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What Now? Ways to Respond when a Loved One Refuses Treatment

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It can be frustrating being a family member or spouse of someone in active addiction. You want the best for them. You see what drugs and alcohol are doing to their life and the lives of those around them. Even though you have the best of intentions, it can be difficult to get them to see that they need treatment. They may be in denial that the problem is as serious as it is, or believe that they can stop using on their own. Your loved one may be scared about how their life will change once they become sober, or be worried about the treatment process and their ability to succeed.

In many cases, you can’t force someone into treatment. You can be compassionate and express your concern, but it’s ultimately up to them to decide whether they want to accept help. So what do you do when your spouse or loved one refuses treatment?

Arrange an intervention. If talking to your spouse yourself has not yielded results, you may need professional assistance. An intervention or addiction specialist can support you, your family, and close friends in talking to the person about their drug or alcohol use. It is a very structured and planned out process designed to help your loved one see that there is an issue, and people love them and want to help them to recover.

You will write letters, make arrangements for treatment, and then have a sit-down conversation which the intervention specialist will facilitate. At the end, your family member will be asked if they are willing to accept help and attend an executive rehab facility. If they agree, plans are already in place to have them start as soon as possible. If they refuse, consequences will have already been explained and then must be executed by family and friends.

Let them experience natural consequences. It can be tempting to step in and help the person you love because you don’t want to see them suffer or get hurt. But when it comes to addiction, sometimes you have to let them experience consequences so they begin to better see the reality of the situation. Stop cleaning up their messes; they can deal with it when they sober up. Don’t make excuses for their behavior or to get them out of trouble. If they’re late to work or get their license suspended for DUI, then they need to deal with the ramifications.

Once these issues begin to build and they realize the impact, they may be more willing to accept help. When they see that no one is going to bail them out and they got themselves into the situation they are in, it can be more motivation to turn their life around. It can be difficult to watch them struggle, but sometimes it is necessary.

Set boundaries. This goes along the same lines with interventions and if they refuse help. Establish boundaries and limits. For instance, perhaps you won’t bail them out of jail if they get arrested, or you won’t go out with them if they have been drinking. Maybe it’s a little more extreme and you have a point where, if they reach it, you’re leaving. But don’t make idle threats. Make sure they are boundaries that you are willing to follow through with. This can demonstrate the severity of the situation and your seriousness about being concerned for their wellbeing and wanting them to get help.

Don’t lecture. Harping on them about their drinking or drug use probably isn’t doing much good. They may have tuned these lectures out by now. If you know that you are going to disagree with them and start an argument, excuse yourself from the situation. You want to be compassionate and supportive of them getting help. This is one reason an intervention can be helpful – it allows you to say what you need to say in a more effective and beneficial way. Just telling the person they need to stop and get help won’t make much of an impact and lecturing may just lead them to use even more.

Ask why. When your loved one continually refuses help, it can be helpful to ask why. Remember to do so in a supportive and concerned way rather than a confrontational or accusatory way. Why do they not want treatment? What is holding them back? You may not get a real answer right away as they will probably have many excuses. But keep trying and building your understanding of addiction and treatment. You may be able to help ease some of their fears and talk through the barriers standing in their way. Remember that even if it may sound irrational to you, it probably isn’t to them.

Get yourself help. Even if your spouse or family member won’t get help, you still can. Start attending support group meetings for family members of those with addiction problems. Talk to a counselor or therapist. Addiction impacts you as well, and it can be good to talk through these issues. This can also provide more insight into how you can help your loved one, and more motivation for them to get help when they see that you are. They don’t want to see you hurting just as you don’t want to see them hurting.

Everyone’s situation is different, and you know your loved one better than others do. Figure out what works best for your situation and how to approach things. You may have to try several tactics. Don’t give up and don’t be afraid to reach out for help. You are not alone and there are people who can provide support and guidance.

If you’re ready to get your loved one – or even yourself – into treatment for addiction, contact Chapters Capistrano today. Our staff will work to answer any questions you may have and provide your loved one with treatment based on their individual needs. Call 949-371-4198 to get started.

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