How To Get an Addict / Alcoholic Into Rehab

  • March 4, 2017

Seldom is the case where an addict or alcoholic will willingly admit themselves for a first time into rehab. Family and loved ones invariably reach a crisis point with the alcoholic or addict and seek help without the knowledge or consent of the substance abuser.

We have highlighted in numerous places on this site how addiction to substances is a disease (just like cancer or aids) it is a progressive disease (it seldom miraculously heals itself, it generally gets worse) it is fatal (sooner or later addiction kills the people).

The Horrific Truth

One of the hardest parts of operating an addiction rehab centre is receiving phone calls from family and friends to admit a patients only to find that by suicide, motor vehicle accident, overdose or related accident has taken the life of the loved one, before we could get to helping them.

It’s Never Too Late, Until It’s Too Late.

Glossing over this reality does not help the situation. So back to the real question, how do we “convince” an addict or alcoholic that it is time to get help, when they actively resist wanting to go into any rehab?

Let’s understand the problem first.

Sometimes families have dealt with these excuses for years and other times it’s a completely new revelation to them. In either event there is a person that needs help and there are the family that need to convince that person that they need help.

The Addiction Defence

Addicts and alcoholics build defences and ideologies into their daily routine to justify their “relationship” with their substance of choice. They use these excuses to justify the perpetuation of their disease and are quite well versed in raising these defences when the need arrises. The task at hand thus involves “intervening” and almost walking the patient past their inherent defences and excuses and onto the path that will ultimately lead them to their recovery.

Behind the Scenes of Interventions

An intervention is generally a meeting with the family and the patient to help the patient see past their defences and recognise their self destructing path has real alternatives.

Families are generally too emotionally invested in their loved one to have a rational, progressive or constructive conversation about an issue that has ingrained itself and a “soother” in the addict / alcoholics life.

In 90% of cases interventions are less confrontational more effective and ultimately more successful if they are led by an addiction specialist or councillor that does not have this same emotional attachments to the patient and can mindfully advise and escalate and de-escalate the conversation to meet it’s objectives.

We used the term “relationship” with a substance earlier on, and if you want understand this in the context of addict or alcoholic psychology. These patients over time have develop deeply seated emotional attachments to their substances of choice. So an intervention is actually about breaking up this “emotional attachment” (albeit with a substance).

As pseudo science mumbo jumbo as it sounds these psychological “relationships” to substances are frequently fueled disjointed events and imprinted traumas often established in early childhood, adolescence or from unresolved traumatic events.

So when getting an addict or alcoholic into a rehab, understand that there are greater forces beyond the immediate substance abuse conversation in play. Their reactions and resistance is not directed at you or the substance abuse issue but at a range of unresolved emotional pains, and losses and of course the actual distress of having to deal with confronting the issues that drove them to their addiction in the first place.

Addiction Recovery is About Unresolved Pain

Dr Gabor Matés wonderful insights into the pain drivers of addiction eloquently outlines some of the trauma issues on which most persistent addictions thrive.