These will not be the easiest conversations you’ll ever have. In fact, they may be as tough for you as they are for the person you’re trying to convince to get help for drug or alcohol abuse or a behavioral addiction like gambling, sex or shopping. Issuing ultimatums or storming out the door aren’t the answers, though; neither is wishing things would just get better. What you need are solid, effective techniques that will help you persuade the person you love to seriously consider treatment for their addiction(s).
There are no guarantees, of course, but these five techniques may help no matter who that person is – your spouse or partner, child, best friend, co-worker, parent or a close relative. On the other hand, some people are so resistant to getting help that nothing will work unless and until they’re ready to take that step. For starters, think about how you can use, adapt or combine these techniques to get someone in the throes of active addiction to consider rehab:
- Stage an intervention. Especially when the situation is dire, perhaps the most effective and quick way to get someone into treatment is to stage an intervention. This is best accomplished by using a credentialed, professional interventionist who specializes in not only convincing the still-using addict who’s adamantly against rehab to get treatment, but who can also follow through and actually transport that person to the facility, if needed. Whatever your good intentions, most families and friends are ill-equipped to handle an intervention on their own to get the person help as quickly as possible. A professional interventionist has seen and heard it all and won’t be swayed – or allow you to be – by your loved one’s vehement and well-articulated protests that they’ll stop using this time. As a persuasive technique, it’s hard to beat a professional intervention. Put this one at the top of your list.
- Make two videos. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is that much more powerful:
- If possible, make one video that shows the person in the full throes of his or her addictive behavior – acting out, falling-down drunk or high, slurring their words, weaving, drooling, glaring with bloodshot eyes, passed out, picking a fight, being abusive (physically and/or verbally) or other actions they’d never take when sober. (Use caution when attempting to record out-of-control behavior.) For some addicts, simply seeing themselves passed out, with the detritus of empty bottles, cans and glasses around them, or evidence of illicit drug use like bongs, crack pipes and cellophane packets, will convey the seriousness of their addiction in a way that hours of talking can’t.
- The second video is your heartfelt message to this person. Start by listing all the hurtful, abusive and damaging things their addictive behavior has done to you, your family and friends, neighbors and co-workers. (This is similar to the written statements used in an intervention.) It’s is very tough for the person struggling with addiction to see, exactly, what their addiction has wrought, so again, the visual impact of a video can’t be underestimated.
- Ask for rehab as a gift. It doesn’t need to be the holidays or your birthday for this to be a useful technique to convince someone to finally get help. When your partner/spouse, adult child, loved one or family member asks what you want for a special occasion, tell them honestly and simply, “I want you to consider treatment for your addiction. That’s all I want.” This may be met with incredulity, laughter, even denial that there’s a problem, but the seed will be sown. This simple request is another way you make clear to the person you love that their addictive behavior is creating roadblocks to your relationship and to a healthy, loving future together and that you can’t continue to live this way.
- Hold a fireside chat. Living with an addict often means no end of angry fights, tears and confrontations — all of which make it nearly impossible to have a calm conversation about the addiction and its impact on your lives. The idea of a “fireside chat” introduces the chance to create more opportunities to get your loved one to consider treatment. Make a list of the points you want to cover in your talk and try to stick to them to avoid the conversation devolving into an argument. If you’ve tried before to get your loved one into rehab and have met with resistance, you may want to join a support group like Al-Anon to bolster yourself during this very difficult time; encouragement and advice from your support network can also give you ideas you might not have thought of about how to motivate your partner, friend or family member to seek treatment. While it’s unlikely that one discussion (or even several) will be enough to get someone into rehab, combined with other techniques, raising the topic in a calm way, multiple times, makes clear that you are serious.
- If you have kids, engage them (subtly). When a parent is struggling with addiction it’s the children of addicts who often suffer the most. They see and feel the pain and will likely be affected for years to come unless the pattern is broken. You may want to ask your children to draw pictures of your family and see if these images convey what it feels like when Daddy or Mommy doesn’t have time to play with them, or eat dinner together, or he or she acts strangely. Children are honest, after all, and to see a heartfelt portrayal of a passed-out drunk or a yelling, mean parent may be the impetus for your loved one to decide that now is the time to get help. Never use children, though, as a go-between you and your partner, friend or relative. (And if you do see that your children are struggling with your loved one’s addiction, don’t hesitate to seek help for them, regardless of whether or not your partner/spouse is ready for rehab, therapy or another kind of treatment. Excellent sources include a family or child therapist, counselor, teacher, religious leader or a support group such as Alateen.)