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.

Convincing them

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

  • Addictions

    COVINGTON, Stephanie S. (2000) A Woman’s Way Through the Twelve Steps. Workbook. Center City, Minnesota. USA: Hazelden. ISBN: 1-56838-522-6

    JAMPOLSKY, Lee L. (2008). Healing the Addictive PersonalityFree yourself from addictive patterns and relationships, New York, USA: Random House, Inc. ISBN: 978-1-58761-315-9

    KETTELHACK, Guy. (1998).First Year of Sobriety: When all that changes is everything, Center City, Minnesota, USA: Hazelden. ISBN: 1-56838-230-8

    KETTELHACK, Guy (1998).Second Year Sobriety: Getting comfortable now that everything is different. Center City, Minnesota, USA: Hazelden. ISBN: 1-56838-231-6

    LEE, John ( 2006) The Missing Peace: Solving the anger problem for alcoholics, addicts and those who love them. Deerfield, FL. USA. Health Communications, Inc.  ISBN: 978-0-7573-0423-0

    SCHAEF, Anne Wilson (1989). Escape From Intimacy: Untangling the “Love” Addictions: sex, romance and relationships. New York, USA:  Harper Collins. ISBN: 0-06254873-5

    TWERSKI, Abraham, J. (1997). Addictive Thinking: Understanding self-deception. Center City, Minnesota, USA. Hazelden Publishing. ISBN-13: 9781568381381


    Adult Child of Alcoholics

    ACKERMAN, Robert, J (2002). Perfect Daughters: Adult daughters of alcoholics. (revised edition) Deerfield, FL, USA: Health Communications, Inc. ISBN-13: 9781558749528

    BLACK, Claudia (1987). It Will Never Happen to Me. Denver CO. USA. MAC Publishing. ISBN-13: 9780345345943

    BLACK, Claudia (1993). Changing Course. Denver Colorado, USA: MAC Publishing. ISBN: 0-910223-20-3

    GORSKI, Terence T. (1989). Passages Through Recovery: An action plan for preventing relapse. Hazel Crest Illinois, USA: Hazelden.

    MIDDLETON-MOZ, Jane (1990). Shame and Guilt: Masters of disguise. Deerfield, FL, USA:Health Communications, Inc. ISBN-13: 9781558740723

    MILLER, Merlene, GORSKI Terence T. and MILLER, David K. (1992). Learning to Live Again: A guide to recovery from chemical dependency.Updated and Revised. Independence MO, USA: Herald House/Independence Press.

    S., Laura. (2006).Steps on Buddha’s Path: Bill, Buddha and We. Somerville MA, USA: Wisdom Publications. ISBN: 978-0-86171-2816



    ATKINS, Charles. (2008) The Alzheimer Answer Book: Professional answers to more than 250 questions about Alzheimer’s and dementia.Naperville, Illinois. USA Sourcebooks Inc. ISBN-13: 978-1-40221344-1

    CARPER, Jean. (2010) 100 Simple Things You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer’s and Age-related Memory Loss. New York, NY. USA. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN: 978-0-316-08685-1



    BEATTIE, Melody. (1989) Beyond Codependency: And getting better all the time. New York USA: Hazelden. ISBN: 0-06-255418-2

    BEATTIE, Melody. (1990) The Language of Letting Go. USA: Hazelden Meditation Series. Hazelden. ISBN: 978-0-89486-637-1

    BEATTIE, Melody. (1992) Codependent No More: How to stop controlling others and start caring for yourself.  Second Edition. Center City, Minnesota USA: Hazelden. ISBN: 978-0-89486-402-5

    BEATTIE, Melody. (1990) Codependent’s Guide to the Twelve Steps: How to find the right program for you and apply each of the twelve steps to your own issues. New York, USA: Hazelden. Prentice Hall Press. ISBN: 0-13-140054-1

    KELLOG, Terry with HARRISON, Marvel. (1990) Broken Toys Broken Dreams: Understanding & healing boundaries, codependence, and compulsion & family relationships. Santa Fe, NM. BRAT Publishing. ISBN: 1-56073-001-3

    MILLER, Angelyn. (2001) The Enabler: When helping hurts the ones you love. 3RD Edition. Tucson Arizona, USA: Hats Off Books. ISBN: 1-58736-067-5

    WOITITZ, Janet G. (1985) Struggle for Intimacy. Deerfield, FL. USA. Health Communications, Inc. ISBN: 0-932194-25-7

    WOITITZ, Janet G. (2002)The Complete ACOA Sourcebook: Adult children of alcoholics, at home, at work and in love. Deerfield, FL. USA. Health Communications, Inc.  ISBN-13: 9781558749603


    Depression and Relapse

    GORSKI, Terence T. (2006) Depression and Relapse: A guide to recovery. Independence, MO. USA. Herald House/Independence Press. ISBN 10: 0-8309-1213-4



    DAYTON, Tian. (1992) Daily Affirmations for Forgiving & Moving On: powerful inspirations for personal change. Deerfield, FL. USA. Health Communications, Inc. ISBN: 1-55874-215-8

    DAYTON, Tian. (2003) Magic of Forgiveness: Emotional freedom and transformation at midlife. Deerfield, FL. USA. Health Communications, Inc. ISBN: 0-7573-0086-3

    FERRINI, Paul (1991) The Twelve Steps for Forgiveness. Greenfield, MA. Heartways Press. ISBN: 1-879159-10-4

    JAMPOLSKY, Gerald G. (1999) Forgiveness: The greatest healer of all. Hillsboro, Oregon. Beyond Words Publishing, Inc. ISBN: 1-58270-020-6

    KLEIN, Charles ( 1995) How to Forgive When You Can’t Forget: Healing personal relationships. New York, NY.  The Berkley publishing group. ISBN: 0-425-16004-1

    SIMON, Sidney B. & SIMON Suzanne (1990) Forgiveness: How to make peace with your past and get on with your life. New York, NY. Time Warner Book Group. ISBN: 0-446-39259-6


    Inner child

    TAYLOR, Cathryn L. (1991) The Inner Child Workbook: What to do with your past when it just won’t go away. New York, NY. Penguin Putman Inc. ISBN: 978-0-87477-635-5

    WHITFIELD, Charles (200) Healing the Child Within: Discovery and recovery for adult children of dysfunctional families. Deerfield, FL. USA. Health Communications, Inc. ISBN-13: 978-0-932194-40-4



    JAY, Jeff and JAY, Debra. (2000) Love First: A new approach to intervention for alcoholism & drug addiction. Center City, Minnesota. USA. Hazelden. ISBN: 1-56838-521-8


    Personal Growth

    BYRNE, Rhonda. (2010) The Power. New York NY, USA. Atria Books (Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.) ISBN: 978-1-4391-8178-2

    CARTER-SCOTT, Cherie. (1998) If Life is a Game, These are the Rules. New York, NY. Broadway Books. ISBN: 0-7679-0238-6

    MARKOVA, Dawna. (2000). I Will Not Live an Unlived Life: Reclaiming purpose and passion. York Beach, ME. USA. Conari Press. ISBN: 1-57324-101-6

    PECK, M. Scott. (1978) The Road Less Traveled: A new psychology of love, traditional values and spiritual growth. New York NY, USA. Touchstone. ISBN: 978-0-7432-4315-5

    VITALE, Joe. (2011) The Awakening Course: The secret of solving all problems. Hoboken New Jersey. USA. John Wiley & Sons Inc. ISBN: 978-0-470-88803-2


    Sexual Abuse

    BASS, Ellen & DAVIS, Laura (1994) The Courage to Heal. A guide for women survivors of child sexual abuse. 3rd Edition. Santa Cruz, CA. USA. Harper Collins Publishers Inc. ISBN: 0-06-095066-8

    CAMERON, Grant. (2004) What About Me: A guide for men helping female partners deal with childhood sexual abuse. Carp, ON. Canada. Creative Bound Inc. ISBN: 0-921165-38-2

    DAYTON, Tian. (1997) Heartwounds: The impact of unresolved trauma and grief on relationships. Deerfield, FL. USA. Health Communications, Inc. 

    ISBN: 1-55874-510-6

    FREDICKSON, Renee. (1992) Repressed Memories: A journey to recovery from sexual abuse. New York, NY. USA. Fireside. ISBN: 978-0-671767-167


    Spiritual growth

    DREHER, Diane. (1991)The Tao of Inner Peace. New York, NY. USA. A Plume Book. ISBN: 0-452-28199-7

    SEAWARD, Brian Luke (1997) Stand Like Mountain Flow Like Water: Reflections on stress and human spirituality. Deerfield, FL. USA. Health Communications, Inc. ISBN: 1-55874-462-2


    Borderline Personality

    LAWSON, Christine Ann (2000)Understanding the Borderline Mother: Helping her children transcend the intense, unpredictable, and volatile relationship. A Jason Aronson book. ISBN: 978-0-7657-0331-6

    MASON, Paul T. & KREGER, Randi (2010) Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking your life back when someone you care about has borderline personality disorder. Second Edition. Oakland, Ca. New Harbinger Publications, Inc. ISBN: 978-1-57224-690-4

    ROTH, Kimberlee & FRIEDMAN, Freda B. (2003) Surviving a Borderline Parent: How to heal your childhood wounds & build trust, boundaries, and self-esteem.  Oakland, Ca. New Harbinger Publications, Inc. ISBN: 978-1-57224-328-6


    Other topics

    ISAY, Richard A. (1989) Being Homosexual: Gay men and their development. New York, NY. USA. Avon Books. ISBN: 0-380-71022-6

    FORD, Debbie (2001) Spiritual Divorce: Divorce  as a catalyst for an extraordinary life. New York, NY. USA. Harper Collins Publishers. ISBN: 978-0-06-122712-7