Forcing the Addict to Get Help

Family members, friends, significant others, and concerned
loved ones often have the same question of
addiction professionals, “How do I force my loved one
to get help?” Unfortunately, there is no simple answer
to this question. Circumstances are different for every
person that needs help as a result of their addiction
or alcoholism. One Story that comes to mind, as an
exemplary depiction of how to help a loved one get in
treatment, is that of Judith.

Judith was the younger of two girls being raised by a
loving mother and father in a suburban town near Los
Angeles California. When Judith was 12 years old her
mother and father divorced. The divorce was incredibly
painful as Judith and her older sister were used as
pawns in a power and control game that her parents
created. To make matters worse, Judith and her older
sister were split apart as a result of the divorce, Judith
to spending most of her time with her mother, and her
older sister spending most of her time with her father.
By the age of 13 Judith was angrily acting out and isolating
in her mother’s home and at school.

Judith would dress provocatively to gain inappropriate
attention from the boys in school. She would act out
sexually and participate in drinking, smoking, and occasionally
taking drugs. She would steal alcohol from the
local markets in order to gain approval by her friends.
She would steal clothing and jewelry from the local
mall stores. She would sabotage relationships with
friends in order to create dramatic disturbances in her
life.

When not at school or with her friends, Judith would
isolate in her room. She said little to her mother with
the exception of asking for money or rides to locations
to meet her friends. She would routinely sneak out of
the house in the early morning hours to meet up with
her friends. She became a master at deception and had
her mother fooled into thinking she was okay. Judith
barely made it through academics in order to graduate
high school. By the age of 18 Judith was drinking alcohol
every day in order to cope with the stresses of her
out-of-control lifestyle. On the weekends she would
binge with drugs and seek out casual sexual relations.

Judith became pregnant shortly after her 18th birthday.
When her mother found out Judith became enraged
and told her mother about the life she had been
living. She blamed her mother for her poor life choices.
When Judith’s mother discovered the truth about her
daughter’s life, Judith was asked to leave the home
unless she chose to change her lifestyle. The defiance
within Judith prevented her from making the significant
changes in her life that were necessary to keep
her mother’s support. She moved out of her home and
began to create relationships with whoever would have
her stay for a while. Some of those relationships were
physically abusive, some were emotionally abusive,
and all involved alcohol, drugs, and sex. Eventually, as
she ran out of people that would allow her to stay with
them, Judith turned to prostitution and burglary to
support her drug use and lifestyle choices.
Periodically Judith would contact her mother, her
father, and her older sister looking for money or shelter.
Her mother and father were so distraught at the
thought of Judith spending the night on the street that
they would often give her small sums of money to tide
her over through the night. Judith’s older sister pushed
herself away from Judith and did not communicate,
she wanted nothing to do with her younger sister while
she was destroying her life.

When Judith was arrested for burglary, possession of
narcotics, and assaulting a police officer, her mother
and father became desperate to help her. They told
Judith that they would not bail her out of jail unless she
agreed to go to treatment and get help for her addiction.
Judith promised to go to treatment, but as soon
as she was released from jail she ran back to her old
lifestyle.

When Judith was hospitalized after being beaten to
near death as a result of one of her prostitution clients
getting upset with her, she once again reached out to
her parents for their help. Her mother and father said
they would help her if she would go to treatment for
her addiction and change her life for the better. Judith
promised to go to treatment and moved back in with
her mother while her body mended itself. However, as
soon as Judith was feeling well enough, she once again
ran back to her old lifestyle.

At their wits end, Judith’s parents sought the help of a
psychologist that specialized in addiction. Judith’s parents
learned that they were enabling their daughter’s
behavior by giving her money and shelter when Judith
seemed so desperate. The parents learned that the
only real help they can provide for Judith would be in
the form of not accepting any of her unacceptable behaviors,
and not supporting her in any way as long as
she continues to exhibit those unacceptable behaviors.
For parents in this situation, despite their differences
and mistrust of one another, they must band together
in a united effort to help their daughter save her own
life.

It wasn’t long until the next telephone call came for
Judith’s parents. Judith had been in a car accident.
She was driving while under the influence of alcohol,
opiates, and cocaine. She was carrying narcotics and
an illegal firearm in her handbag. She was also driving
without a valid driver license. Wanted for a bench
warrant for failure to appear, Judith was once again
placed in jail after being treated for her injuries at the
emergency room.

Judith begged her parents to bail her out of jail once again. This time,
her parents were able to find the strength to say no. Judith attempted
to manipulate her parents into helping her. She told her mother
that it was her fault that Judith was the way she was. She told her
father that he was never there for her, and that now, when she needs
him the most, he still isn’t there to protect her. She called her older
sister to tell her that she would kill herself if her older sister didn’t bail
her out. But none of these tactics worked as her family was no longer
willing to enable Judith’s addict behaviors.

It remains one of the hardest things that Judith’s parents have ever
done, but they did not bail her out, and they did not come to her
rescue, and they allowed Judith to suffer the consequences of her choices.
Judith spent 14 months in jail. When released, she was
released to an addiction treatment program while
on probation. The terms of her probation stated that
she must complete 12 months of treatment. Judith
completed only three months of treatment before
abandoning the treatment program and relapsing on
alcohol, drugs, and sexual acting out. But this time was
different, Judith realized that she no longer had any
family or friends to bail her out of trouble. She further
realized that her old lifestyle would lead nowhere but
back to the type of trouble that would eventually kill
her. So Judith had an epiphany, and it became very
clear that the only way for her to live a quality life
would be to get into recovery and leave her old lifestyle
behind. So she turned herself in, and she went
back to treatment, and she fully engaged in her recovery
effort for the first time.

When she graduated the treatment program her
parents and her older sister were there in the audience
cheering her on. Judith was able to secure a job that
supported her well enough that
she could reside in a nice sober
living facility. She stayed away
from romantic relationships, and
she focused on developing strong
friendships with others in recovery.
Judith discovered that she could
have a quality of life in recovery
that was so much more enjoyable
than her life drinking and drugging.
However, this life was not
without its problems; as Judith
would discover that financial
hardships, her lack of education,
and her underdeveloped social
skills would require her to make a
considerable effort to continue to
improve her life.

About three years into her recovery,
after moving into her own
apartment, Judith entered into a
love relationship. The relationship
went well for a while, but then
Judith felt the stresses of being relied on, and relying
on another. It wasn’t long before Judith turned to the
alcohol and drugs to help her escape the anxiety and
stress of the relationship. Soon, she ran short on money
and could not make the rent payment or car payment.

Judith turned to her parents and her older sister for
help. It had been several years, but the family remembered
not to enable Judith in her unacceptable behavior.
Judith was given an ultimatum, either she would
once again seek treatment for her addiction, or she
would lose the support and contact with her family.
Judith agreed to seek help for her addiction reentered
her recovery program swiftly.

That was Judith’s last relapse. Today, many years later,
Judith is married with children of her own. She enjoys a
strong connection with her mother, her father, and her
older sister. She is surrounded by supportive friends
and family. She participates in life and feels that her
life experience is full of joy and that she is blessed. She
attributes much of her blessed life experience to her
family, who refused to allow her to continue on the
destructive path of addiction.

Judith’s parents know that their part in their daughter’s
recovery is insignificant compared to the effort and
perseverance that it takes for Judith to maintain her
recovery. They know that Judith’s recovery is the result
of one thing only, and that is their daughter’s resolve.
In their own recovery effort, both Judith’s mother and
father have discovered that their daughter’s addiction
is not their fault. They have learned that their enabling
behavior allowed Judith to remain active in her addiction
far longer than necessary. And they have also
learned that they did the best that they could with
what they had at the time. Judith’s parents have made
the choice to forgive themselves for not knowing what
they did not know.

When asked the question that is the subject of this
article, “how do I force my loved one to get help?” Judith’s
parents are very clear in their belief that it is not
possible to force a loved one, or anyone, to get help for
something when they do not want help. Instead, it is
the job of the loved ones to be available and provide
support for healthy action. The best help comes in
the form of not accepting unacceptable behavior, and
letting your loved one know that you love them but
will not contribute in any way to their unacceptable
lifestyle.

Addiction is a chronic and progressive disease. This
means that addiction does not get better on its own,
but it can be arrested with treatment. This also means
that addiction only gets worse over time unless it is
arrested with treatment. So it is clear that treatment is
necessary for the addict. Without treatment, the addict
will eventually succumb to the disease. The longer the
addict is able to actively drink, drug, and act out, the
greater the odds are that they will die from their disease.
Therefore, the most loving thing another human
being can do for the addict is to provide them with
absolutely no support while the addict is active in their
addiction. No money, no shelter, no food unless the
addict is engaged in treatment. Anything less is considered
enabling.