of what other people might think, to show concern for your loved one and not for other people’s opinions, and to invest in your loved one’s health not in whether or not they drink or use drugs. That can take a significant mindset change from you as well because you may have to let go of bias you might not even realize you have.
Why should you work on being non-judgmental? It will help your loved one to realize they can still have a relationship with you, that they have people who believe in them and continue to believe in them, and that they are more than an addiction.
Detaching with Love
Detaching with love is the process of stepping away from over-investing in someone who doesn’t have the capacity to give back or to not hurt you because of your investment. It does not mean dropping your loved one or cutting them out of your life. Instead, it means to expect nothing and to accept failure. That might mean refusing to stay up or hold dinner for someone who is habitually late. It might also mean expecting that your loved one will be drunk, even if you don’t think they have alcohol. It might mean expecting that they won’t come up with their portion of the rent, or that they will slack at their chores.
If you understand that someone is going to fail at their obligations and responsibilities, you can better prepare yourself for that. And, it’s also important that you don’t take up the slack for them, that could increase stress and push you to burnout. However, it is important that you don’t invest in your loved one changing, in them doing the things they say, or in things suddenly improving. If you can’t accept your loved one as they are now, you should probably be stepping further away until you can.
Continue Working Towards Addiction Treatment
Just because your loved one won’t go to addiction treatment now doesn’t mean that they will never go to addiction treatment. Instead, it means they have to have the motivation, the understanding of why they are going, and they have to be ready for change. Building those may require understanding that people in their life are there for them and they have a reason to get better. It may require understanding that addiction isn’t permanent, and they can change. It may mean learning about how addiction works. It might also be about them understanding that addiction treatment is about them, their health, and their future and not about their family and what their family thinks.
Over 10% of the U.S. adult population needs addiction treatment. Most of us never get that help. Still, it’s important to work with your loved one and continue to ask them to move into recovery, to get better, and to work on getting their life back. It might not succeed immediately or at all, but you can help your loved one to find motivation to get their life back.
If you or your loved-one struggles from alcoholism or other substance abuse please contact us today and speak with one of our experienced and professional intake advisors about our detox, partial hospitalization, and residential treatment programs. We’re here to help you recover.