What to Do if Your Loved One Is Unwilling to Seek Addiction Help

Addiction to drugs or alcohol can be devastating not only for the individual affected but especially for that person’s loved ones. The last thing you want is for someone you love and care about to develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Sadly, this is an all too common reality for many Americans. In an ideal world, our struggling loved ones would respond positively to our concerns and be encouraged to seek addiction help.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. It’s not uncommon for our loved ones to perceive our concern as criticism, our loving words as threats. Or, in other cases, they may acknowledge that you are well-meaning but refuse to recognize the scope of their addiction.

In either case, you are being put into a challenging situation. You are concerned about the health and well-being of someone you love and care deeply about, but they are unwilling to seek addiction intervention services.

BlueCrest Recovery Center can help. Our trained addiction treatment professionals can advise you on the best course of intervention for your loved one and help guide them toward the help and treatment they need. Call 888.292.9652 to learn more.

How to Treat a Loved One Who Needs Addiction Help

First, you want to ensure that you treat your loved one with the proper respect they deserve. Even if they are struggling with an addiction, they are still worthy of love, compassion, and the same respect you would give to any other human being.

Unfortunately, the stigma of drug and alcohol addiction has a strong hold on our subconscious perceptions, even of loved ones. In many cases, even the most loving and compassionate individuals can allow this stigma to overflow in their words and actions. This can lead to you unintentionally behaving in disrespectful, demeaning, or confrontational ways to the very people that you are hoping to help.

Before concluding your loved one has simply decided not to seek treatment, it’s worthwhile to take the time to consider whether or not you are treating them properly. If you are coming off as confrontational or accusatory, your loved ones will most likely not heed your advice. A confrontational approach can even make them more resistant to seeking treatment than they would have been otherwise.

Here are some examples of things you can do to ensure your concern will be met as positively as possible.

When Communicating, Use “I” Language

Whether they are a family member, a personal partner, or a friend, it becomes difficult to cope with a loved one who is struggling with addiction. You are already emotionally involved with this individual, so it can be challenging to express yourself and your difficulties without coming across as confrontational.

Even in the throes of addiction, your loved ones don’t want to hear that their behavior is hurting you. Even less if you frame things in a way that puts them at fault. If you don’t know how to express yourself adequately, your loved one might perceive your expressions as a guilt trip or an accusation.

One of the best ways to do this is to use I statements. Speaking in the first person makes you less likely to appear confrontational or aggressive. Instead, you can express how you feel without shifting the blame onto your loved one.

For example, instead of saying something like, “you’re stressing me out,” tell your loved one, “I feel worried when I’m not sure that you’re safe.” Instead of saying, “your addiction is ruining our family,” say, “we’re all concerned about your health and well-being.”

If You Want Loved Ones to Seek Addiction Help, Get Educated

If you don’t know anything about addiction, then it can be challenging to understand the perspective of your struggling loved one. Specifically, you do not want to inadvertently seem condescending or judgmental, which will only further alienate your loved one. Before communicating with them, you should spend some time learning about addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as:

“…a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain. It is considered both a complex brain disorder and a mental illness. Addiction is the most severe form of a full spectrum of substance use disorders and is a medical illness caused by repeated misuse of a substance or substances.1

The critical point is that it is both a brain disorder and a mental illness—while it may have started as recreational choices, by the time drug or alcohol use and abuse had progressed to addiction, it is a much more complex problem.

You can certainly voice your feelings and concerns in a non-confrontational manner, but to speak on the addiction itself is not something you can really do until you understand it better. And no matter how much research you do, you will never wholly understand addiction.

What If My Loved One Won’t Seek Addiction Help?

If you’ve already confided in your loved one and they’re determined not to seek help, then you must focus on yourself. You must develop the necessary coping skills and techniques to help ensure you can manage your own mental health.

If you continue to focus solely on the health of your loved one, you will enter into a codependent relationship. By focusing all your energy and concern on them instead of yourself, you will begin to neglect your own physical and mental health, which can worsen the situation.

Consider a Mental Health Approach as an Indirect Means of Seeking Addiction Help

If your loved one acknowledges that they struggle with a mental health problem, they may already be willing to work on this issue. If, for example, they are ready to work on their depression but refusing to acknowledge their addiction, they are still taking a step in the right direction.

Mental health disorders and addiction frequently co-occur in what is called dual diagnosis. Common co-occurring mental health disorders include the following:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • PTSD

Providing support and encouraging them to seek mental health treatment may open them to seeking addiction help. If not from a professional treatment program, then perhaps from a 12-step program like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. These group meetings may seem familiar as they can mimic therapy sessions.

If Your Love One Needs Addiction Help, They Must Be Willing to Help Themselves

Remember, you can’t help anyone unless they want to help themselves. If your loved one is unwilling to take responsibility for their addictive behavior, then it’s unlikely that you can say or do much to change their mind.

Unfortunately, many drug and alcohol users find that the only way to take responsibility is for them to hit rock bottom. Rock bottom is different for different people. For some, it may mean simply losing the support of their loved ones. Others won’t acknowledge their addictions until they’ve lost their friends, their partners, their homes, and their jobs.

In either case, sometimes the best thing that you can do to encourage a drug user to get sober is to pull away. Once their life begins to suffer and they have nobody to blame but themselves, they are much more likely to seek help.

Contact BlueCrest Recovery Center

If you are still unsure how to proceed, don’t hesitate to contact BlueCrest Recovery Center. Here you’ll be able to connect with addiction counselors and therapists who can help you understand the situation and hopefully allow your loved one to seek addiction help.

Call 888.292.9652 or reach out online to learn more or get started today.



1NIDA and SAMHSA – “Substance Use Disorder defined by NIDA and SAMHSA”

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