How to get a Family Member Into Rehab
Watching someone you love slip into the grips of drug or alcohol addiction can be unbearably painful. A person’s addiction affects everyone around them, disrupting families and creating a sense of powerlessness in their loved ones who want to help them. It is all too common for someone struggling with addiction to be in denial of their substance abuse, making their family members feels as though there is no way to help. While it’s true that you cannot make someone seek addiction treatment, you can maximize your chances that confronting them and offering support and help will be received.
How do I know if my loved one has an addiction problem?
The first step in helping your family member is to understand the nature of addiction and identify if they may in fact have a substance use disorder. Addiction to drugs or alcohol is most often a maladaptive coping strategy for an underlying mental health issue or trauma; it is a means to escape and manage something that has become seemingly unbearable. Understanding this is important for family members of the person struggling with the addiction. While addiction can make people act selfishly, they are unlikely using drugs or alcohol simply because they are selfish. The more you can understand the root of the addiction, the easier it may be to find both compassion and strength in the recovery process.
Here are some of the warning signs of addiction to drugs or alcohol:
- Continued use of drugs or alcohol despite negative consequences
- Shame or secrecy surrounding drug or alcohol use; lying abuse use
- For alcoholism, heavy drinking (defined as more than 3 alcoholic beverages a day or 7 per week for women, 4 per day
or 14 per week for men).
- Inability to cut down on alcohol or drug use
- Withdrawal symptoms (anxiety, fatigue, irritability, shaking, confusion, sweating, mood swings, increased heart
rate, seizures) when stopping or reducing substance use
- Having relationship problems or losing friends due to drinking alcohol or using drugs, though continuing to use
- Difficulty feeling confident or relaxed, especially in social situations, without using drugs or alcohol
- Using in the morning or while alone
- Losing interest in activities not directly related to using drugs or alcohol
- “Black outs” or forgetting what happened when drinking alcohol or using drugs
- Using more than you originally intend
- Getting angry, defensive, or lie when confronted about substance use
- Engaging in risky behaviors, such as driving, under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Physical changes such as weight loss, skin problems, or dental problems
How to confront your loved one about their addiction
If your loved one displays some of the warning signs of addiction listed above, there is a good chance they may need substance abuse treatment such as drug or alcohol rehab. It is not your job to diagnose if there is in fact an addiction problem, but you can have a conversation with them about seeking help, so that a qualified addiction professional can assess whether or not they need treatment, and at what level. Treatment options vary greatly, from residential care where a person lives and attends treatment in a facility for a period of time up to several months, to a lower level of care, such as an intensive outpatient program that offers 9-15 hours a week of therapeutic substance abuse treatment while they continue to work, attend school, and/or live at home. A qualified addiction professional can assist you in determining what level of care may be needed for your loved one, if they should be attending a medical detox prior to treatment, and help you navigate other aspects of treatment, such as medication assisted treatment options (MAT), sober living arrangements, involvement in family or couple’s counseling, etc.
This first conversation can be hard, and it may be wise to involve an addiction professional in to maximize the chances of success. Because denial frequently plays a role in addiction, a very low percentage of people confronted about their substance abuse agree that they have a problem or need help. Some people chose to stage a formal intervention to confront their loved ones about their addiction. An addiction professional from a treatment center or an independent interventionist can facilitate this intervention and help it run as smoothly as possible. Interventionists mediate the conversation, steering it in the direction of supporting the person and encouraging them to engage in treatment without falling into guilting, shaming, or chastising the individual needing help.
What will treatment look like?
Addiction treatment varies greatly from individual to individual. Your loved one may need to go to a medical detox prior to engaging in treatment so that they can safely come off of the substance they are abusing. Depending on the severity of the substance abuse, they would then engage in addiction treatment in a residential setting, a day treatment setting, or an intensive outpatient setting. Our highest level of programming at Flatirons Recovery provides 24-hour structure, supervision, and accountability. Clients live in our staffed, 9 bed recovery residence on a serene 80-acre horse farm and attend a full-day clinical program during the week. We provide food, transportation, gym membership, and additional programming such as recreational activities and community fellowship meetings, like AA, SMART Recovery, or Recovery Dharma. Our mindfulness-based clinical programming aims to help address not only the addiction, but its underlying cause, and includes highly effective evidence-based therapy modalities such as EMDR, CBT, DBT, ACT, MI, Experiential therapies (art therapy, equine therapy, nature/adventure therapy, meditation, yoga), nutritional counseling, biofeedback, life skills coaching, and medication management.
For those needing a lower level of care, we also offer intensive outpatient programming, which can be done virtually or in person, and can more easily accommodate ongoing work, school, or family obligations. Our intensive outpatient program (IOP) takes the same clinical approach of our higher level of care for fewer hours during the week. If for whatever reason our services aren’t the right fit, we are always more than happy to work with people to help them find the right treatment program for their loved ones, and can also help answering questions about insurance, scholarship opportunities, special needs, etc, regardless of whether or not your loved one attends our program.
Remembering to take care of yourself
It is easy to get lost in the chaos of addiction and early recovery of a loved one, and it is important to make sure you are also taking care of yourself during this difficult time. You are likely to feel a wide array of emotions in the process, ranging from anger to grief, powerlessness to denial. It is also not uncommon in this process to grow aware of issues you may have with enabling or codependency, which can feel overwhelming at first. Individual therapy is a wonderful space to process your experience and give yourself the time to pause and come to terms with how this addiction has affected you. We work with many great therapy providers in the Boulder, Colorado area and beyond who offer individual therapy, couples therapy, and family therapy. Our executive and clinical director, Mark Oberg, also runs a free weekly drop in support group for loved ones of those struggling with addiction which is open to the community, whether or not your loved one is in treatment with us. This is a great place to get questions answered and connect with others going through the same. Info on this group can be found here (add link to events page).
*Disclaimer: this article is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should not be used in place of advice by a qualified medical professional.*