We determined the topic for this week’s article based on last week’s article “When is Enough Enough?” It seems like we might have left people hanging, unsure of what to do if their addict (chemically dependent) partner really needed help and was finally ready to accept/receive help. Of course, the answer is not simple and each person’s circumstances are different. However, addiction can be devastating, destructive, and life threatening and there is definitely a time and need to step in.
Deciding to step in
It is not clear and very difficult to know when to step in. You may have to try to help many times before they accept it and then it is difficult to know how to help; what to offer. If you have tried in the past and they refused, maybe they are more ready now. If the help you gave before failed or didn’t last long, maybe this time will be different. Many factors influence this including their readiness, your ability to set strong limits, the actual choices or options. In the past you may have kicked them out, but took them back after a few days, or you may have paid to send them to a treatment clinic and they relapsed after a month. It is difficult to know the reasons and there are no guarantees.
Many people ask how to “convince” them. This is a delicate word. Some would argue that you can not convince them because we don’t have that kind of power. Others would say that if they are ready to listen and more open and receptive that they will hear what you are saying and agree. Is that really you convincing them? The important thing is whether they are finally convinced is what matters. They must be convinced that they a) have a problem, b) that it is out of their control; it is actually controlling them, c) that their life is a mess; “has become unmanageable” (in the words of Alcoholics Anonymous) d) and that they can not do it alone; can not “fix it” without help, e) that they do not have the answers are willing to learn a new way.
Get out of the way and let the process happen
If they do not agree and do not accept your help, then get out of the way and let the process happen!Decide what you are willing to tolerate, set clear limits and then stand by them. This does not necessarily mean take drastic action and file for divorce. It means carefully consider what you want and what you are actually willing to carry out. Now is the time to worry about you, focus on your needs, get help for you (and your children). This is your process. Sometimes “tough love” is necessary where you cut the person off completely with instructions not to call or come back until they are willing to surrender. In the meantime allow them the “privilege” of their process.
Allowing their process
We can not control their process. Often times their process requires many more experiences and lessons to prepare them for change. These experiences are usually very costly both financially and emotionally and it is not just the addict that suffers during this process. Everyone involved with the addict suffers until you chose not to. You do not need to ride their roller-coaster ride with them. They may need to suffer more painful consequences such as loss of a relationship, marriage, children’s affection and respect, loss of a job, money, and friends. They may have to have been rejected with no where and no one to turn, before they desperately surrender to their addiction and realize that they need help. Then the problem becomes whether anyone is left who cares enough to help.
Out of control—time to step in
There does come a time when “rescuing them from themselves;” from their self-destructive behavior and attitudes, becomes absolutely necessary. When it is out of control and/or life threatening, they definitely do need help and are usually unable to help themselves. At this point they may or may not be begging for help. They may not even know what kind of help they want or need. They may have already attended AA/NA 12-step programs and may need to go back or may need to walk through the door for the first time. Many have been in treatment (inpatient and/or outpatient) before and may easily identify what was missing from their recovery program. They may realize they need the structure and support of a long-term halfway/transitional house. Some may need detoxification and then a plan. Others have never been in treatment and may be very afraid and/or ashamed to go alone and may need to be escorted. If they are not begging for help, then an intervention is needed.
An “intervention” as it is called in the addiction field, is the loving confrontation by family and friends attempting to convince the addict to get help. We are not in favor of the old fashion “knock ’em out, tie ‘em up, and drag’em” to treatment kind of intervention. The goal is for them to go voluntarily! This can be very emotionally upsetting and threatening for those considering planning and or participating in such a thing. We recommend that you do not confront alone, that you plan well, do your homework, call different treatment centers, find out your options, talk to other people in recovery, and consult professionals. In the end, it is about saving a life.
Written by: Giselle Belanger, RN, LCSW, CADC
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