What can I do if someone is not willing to get help?
This can be a challenge. An alcohol-dependent person can't be forced to get help except under certain
circumstances, such as a traffic violation or arrest that results in court-ordered treatment. But you
don't have to wait for someone to "hit rock bottom" to act. Many alcoholism treatment specialists
suggest the following steps to help the alcohol dependent get treatment:
Stop all "cover ups." Family members often make excuses to others or try to protect the alcohol
dependent from the results of his/her drinking. It is important to stop covering for the alcohol
dependent so that s/he experiences the full consequences of drinking.
Time your intervention. The best time to talk to the drinker
is shortly after an alcohol-related problem has occurred – like
a serious family argument or an accident. Choose a time when
s/he is not under the influence of alcohol, both of you are fairly
calm, and you have a chance to talk in private.
Be specific. Tell the family member that you are worried about
his/her drinking. Use examples of the ways in which the drinking
has caused problems, including the most recent incident.
State the results. Explain to the drinker what you will do if s/he
doesn't go for help – not to punish the alcohol-dependent loved
one, but to protect yourself from his/her problems. What you say
may range from refusing to go with the person to any social activity
where alcohol will be served, to moving out of the house. Do not
make any threats you are not prepared to carry out.
Get help. Gather information in advance about treatment options in your community. If the person is
willing to get help, call immediately for an appointment with a treatment counselor. (Click here to find help.)
Offer to go with the loved one on the first visit to a treatment program and/or a peer support meeting.
Call on a friend. If the loved one still refuses to get help, ask a friend to talk with him/her using the
steps just described. A friend who has their addiction in remission may be particularly persuasive, but
any person who is caring and nonjudgmental may help. The intervention of more than one person,
more than one time, is often necessary to coax an alcohol-dependent person to seek help.
Find strength in numbers. With the help of a health care professional, some families join with other
relatives and friends to confront the loved one as a group. This approach should only be tried under
the guidance of a health care professional who is experienced in this kind of group intervention.
Get support. It is important to remember that you are not alone. Support groups offered in most
communities include Al-Anon, which holds regular meetings for spouses and other significant adults
in the alcohol-dependent's life, and Alateen, which is geared to children of the alcohol dependent.
These groups help family members understand that they are not responsible for the loved one's
drinking and that they need to take steps to take care of themselves, regardless of whether the
alcohol-dependent family member chooses to get help.
Source: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
- Moore, Burness E. & Fine, Bernard D (Editors) Psychoanalytic Terms and Concepts. The American Psychoanalytic Association, 1990 pgs 50-51.
- Module 10. Trainer Information Sheets. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Center for Substance Abuse Prevention.
- At Any Age, It Does Matter: Substance Abuse and Older Adults (for Professionals). CSAP's Prevention Pathways: Online Courses. Module 2: Recognizing Alcohol Misuse and Abuse in Older Adults. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Center for Substance Abuse Prevention.
- At Any Age, It Does Matter: Substance Abuse and Older Adults (for Professionals). CSAP's Prevention Pathways: Online Courses. Module 7: Barriers to Treatment. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Center for Substance Abuse Prevention.
- Howard J. Shaffer*, Gary Simoneau Reducing resistance and denial by exercising ambivalence during the treatment of addiction. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment 20 (2001) 99-105
This page was last modified on : 10/28/2013