As Amy Winehouse famously sang, “They tried to make me go to rehab / I said, no, no, no!”
When a loved one is struggling with substance abuse but won’t acknowledge the problem or seek treatment, it can be heartbreaking for anyone hoping to help. Addiction is a difficult disease with many ups and downs. Quitting is difficult to do.
Loved ones should keep in mind that all hope isn’t lost with an initial rejection of treatment. There are still some things that can be done.
Get educated about drugs and alcohol
It’s been said that you can’t fight an enemy you don’t understand. Thus, one of the most important things a loved one can do is to take steps to understand substance abuse and addiction. Signs of addiction include:
- Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual
- Changes in appetite or sudden weight loss
- Change in sleep patterns
- Deterioration of grooming or physical appearance
- Impaired coordination
- Unexplained changes in attitude or personality
- Sudden mood swings, irritability or angry outbursts
- Anxiousness or paranoia
- Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors
If someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol, it is important to understand what a person has to struggle with and why quitting is so hard. Simply deciding to stop taking drugs or using alcohol isn’t a decision. Addiction is an illness.
While it may be difficult for family and friends who are dealing with the actions and behaviors of an addict, it’s important to recognize that addiction isn’t a reflection of morality or a person’s character. There are chemical and physical changes that occur within the body that can cause even a social drinker or drug user to slip into addiction.
Stop enabling the addict
Sometimes loved ones hoping to assist an addict actually cause more harm by enabling him or her. This may not even happen intentionally. Friends and family members who provide financial assistance by helping with housing, food, or money actually allow an addict to put the cash toward drugs or alcohol instead of other necessities.
Loved ones may also make the mistake of covering up the addiction. They make excuses about why the addict doesn’t show up for school, work, important appointments, or family gatherings. Sometimes parents or significant others will do homework or help an addict with professional work. This “help” only enables the addict because he or she never has to face the consequences of their actions due to substance abuse.
When an addict refuses treatment, it is important to set consequences. Loved ones must stop with empty threats and follow through. For example, stop offering to pay the rent and don’t provide a “loan” for groceries.
If the addict is a teen still living at home, remove privileges, and follow through on punishments. Depending on how severe the addiction, a loved one may even consider the drastic step of contacting authorities and having the addict arrested. Consequences are necessary and must be recognized before any change will happen.
Take care of yourself
While a loved one may refuse treatment, it does not mean loved ones must simply sit and suffer from the situation. Friends and family must understand they are not alone. Groups such as Al-Anon and Narc-Anon as well as other independent support groups, are worth joining to learn more about addiction and living with the addict. Additionally, individual or family therapy can provide mental and emotional support and healing.
When someone rejects treatment, it can be a challenging time for everyone who cares about him or her. It is important for loved ones to find assistance and emotional healing for themselves. In doing so, it can also help with the strength and energy needed to try to get the addict to consider treatment again or possibly accelerate attempts with a more aggressive approach, such as an intervention.