Feeling Helpless?
How to Help an Addict Who Resists Treatment

Addiction is a disease of denial. Denial refers to a subconscious mental state during which a person denies or distorts what is actually happening. In the context of addiction, a person who is “in denial” refuses to take an honest look at the consequences of their substance use. They deny the seriousness of the situation and act defensive when a concerned loved one mentions the subject. Because denial and addiction go hand-in-hand, it is not uncommon for a person who has been struggling with a substance abuse issue to refuse treatment. Despite the fact that the rest of the people who care about them can clearly see they are in need of professional help, they stand firm by the misguided belief that nothing is wrong; that everyone else is simply being dramatic. If you have watched a loved one struggle with addiction and you have urged this loved one to seek treatment, you have probably heard an array of frustrating retorts like, “I can stop anytime I want to, I just don’t want to yet,” or, “Why don’t you live your own life and let me live mine?” If you feel backed into a corner, know that you are not alone. Know that there are also certain steps you can take to help a loved one get the treatment they need even if they are resistant. For more information, contact us today.

8 Steps to Help an Addicted Loved One

If you are dealing with an addicted loved one who consistently refuses treatment, there are several steps we recommend taking. Remember that treatment does not need to be initially desired in order to be effective. In many cases, a professionally staged intervention is a necessary first step on the road to recovery and willingness develops over time.

8 steps to take if an addict or alcoholic refuses treatment

1: Find out why your loved one is adamantly refusing treatment – Is it denial, or is it something else? Maybe your loved one is afraid of being judged by peers or coworkers, or maybe they believe that seeking treatment is indicative or failure. Sit down with your loved one while they are sober and have a conversation. Do your best to come from a place of compassion and understanding; avoid blaming, raising your voice or threatening. Remember that having a heart-to-heart is rarely enough to prompt a person to seek treatment. However, gaining information on their motives for avoid treatment is an important piece of the puzzle.

2: Educate yourself on the disease model of addiction – Learning more about how addiction develops and how it is effectively treated will help you move from a place of frustration to a place of compassion. The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as, “A treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences.” People who develop a physical and psychological dependence on a certain substance eventually transition from making the conscious decision to use a substance to using compulsively and uncontrollably.

3: Acknowledge when outside help is necessary – If you have been trying to encourage your loved one to seek treatment for weeks, months or years, it’s clear that what you’re doing isn’t working. Asking a professional for assistance is always a good idea if you have run out of other options. This could mean contacting a treatment center like Guardian IOP and asking our Treatment Advisors for advice, seeking the help of a licensed therapist with a personal background in addiction or getting in touch with an experienced interventionist.

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4: Help yourself – Once you get the ball rolling and reach out for professional advice it is important you take a look at whether or not your own mental and emotional needs are being met. Have you been neglecting self-care and putting all of your energy towards trying to help? We recommend seeking out an individual therapist to offer unbiased support during this trying time and seeking out a support group for the family members and close friends of addicts and alcoholics, like Al-Anon. To learn more about the resources available in your area, contact us today.

5. Develop a set of healthy personal boundaries – It can be difficult to maintain your boundaries when you fear for the well-being of someone you love. But maintaining the boundaries you set will help prompt your loved one to seek treatment more quickly, while helping to protect your own well-being. Take your own needs into account, communicate clearly and stand firmly by your word.

6. Follow up on consequences if boundaries are not respected – For example, you might tell your loved one, “If you get into legal trouble because of your drug use, I am not going to bail you out.” If they get arrested and you end up bailing them out or hiring a lawyer, no lesson will be learned. Failing to follow up on consequences lets your loved one know they don’t have to take responsibility for their own actions and that if they mess up you will be there to pick up the pieces.

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7: Avoid blaming yourself – Watching a loved one struggle with addiction is confusing, and it is easy to look for someone or something to blame. In most cases, we end up blaming ourselves. We think things like, “Maybe if I had done this differently, they wouldn’t have wound up this way.” Remember that addiction is a complex brain disease and the development of a substance abuse disorder is no one’s fault. It is important to put your energy towards finding a solution rather than looking for a reason.

8. Make sure your loved one knows that help is available as soon as they choose to seek it – It’s a good idea to research rehab centers and treatment programs in your area and present your loved one with a list of resources. Let them know that as soon as they make the decision to go to treatment you will be ready and available to help in any way possible. If you need help arranging transportation or finding the best treatment option for your unique case, contact us today.

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Guardian IOP & Addiction Recovery

Staging an intervention is a good idea if your loved one refuses treatment and is at risk of serious health-related complications or other serious consequences. At Guardian IOP we work closely with several experienced interventionists who we will gladly put you in touch with as soon as you reach out. Our intensive outpatient program serves as a step-down level of care for people who have recently completed residential inpatient treatment, or as a standalone treatment option for people looking to attend treatment while still working or attending school. To learn more about which level of care is right for your loved one, contact us today. Our Treatment Advisors are standing by to answer any additional questions you may have and to help you get started with our simple, straightforward admissions process as soon as you are ready.

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Our Admissions Process

When you or your loved one is ready to ask for help, we at Guardian Intensive Outpatient Program will be here. Our admissions process is simple and straightforward and can be completed in as little as 15 minutes. During our initial phone call we provide a complimentary addiction assessment, which helps our clinical team determine which level of care is right for your loved one. If Guardian IOP is a good fit, we proceed with a free, no obligation insurance benefit check and answer any questions you might have regarding our program. All you or your loved one has to do is ask for help. We will take care of the rest.

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Reviewed for accuracy by:

Anna earned her Masters of Social Work at Barry University in Miami, FL in 2017 and completed her internship in co-occurring disorders. Anna has a Bachelors of Art in Religious Studies from Naropa University and is a certified yoga and meditation instructor. Anna has received specialized training in somatic counseling with an emphasis on body-centered psychotherapy.