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How to Talk to a Person Who Needs Rehabilitation for Alcoholism or Drug Addiction.

It's been said many time that getting an addicted person to agree to accept help can be as hard as or harder than actually treating them. This is often the case. But it is always the case that unless they can be gotten into care, they're not going to receive the help they need to overcome addiction.

So knowing how to reach the addict and how to get him or her to agree to enter treatment and then actually get them there is essential to the entire process.

First, let's understand the causes of their resistance.

  1. 1.They believe they're incurable.

Especially with someone who has been through treatment before, the addict might feel like nothing will really work. Other rehabs maybe didn't change anything except achieve a tenuous few miserable months during which staying clean was an excruciating effort. When they actually gave in and went back to their heroin or meth or vodka, whatever, the relief they felt was overwhelming. One addict said it was like finally taking a breath of air after being held under water for two full minutes.

Hope could be in short supply; they may have failed enough times to learn they can't make it. In their minds, they could be convinced that they are incurable. Another attempt will be just more heartache and more expense for their loved ones.

  1. 2.An addict isn't thinking, he is reacting.

Addiction isn't made of reason, it's made of urges and fears and absolutes. The addiction is almost a separate entity inside the mind and body of the addict. This is obvious when you speak to a seriously addicted person. You'll notice you're not really talking to the person at all, you talking and trying to reason with the addiction. But the addiction cannot think, it won't reason or understand anything. It has one goal, to get another drink, another shot, pill, puff, whatever.

Anything that stands in the way of that is an enemy to this mindless desire. It may negotiate with you or swap one thing for another, as long as the end result is more drugs.

Cooperation and a desire to improve come from the actual person himself or herself, and that loved one might be so buried as to be unreachable at most times.

  1. 3.The addict is desperately ashamed of his or her actions and so will lie.

Don't think you're getting the truth about plans or events that have occurred. A basic urge in most people is to be respected. This is especially true in sons or daughters seeking approval from parents. But the truth about an addict's whereabouts and activities would be condemned and would make him or her look despicable, so they hide the truth with lies. If you understand this you won't be so easily placated by denials or promises of better behavior.

When the addicted person is in need of money, you can rest assured that the true purpose is to buy drugs. Claims such as: "But dad, I need 300 dollars to pay what I owe this guy or he's gonna hurt me!" are actually efforts to get drugs.

Again you are listening to the addiction. It has hijacked the addict's thoughts, hopes and dreams and now his thinking processes. So the computations are all geared to a very narrow band of activities: Getting the drug of choice ASAP.

So how can you talk to an addicted person?

With all this going on, you can see the reason professional interventionists are paid the big bucks. But you can increase your chances of successfully getting Uncle Joe or little Susie into a proper treatment center by following certain guidelines.

Keep your cool.

A very important thing that professional drug interventionists know is that you MUST remain calm. It's obvious that when a heated argument ensues, it becomes a contest of proving who is right and who is wrong. If the conversation becomes tense, you have to be the grown-up and take it back down a level or two. This may seem impossible, but you can do it much more easily than the addict can. And someone has to be the grown up!

Never lose sight of the goal: getting him or her into the rehab center.

There might be any number of attempts to throw you off target. Pulling the attention over onto a side road that leads to nowhere is just another ploy to keep using drugs. And it will only be successful if you give in and agree to it. Delays can derail your plans and postpone or prevent recovery.


Don't give up on the person. You will prevail if you follow this one. There may be many disappointments along the way, but keep at it and your loved one will finally get the help they need if you keep trying and don't give up. The sooner they enter a good, drug-free, long-term treatment center, the sooner they'll be returned to you in every way.

Time is the addict's worst enemy. But once they've entered a good treatment facility, time is their best friend.

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