A reader writes in and asks: “How do I convince my son or daughter to go to rehab?”
I actually get this question a LOT. It is very, very common, because so many people out there are struggling with addiction and the family members are desperate to see them get some help. If we could just convince them to take action and surrender and ask for help, then maybe they could turn their life around. But every time we try to convince them to go to rehab it turns into a fight or a yelling match.
Now obviously I do not have a magic answer here. It would be easy to say that you need to play hardball, or cut them off from support or throw them out on the street or other extreme suggestions like that. But those are not workable solutions. If you throw someone out on the street, they may just resent you for it and dig deeper into their addiction. If you make an ultimatum, they might take you up on it and walk out of your life and go use drugs on their own, regardless of the consequences. Basically, there are no easy answers when it comes to this stuff, and sometimes the best you can do is to let them know that you support them if they choose to get clean and sober, but not until then.
One way to enforce this level of support is to stand your ground and avoid manipulation. You can do this by offering to help them on your terms only. If they want help, they can feel free to ask you for help, but it will never be on their terms. In other words, if they ask you for money, you say “no, that is your terms. I will take you to rehab if you want to go, those are my terms.” But no more enabling. If they need money or food or diapers for their kids, you decline. The only help you can give them anymore is direct help in terms of their addiction. If you do anything else then they are manipulating you to further their addiction. Put your foot down and communicate to them that the only thing you will ever help them with is treatment. On your terms. You say when and where. That is your only offer.
It is a bit of an ultimatum but not really. In essence, you are willing to help them, but only once they are willing to help themselves. If you have to convince them to go to rehab then it probably won’t work. When they finally come to you and say “I am ready to change….tell me what to do,” then you know that they are done using drugs and alcohol.