Loving Someone Into Addiction Recovery? Why It Doesn’t Work
Dealing with a family member in active addiction can be crushing emotionally, financially, and mentally. Watching the person you love lose their job, their family, their home to drugs or alcohol is heartbreaking. The creeping thoughts that her next heroin fix may be her last; wondering if his latest three day meth binge is the binge that will leave him on the streets for good. Your daily – sometimes hourly – emotions range from terror to rage, anxiety to depression, guilt to detachment. Your bank account has dwindled as you’ve poured savings into paying off angry dealers, bailing him out of jail, and attorney fees for the most recent DUI. You can’t fathom how he’s transformed into such an unrecognizable person.
And so, you find yourself desperate. You will do anything to get him to stop using.
Most of the time, “anything” isn’t the best option. Rarely does desperation pay off. And loving someone into recovery isn’t possible.
The gut-wrenching terror, the frustration and the underlying shame and guilt are likely leading you to do things you know aren’t logical. You’re in one of the darkest seasons of your life and you’re trying to claw your way out any way possible. The truth is, there are ways to help your loved one get sober, stay sober, and live a life of recovery – and there are also things that can hurt them. When you’re faced with one of the most painful and challenging experience of your life, you need to make sure that you are doing the things that will help your loved one get into treatment… not hurt them.
Loving statement #1:
“If you dump your drug-dealing boyfriend, I’ll help you pay rent for your own apartment.”
Why It Doesn’t Work:
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that your daughter, niece or sister’s use of drugs is only because of a drug dealing boyfriend. She’s using heroin or meth because she’s addicted, not because her boyfriend just happened to have them in the house. The boyfriend isn’t the issue – the addiction is. The issue is that she now needs treatment, not a new place to continue using.
Loving statement #2:
“If you stop drinking and make it to work everyday this month, I’ll buy you a car.”
Why It Doesn’t Work:
This kind of “help” is especially dangerous. If your loved one struggles with an addiction – whether it be alcohol, benzos or opiates – you don’t want them operating a vehicle. This type of incentive doesn’t just jeopardize your bank account. This type of reward could jeopardize your loved one’s life. Use your hard earned money on something that works, like long-term inpatient treatment – not a way for your loved one to put their life in danger.
Loving statement #3:
“If you promise this is the last time, I’ll pay off the dealer for you.”
Why It Doesn’t Work:
It’s not that your loved one doesn’t intend on keeping his promise to stop buying and using opiates, or her promise to stop doing cocaine. But words can only go so far for a person struggling with addiction. Your loved one has a disease that makes him or her powerless to a drug of choice. No matter how much he may want to keep that promise, it’s unreasonable to expect him to keep that commitment.
I understand you are desperate: you’re wanting to pay off the dealer in fear that someone is going to harm you, your family, or the person with the addiction; you feel as though you can’t call the police to protect you from any violence because the consequences will fall back onto your loved one; you feel helpless.
However, the fact is – if the dealer isn’t paid off, the drug dealer will stop selling to your loved one, who may cry, beg and plead for you to pay so he or she can get their stuff – but otherwise, not much will happen to your family. If the dealer is paid off, the dealer will continue to sell to your loved one – and YOU will be footing the bill.
What Actually Works
Statements like the ones above come from a place of love and concern, but in the end – they don’t work. No amount of bribing will actually help your loved one. You can’t love someone into recovery. What you can do, however, is help them into the right treatment program – a program that will help treat their disease physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.
- Communicate: Talk to them about the problem.
- Look at Insurance: If he or she doesn’t have insurance, it’s worth helping them get on a plan.
- Research: Seek out interventionists and treatment programs – and make the call. You don’t need your loved one’s approval to make this call. What you do need is to be willing to take the advice of the specialist you speak with.
- Heal: Addiction is a family disease. You’ve suffered right alongside of your loved one. Most treatment programs have a family care and counseling program. If not, seek out a local therapist for yourself.
Put your loved one in a position to empower them to get real help and real solutions for their problems – not pay offs for drug dealers, new cars or paid bills. Remember, you can’t love someone into recovery, they have to get the help – and do the work.