What is the best way to go about getting someone admitted into drug rehab or alcohol treatment?
This is not an easy thing to accomplish, and in some cases it may be flat out impossible for you.
The bottom line in any case is that you can never really force another person to change against their will. You can certainly try, and you may even try so hard that it is counter-productive at some point, but ultimately every alcoholic and drug addict must want to change for themselves. We can encourage people to look at the need for change, but we cannot really force them to change.
That said, the situation is not entirely hopeless. You don’t just have to throw up your hands and feel like there is absolutely nothing that you can ever do, because that is not the case. There are some things that you can do that might move the addict in your life closer to surrender. The key is to realize that you cannot force them to do anything, but you can still communicate, make suggestions, and be supportive. The question for most people, then, is: “how?”
Has the person reached a point of true surrender?
First of all, you must consider if the drug addict or alcoholic that you are trying to help has reached the point of surrender or not. This is really what will determine if they are willing to take action or not.
Most people who are stuck in addiction are not yet at the point of surrender. Reaching that critical point is a rare event. The point of surrender is when the addict throws up their hands and says “I don’t know how to live any more, please show me.” Most people have so much pride that it takes a very long time until they are willing to say that. They trust too much in their own ideas and they do not trust enough in other people to be able to show them how to live instead. It takes a lot of guts to surrender, to admit that your way has not been working, that you need help in order to live.
You can tell when a person is in a state of true surrender because they will be much more agreeable to getting help. When the addict has not yet surrendered, they will tend to be struggling for control. So when you suggest that they go to rehab, they will come up with excuses as to why they should not go. But if they reach a state of full surrender then they will be much more willing to take direction from other people. Becoming open and willing is like the whole key to early recovery.
One thing that you might try to do is to confront the addict or alcoholic right after they have suffered some consequences from their addiction. So if they have just got out of jail for drugs or alcohol, then that might be the perfect time to try to convince them to go to rehab.
Really there is only one conversation that you can have with a struggling alcoholic or drug addict. You try to convince them to seek professional help, and they resist this. It pretty much always comes down to that basic argument. You try to get them to rehab; they don’t want to go. Simple. If you can convince them to get professional help then it is a pretty good indication that they have reached a new level of surrender.
Sometimes the addict or alcoholic is just tired. They get really worn out from chasing their addiction all day long. So by going to treatment they are really just “taking a break.” They might get out and just go right back to their drug of choice. This is unfortunate but there is not really a good solution for it. The bottom line is that the alcoholic or addict is not going to really change their life until they have had enough pain and they are done drinking/using drugs. You can never deny an addict of their pain. They will find a way to make themselves miserable if that is what they want to do.
Addiction is pain and misery. Our tendency as friends and family is to want to help the addict and alleviate them of their pain. So we try to get them to go to rehab. We urge them to seek help. But ultimately you can not really deny them of their pain. Nor should you. Because in the end is it pain that will motivate the addict to seek help.
No drug addict agrees to go into rehab if everything is going good for them at the time. If their life is going well and they are using drugs every day and still having lots of fun with their drug of choice, do you really think they are going to go to rehab? Of course they won’t. I would not go to rehab either if I was happy using drugs and alcohol. That would be silly. Why change a good thing?
No, the addict will go to rehab only after they are swamped in total misery. They must be stewing in chaos and pain and misery due to their addiction before they will go to rehab. Because denial is so strong, the addict must endure this pain and misery for a while before they get the idea that maybe they would be happier if they were not depending on drugs or alcohol.
Until the addict has reached this conclusion on their own, they are not going to change. They have to get to the point where they realize that continued addiction is just going to be more pain and misery. They have to realize that even though they have fun with their drug of choice every once in a while, that mostly it just makes them miserable now. In the beginning it was fun all the time, now that their addiction has progressed it is almost never any fun any more. But they have to realize this for themselves. You can’t just force them to wake up and realize it.
Total surrender happens when the addict realizes that they no longer know how to make themselves happy. They have to really accept this on a deep level though. Just pointing this out is probably not going to be good enough in most cases. Instead, you must let the addict discover this truth for themselves.
Denial is when the addict looks at their miserable life and decides that they are not really miserable. They try to convince themselves that their drug of choice can make them happy whenever they want. Everyone else can see that the addict is miserable and that their drug does not really make them happy, but the addict themselves cannot see it.
So how do you get them to see it?
By not denying them of their pain.
The addict is stumbling around in pain and misery. They are creating chaos and misery in their own life as a result of their drug or alcohol addiction.
Your job is to stay out of the way. Let them create more pain and misery. You don’t have to add to their pain, you just have to get out of the way. They will create plenty of pain and misery on their own.
When a friend or a family member does something in order to reduce the pain of the addict, we call that “enabling.” You don’t want to enable the addict. This only prolongs their misery and keeps them away from surrender.
Letting the addict endure their own pain and misery will slowly bring them closer to surrender.
The addict is motivated by pain and suffering, unfortunately. So be sure that you do not take that pain away from them. Because it is the only thing that will motivate them to change.
Getting on the phone and doing the legwork
So motivation and surrender is issue number one.
What is issue number two?
The second thing is actually arranging a visit with a drug rehab.
This is not complicated. Get on the phone. This is how you set up treatment for someone.
Get on the phone and call up a treatment center. Call up a rehab that is close to your location. Ask them if the person qualifies for treatment there, what the funding options are, etc. If they cannot admit the person at that particular rehab, ask them if there are other treatment centers that might be able to help.
If funding (or insurance) is a problem, ask them what your other funding options are, or what other rehabs may qualify to take this particular individual.
Be nice, be persistent. If you run into a dead end then ask questions so that you can get another lead in a new direction. Your goal should be to find this person placement in an inpatient treatment center.
There are other forms of treatment, of course. For example, there is counseling, or outpatient therapy. But neither of these options are as good (in my opinion) as an inpatient rehab center. There are a number of advantages of inpatient rehab and so that is what you should focus on as your goal.
What if they don’t want to go?
If they don’t want to go to rehab then you should do the following things:
1) Go to an Al-anon meeting and share your story with the people there. Get support for yourself as your primary objective. I know that you think it is all about the addict, but it is actually about you too. Go get support for yourself and you will also learn more techniques like what I am describing here so that you can not enable the person and move them closer to surrender.
2) Communicate your boundaries with the alcoholic or drug addict. Your boundary might be something like: “I will help you by taking you to rehab, and I will help you by arranging a visit to treatment, but that is the only thing that I am willing to help you with. If you need money, shelter, food, or bailed out of jail, then just forget it. I will not help you with those things. I will only help you if you want to go get professional help for your addiction.” There is honestly not much more that you can do for a struggling addict than to set a boundary like this and communicate it clearly to them. Then of course you have to stick to that boundary as well. If everyone in the life of the addict does this, it will go a long way in moving that person closer to surrender. But even then, remember that you cannot force the person to do anything. All you can do is set the appropriate boundaries.
3) Consider an intervention, where you try to convince the person to seek professional help. I don’t necessarily recommend this, as I think it can be a mistake in a lot of cases. My main reason for thinking this way is this: If someone is ready to get help and change their life, you don’t need a full scale intervention. On the other hand, if they are not ready to surrender, then the intervention is a big waste of time and resources. That is my opinion based on my own experience, but your experience may be different than that. Anyway it is an option.
Can you convince someone to go into rehab if they don’t want to?
Full scale interventions are very hit and miss. I have seen some percentages for how often they convince someone to attend rehab, and I think it was around 50 percent or so. But of those people who do attend rehab, a very small percentage actually stay clean and sober at that time.
In other words, it doesn’t matter if you force someone into treatment at a certain time, unless they are already at a point of total surrender. In which case, they would be willing to attend treatment anyway, even without the full scale intervention.
This is a really important point because it gets to the heart of one the of the biggest misunderstandings about recovery.
You can’t force someone to get sober.
You can’t cure someone just by tricking them into rehab.
This is really important for you to understand. There is no magic bullet for recovery. Think about the celebrities in the world who have drug and alcohol problems. They have more money than anyone else and they have access to the absolute best rehabs and treatment centers. The best in the world. And yet, if wealthy parents force their celebrity teen into rehab, what happens?
The rehab cannot cure them. Nine times out of ten the teen gets out of rehab and goes back to their drug of choice. They are not ready to change. And no one can force them to change. Keep in mind that this is with access to the best treatment centers in the world.
So think about that carefully, because it applies to everyone who is battling addiction.
Just because you convince someone to go to treatment doesn’t meant that they are going to have some revelation at treatment and suddenly become sober.
Just because you send someone to the best treatment center in the world does not mean that they are going to suddenly want to become sober.
That is not how rehab works. They can’t force anyone to want sobriety. And they don’t even try to convince people to want to stay sober. Their job is hard enough as it is. The rehab has to assume that you at least want to become sober. Because even if you want to be sober, it is still an uphill battle.
So no, you can’t really force someone to become sober. You might be able to force them into rehab (depending on local laws) but you cannot force them to want to be sober.
How to deal with an alcoholic or addict in your life without going crazy
This is really about you. Most people don’t get that at first.
Most friends and families of addicts think it is all about the addict. “If I could just get them into treatment, then it would fix everything.”
But this is setting yourself up for failure. Remember, you can’t force anyone to change. Not really.
So the best you can do in many cases is to change yourself.
You may resent that idea. You may say “but I am not the one with the problem!”
But so what? You don’t have a choice, really. You can’t force someone else to change anyway.
And here is the amazing thing:
When you go through this process of looking at your own life, you may go through changes that will indirectly affect the addict in your life.
In other words, if you can learn to start taking care of yourself better, then it may eventually have an impact on the struggling addict in your life. You can’t force them to change, but your actions may still have an indirect impact on them in the long run.
This is especially true if you go to Al-anon and start learning about boundaries. In order to move the addict closer to surrender, you want to make sure that you are not actually making things worse (like by denying them of their pain).
Another thing that you might do at some point is to try to educate other people in the addict’s life. So you might encourage siblings, other parents, or even boyfriends or girlfriends to attend an Al-anon meeting as well. Don’t force it on anyone, don’t be overly pushy. Just offer it as an option to help people understand better. The real motive here is that if these people can start setting boundaries, then eventually no one will be left to enable the alcoholic. It is at that point that the addict or alcoholic will really have to consider the idea of changing their life.
When is no one left to point the finger of blame at, the addict must eventually consider the idea that they are the cause of their own misery. The addict has various relationships in their life. If they get into fights with people then they have plenty of ways to take the blame off of their addiction and put it somewhere else.
But you can take this option away. If everyone in the life of the addict or alcoholic goes to Al-anon and understands how to set boundaries and limits, then this option is slowly removed. The addict will get to a point where they can no longer blame others, where their usual behavior patterns are not working for them any more. This is because everyone in their life has become healthier in learning how to deal with addiction. They no longer have to feed into it. So at some point the addict must point the finger of blame squarely at themselves and at their addiction, and realize that they are creating their own misery. This is the conclusion that you want the addict to reach on their own.
You can’t cram this conclusion down their throat…they will never hear it. But you can make sure that your behavior and your boundaries are moving the addict closer to this conclusion on their own. Take away their excuses. Don’t fight with them and argue with them, because then you just give them something to point of the finger of blame at. You want that finger of blame pointing at their own misery and their own addiction. So you must remove the other stuff. Stop reacting to them. Stop engaging and fighting with them. The act of isolating will cause them to look honestly at their own life and what their addiction is really doing for them.