Nearly 20 million adults in the United States are struggling with a substance use disorder. It wreaks havoc on not only their lives, but also the lives of those around them. If you’re watching helplessly as a loved one careens toward destruction at the hands of alcohol or drug use, there are some steps you can take to approach them and address their addiction.

At Creative Care facilities in Malibu, Woodland Hills, and Calabasas, California, our team of compassionate and experienced addiction specialists understands the incredibly difficult journey that someone in the throes of addiction faces. And, unfortunately, families and friends are often forced to take this journey, too, as the effects of a substance use disorder often aren’t confined to the sufferer.

To help you navigate the tricky waters of addiction, here are a few steps you can take to get your loved one the counseling they need.

It’s a disease

One of the first things we urge you to understand is that a substance use disorder is a disease. It is not necessarily a choice. Yes, we acknowledge that poor decision-making may have led to the problem. However, once the disorder takes hold, it becomes a disease of the mind and body. A substance use disorder hijacks a person’s mental and physical health, creating a physical dependence and a mental addiction. In other words, your loved one is not in charge anymore as their brain becomes rewired to receive more of the substance, which overrides all else in their lives.

Your understanding this is critical as, far too often, the addict or alcoholic is met with anger and impatience, which usually exacerbates the situation.

Getting tough

We urge you not to judge, patronize, or lash out at your loved one. However, we’re not implying that you can’t take a tough stance. A parent needs to cajole a diabetic child into eating better. Similarly, you can push to some extent to get your loved one to seek the help they need.

To do this, it’s best if you speak only in terms of the effect that their disease and consequent behavior have on you. Resist the urge to point out how the substance use disorder is affecting your loved one, as that is easily met with denial. If, however, you point out how the addiction is impacting your life and how you feel about it, there’s little that your loved one can contradict.

The goal is to open your loved one’s eyes to the fact that their problem has a far-reaching impact. By doing this, you create some accountability and motivation for your loved one to seek help.

Have a plan of action

If you want your loved one or friend to seek help, you may be met with great resistance. If you educate yourself in advance, however, you can counter each objection. For example, it’s best not to approach your the addict with a vague request that they seek help. Instead, talk to us about potential programs for your loved one so that you have a plan of action going in.

When you approach your loved one, remember that their brain will fight tooth and nail against treatment. Therefore you must arm yourself to gently fight back. If your loved one says they can’t miss work or school, for example, you can counter with a custom-tailored program that allows them to get the help they need while working around their schedule. 

But the first step requires a time commitment, as it’s best to get your loved one into our detox program. In discussing this, you should point out that work or school will be there once they’re done.

During this conversation, plan on heading off the objections as they come up. Use actionable items that we can help you pull together.

Ultimately, a person with a substance use disorder needs to want to break the chains of addiction. Your role is to help them take the first step so that they can see the light at the end of the tunnel and want sobriety for themselves.

To get started, please contact one of our team members. To do this, you can use our confidential online form or call 800-832-3280.