Recognizing when a Family Member Needs Help
The biggest mistake families make when it comes to getting their loved one into residential alcohol rehab is not acting soon enough. Loved ones are really good at making excuses for the alcoholic’s behavior, often called enabling, and trying to deny a problem exists. But by not getting help when the issue becomes apparent, families actually make it more difficult for their loved one to recover. The toxic effects of ongoing alcohol on the brain combined with the impaired decision-making as the addiction progresses interferes with the alcoholic processing their situation and making a sound decision.
One school of thought regarding addictions, including alcoholism, assumes an alcoholic has to hit rock bottom before they will accept treatment. We would never look at any other illness, like cancer or diabetes, and say, “Let’s wait till they are at rock bottom, then we will get them life-saving treatment.” When presented in the same loving and caring way with specifics about benefits of going and risks of not going to treatment, addicts will often go to treatment before rock bottom arrives.
So what can you look for? What signs will tell you for sure if your son, daughter, parent, sibling, or spouse needs alcohol treatment? First of all, look at the different aspects of your loved one’s life. Do they struggle with health, managing conflict, finances, legal issues, work or academic instability, family interactions, being honest, handling their emotions, and other responsibilities because of their drinking? Are they missing the joy of life or not engaging anymore in the healthy activities that energize them or motivate them? If so, they probably need help. If they experience difficulties in other areas of their life and they have tried to cut back on their drinking and failed, they definitely need help.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has a self assessment quiz your loved one can take to analyze their drinking and their need for treatment. Encourage them to take the quiz and then discuss the results.
Finding a Rehab to Use
If your loved one needs treatment for his or her alcoholism, it is important for you to know how you can help – and there will be plenty of joyful and rewarding ways for you to help in the weeks and months ahead. The first thing you can do is encourage their desire to get better and have a different future. Pray with them and for them. Pray God would grant extra peace and strength as they go through this significant life change.
The second step is look for a rehab. Alcohol rehab programs come in all different shapes and sizes, designed for all different types of people. It’s not good enough to guess at what rehab to use, or to take the first option to come along. The best way to find the right rehab is to look at your loved one’s clinical situation and needs. This means to analyze how their physical, psychological, and spiritual situation is playing into or affected by their alcohol abuse or dependence and then compare how the different treatment options will address these clinical needs.
A good place to start is to ask your doctor for help. A doctor can determine what level of care your loved one needs, and refer you to some quality programs. Another option is to use a referral service, where treatment professionals will conduct a telephonic assessment of your clinical situation and recommend some programs that fit your insurance or finances. If you aren’t comfortable with any of the options your doctor or a referring organization has given, you can also look up treatment centers on your own. SAMHSA has a database of treatment centers that can help or google search facilities by name or by ‘Christian Addiction Helpline.’
The biggest mistake families make when it comes to getting their loved one into residential alcohol rehab is not acting soon enough. Dr. Karl BenzioUnfortunately, the first time they are approached by loved ones about treatment, the majority of alcoholics don’t want to give up their alcohol and will either not see their need for treatment or make excuses to not go. Sometimes it takes time for the person to come around to see the downward progression of their life, and other times the alcoholic repeatedly turns down their opportunity to get help out of pride or shame. If your loved one will not respond positively to your requests to seek help, an ‘Intervention’ is in order.
Intervention services provide help and encouragement for families in lovingly expressing their concern and presenting options for change for their alcoholic loved one. A professional interventionist will meet with you and your family apart from the alcoholic to learn about the person’s addiction history, the family dynamics, and need for treatment. The interventionist will coach you on what you should or should not say during the intervention, and how best to approach this very sensitive subject. They will also help you explore your loved one’s options for rehab facilities, and help you establish a plan for getting your loved one to treatment.
- The goal is to help your loved realize
- they are loved,
- alcohol is robbing the alcoholic of both their life and promising future,
- treatment is available and can restore the hope of a fulfilling life,
- the family is supportive of pursuing treatment, and
- if the alcoholic doesn’t go to treatment, the family will stop enabling the addictive behavior – by applying certain boundaries, allowing the addict to fully feel the consequences of their continued alcohol dependence.
During the intervention, the professional will either be present or will be available via phone or Internet connection to walk you through it. Families find that having someone experienced in intervention services to consult with takes much of the pressure off of loved ones and helps ensure the confrontation is going as well as possible.
Getting to Alcohol Rehab
Either through a formal intervention or a one-on-one discussion, when you talk to your loved one about getting help for their alcoholism, it is important to have an alcohol rehab investigated and selected and everything ready for your loved one to go right away. As soon as they agree to get help, you will want to get them on their way, before they change their mind. If they have too much time to think about treatment, fears and anxieties, as well as cravings for alcohol, often derail a plan for treatment.
As your loved one leaves for rehab, you can rest assured they are getting the help they (and your entire family) really need. You can also take comfort in the fact that you as the loved one can help make recovery a success. You can participate in establishing the treatment plan, you can attend family therapy, you can provide encouragement and prayer, and you can work on your own needs and issues at home. Your added effort during your loved one’s recovery will make their transition back home an easier one.
Post Treatment Support
The final step in rehab is the return home and relapse prevention. Your loved one will need post treatment support from you, other family members, their treatment team, and the recovery community. You can help by encouraging sobriety, by eliminating alcohol and temptations to drink from your home, and helping your loved one get to meetings and sessions. Your loved one should definitely continue meeting with their therapists, and should get involved with a support group like Alcoholics Anonymous or Celebrate Recovery to further aid in their sobriety.
Unfortunately, in rare instances, even though you have managed all the things you can control to exert a strong, positive, and Godly influence on your loved one’s struggle with life and addiction, they will still reject that influence and go their own destructive way. Even though you are sad, you can feel secure and confident you did the best you could and know they are in God’s hands for their future peace.
Recovery is a long, complex, and rewarding journey, but you’ll occasionally endure days you wonder if it is worth it. In the end, your positive influence helping your loved one give up their addiction and enjoy all the benefits of sobriety is well worth the effort you put into it.