If you have a loved one who is struggling with drug or alcohol use, you may be wondering how to help a family member start addiction treatment. There are steps you can take to help your loved one and yourself, as well as other family members.
Educate yourself about substance abuse
When you suspect a loved one has a drug or alcohol problem, the best place to start is to educate yourself about addiction so you’ll be better equipped to deal with the situation. Once you understand that addiction is a brain disease, you’ll also see that willpower alone is not enough for a loved one to quit. Without some type of treatment intervention, withdrawal symptoms and cravings drive people back to using. It’s almost impossible for most to quit using drugs or alcohol without some form of professional help.
Don’t enable addiction behavior
The more your family member struggling with addiction is enabled, the more they will continue to use because there is someone helping them along or covering up for their mistakes. The person using substances must be allowed to suffer the natural consequences stemming from drug or alcohol use.
Refuse to cover up for them or protect them from problems stemming from substance use. Don’t enable your loved one by paying their bills or making excuses when they are a no-show for work, school or family obligations. Instead, insist on responsible behaviors and set boundaries for unacceptable behaviors.1
Help a family member start addiction treatment with an intervention
Staging an intervention can help a family member start addiction treatment. An intervention is a group meeting of concerned loved ones who, gently but firmly, tell the family member how serious they think the drug or alcohol problem is. The group explains to the individual how substance abuse has seriously affected their lives. An offer to help a family member start addiction treatment is then given, and if it’s not accepted, consequences are put into place.2
Consequences could include refusing financial support, eviction or cutting off all contact. If the person is severely addicted or a danger to others, for the family’s own protection, it may be best to sever all contact if help is refused. The family tells the person struggling with addiction that the only contact they wish to have is if the individual wants to get help. Otherwise, the relationship is over until that time. Refusing contact may sound harsh, but chances are that the prospect of having no support is enough to help a family member start addiction treatment.
Get help for yourself
Addiction is a family disease that affects the person struggling with drugs or alcohol as well as family members. Support groups such as Al-Anon provide a safe space to work through problems and hear success stories. When you go for help, you’re helping yourself heal from the impact of this disease, regardless of whether your loved one decides to go into treatment. Also, getting help for yourself can help a family member start addiction treatment. When your loved one sees that you think their substance use warrants you to seek professional help, this may motivate them to get help as well.