Can You Force an Addict into Rehab?

Can You Force an Addict into Rehab?

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The following is a guest post by the author’s mother.  She earned the right to post this long ago…

Yes, you can possibly force an addict into rehab—but he probably will resume his addiction when he leaves or soon thereafter.

Unfortunately, the old adage most probably holds true in this case:  “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”  However, there are some things that you can do to make him maybe want to drink the water, or perhaps drink it sooner.

When you love someone, it hurts terribly to watch him suffer with an addiction. When my son was drinking, our family tried all the things that most people try.  We tried restrictions, punishment, talking common sense, appealing to his intelligence, bribery—the whole gamut.  We threatened and cried, tried ignoring him, and of course, none of it worked.  We planned an intervention with family and friends and a professional counselor from another state.    We managed to get him into rehab two or three times by pleading and arm-twisting.  None of that worked either.  I became convinced that if I, or someone else could just find the right words to say to him that it would make a difference, that the light bulb would come on, and he would seek help.

During one of my son’s rehab stints, a counselor re-enforced the idea that only the addict himself can decide to change. “But,” we argued, “If he continues on this path, he might die.”  She looked at us with great compassion and said, “Yes, he might.”  As painful as that conversation was, I knew that she spoke the truth.  At that point we decided to try the Al-Anon way and we put our faith in God, because nothing else had worked.

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The bottom line is that only the addict can make the decision to go to rehab, and if he does, then there is a far greater chance that he will respond to treatment than if he is forced.  We learned this by the philosophies taught in Al-Anon.  We learned how to detach, how not to be co-dependent, how to be loving and supportive while at the same time setting boundaries.  It didn’t happen overnight, but gradually we learned how to take care of ourselves, so that when our son was ready to seek help (and thank God, he did) then we were ready to help him.  I think he sensed our love and willingness to help, even when his addiction was at its worst.  That’s what I mean by making him “want to drink the water.”  We tried to let him know that when he was ready, we’d be there.

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