When our loved one is struggling with a mental health or substance use disorder, it is normal to want to help or “save” them. While acting as a savior may feel heroic, it may prevent your loved one from overcoming the emotional and cognitive obstacles required for recovery. Most people recognize that mental health concerns are true medical disorders, so they assume that caring for a person with a mental health disorder looks the same as caring for a person with cancer.
We can offer our loved ones help, but they don’t always take it, which often puts us in uncomfortable or upsetting situations. Check out these things you can do when a loved one is refusing treatment for their substance abuse! Follow through on any consequences or boundaries you set. When your loved one is given the option to get help, you should have boundaries and consequences in place for if/when they decline any treatment options you provided them.
Stick to Your Bottom Line
The most important thing to do when your loved one declines help is to stick to any consequences or boundaries you set. If you told them they could not live with you unless they accepted help, it is important that you hold the line and ask them to leave. If you allow them to stay without repercussion, they will not take your word seriously and continue to cross any lines or boundaries you draw out. Holding your ground could change the trajectory of their life and catapult them into recovery. What role have you played, if any, in their addiction? Have you given them money? Bailed them out? Lied for them? Whatever role you may have played, whether enabler or savior, it is important to stop. Realize that you didn’t cause this, but you may have helped in perpetuating it. You can’t fix this, but you can fix your side of the street.
Enabling is when you allow/validate/permit/authorize someone’s behavior through your own behavior, actions, or inactions. Enabling someone’s addiction could mean giving them money, a place to live, or even ignoring that their using is a problem. This behavior must stop if you want to actually help your loved one.
Prepare for Their Reaction
Your loved one may be angry when you set clear boundaries and do not change them to appease their addiction. This is totally normal and totally okay. Their anger has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. Allow them to feel however they may feel, say what they need (as long as it is not harmful towards you or themselves), and accept where they are at. Prepare for the worst; hope for the best. Learning more about addiction, mental health concerns, and recovery can help you be more compassionate and understanding, as well as teach you about the different side effects and withdrawal symptoms you need to be on the lookout for. Learning about recovery can also help you understand the process your loved one is going through.
Develop a Different Kind of Patience
Patience in the traditional sense involves helping a person feel safe no matter what. Unfortunately, when people feel too safe, they are never forced to grow. Becoming committed to a person’s recovery rather than committed to the person is a difficult concept for many people to grasp, but this is exactly what is required. Work on developing your own emotional stability and healthy boundaries no matter what you’re faced with. When you are trying to help someone who is struggling with mental health or substance use disorder, it’s easy to lose control of your emotions. Having weak emotional control allows people to manipulate you, whether they realize it or not. Remember that being angry, disappointed, and hurt won’t help your loved one recover.
Encouraging your loved one to get help is important; it can bring both of you closer together and can remind them that you are on their side.
Plan an Intervention
If you have already staged an intervention, make sure that you are following through on any boundaries and consequences you had made, they may see now more clearly that treatment is the only option if they want you to be a part of their life. If you have not already planned an intervention, it is important to contact a professional and begin the process. Staging an intervention could be what saves your loved one’s life and puts them onto the path of recovery. The following programs can be tremendously helpful in helping your loved one on the path to recovery:
Make Sure You Are Taking Care of Yourself
Attending Nar-Anon or Al-Anon meetings, seeing a therapist regularly, or taking time to do things you enjoy throughout the day are all great ways to take care of yourself in this difficult time. If you or a loved one have decided that it’s time to enter treatment, call 833.625.0458 or chat now to learn about your options at the Atlanta Center for Mental Health.