Drug and alcohol addiction is a vicious cycle — not only for the addict, but also for the wife, husband, family members, friends, coworkers, or roommates around them. If you’ve ever been there, then you know. It’s also incredibly isolating when you’re constantly lying and making up excuses to cover up your partner’s substance abuse. You don’t have anyone around you who really knows what’s going on except for your partner, and they aren’t much help. An intervention might be the only way to save your sanity — not to mention your partner’s life. But what are the Do’s and Don’ts for approaching an addicted spouse in an intervention?
Before you begin, make sure that you’re as committed to the process as you want them to be. The thought of sending your husband or wife to residential treatment for 30 days or more may seem overwhelming. The truth is, though, using and drinking will make you lose your partner for longer — maybe forever — and nothing will change for the better unless they get help.
Remember that substance abuse is a disease, and their drug or alcohol abuse is not meant to hurt you. Believe me, it’s hurting them even more than you can imagine. Going to treatment is the first step towards a better life, so allow them to take the time they need to heal on their own. After the intervention, you need to be prepared to let go and let them get help. (Then, it’s time for you to get help too, but that’s an entirely different blog post!)
Approaching your loved one about their substance abuse and the necessity for them to get treatment can be difficult, but here are some do’s and don’ts if you want to make an impact upon your partner. (We are not professional or licensed interventionists and only offer these tips as people who’ve done more than a few interventions!)
1. Approach them in a loving and kind way.
You probably have years of hurt, fear, anger and resentment about your partner’s addiction bottled up — especially if their addiction and the associated negative actions have been going on for awhile. Remember that this is not the time to explode. Do not let yourself blow up. It could provoke them to drink or use their problems away even more. Remember that you are getting them help because you care about them. If you need to talk to someone first, or journal to clear your head and get into a peaceful state, then do that.
2. Talk to them respectfully.
Even if your partner has been acting out of sorts due to their drug and alcohol use, don’t talk down to them. Talking down to your addicted loved one will only perpetuate their bad self esteem and could actually fuel their want to rebel. Remember that addiction is a disease, and they wouldn’t be in this position if they could just simply stop.
3. Offer your help to them.
Rather than approaching your husband or wife in an accusatory manner, or with anger, start with your offer to help them. This could change their whole perspective and consideration of getting sober. It reminds them, even in their using state, that you love them and you’re not there just to control them. Offer your help to them within reason, of course. What will make it easier for them to get help? Listen to their requests, but don’t do anything that crosses your boundaries.
4. Leave the conversation open.
It may take more than one conversation to get them to go to treatment. Maybe you’ve tried a hundred times already. Remember that the decision to go to rehab is difficult and can take a very long time. Don’t think it’s just like in the movies where the loved one comes home to a whole family with an “intervention” poster hung up asking them to get help. It’s not like everyone cries for three minutes and then the addict or alcoholic is off to treatment. Real life is not that simple. Be willing to leave the conversation open. Even if it seems like no progress has been made the first time, you’ve opened the door for them to consider getting help.
5. Educate yourself.
A major mistake people can make when approaching a partner about their substance abuse problem is that they aren’t informed. Truly understanding that addiction is a disease is crucial. So is understanding that a lot of the hurtful things they do are caused by that disease — not because they don’t love you. Do your research and learn about addiction from sources who have struggled with addiction themselves to give you insight and maybe a few more tools to add to your conversation. (Feel free to chat us right here on the website to talk to our staff about what you might need to know!)
6. Research treatments facilities before you speak with your partner.
Show your husband or wife that getting treatment is not just being locked in a hospital. No straitjackets are involved. Show them some options for treatment facilities while you talk with them. There are thousands of treatment facilities out there that provide a wonderful and safe environment. Many facilities are now even located in a home environment, so your loved one will feel a little more at ease. No matter your loved one’s personality, there’s a fit for them. Remember, the point is to find a treatment center that does their best at making your loved one’s world “inside” as comfortable as possible. They can use their energy to get better while there and ultimately come home to you.
7. Practice self-care.
One thing loved ones of substance abusers seem to forget is self-care. You have to be kind to yourself during this time to heal your wounds as well. Take some time for yourself and do what you love to do. You deserve it!
1. Don’t be confrontational.
This one is worth repeating. You cannot approach your partner with years of resentment ready to unleash, even if you’ve been holding things inside this whole time. Any reaction that seems confrontational to them will cause an immediate defense reaction. This emotional tsunami will also likely trigger your partner, resulting in them drinking or using more as a way to numb the pain.
2. Don’t berate or belittle them.
Don’t sit there and name all of the horrible things they have done to try to make a point, or just because you’re angry. You can calmly discuss with them the issues that have arisen because of their drinking, but berating will cause an aggressive and defensive reaction to the substance abuser. Try to remember the person they were before their addiction got this bad, and talk to that person.
3. Don’t speak with them when they are intoxicated.
Try to find a time to speak with your partner when they are not drunk or high. Obviously, this will help them be more receptive. (Especially if they are hung over!) If your loved one is blacked out and you attempt to have a conversation about getting help, it can lead to them promising you things they won’t remember later on. On the other hand, more dangerous unpredictable outbursts are possible, too. If there aren’t many times when they’re sober, try to corner your husband or wife when they are at the beginning of a binge.
4. Don’t think you can force them to quit.
Alcoholism is a disease and even though it affects you, your husband or wife is the one who has it. They are an adult and have an independent life, even if that life is consumed by drugs and alcohol. Trying to force them to quit or using ultimatums to quit will be completely useless — and will likely cause them to want to drink or use more. Ultimatums can make your loved one feel trapped into a corner and cause resentment on both of your ends. Remember that they can only really ever get better when they actually want to do it for themselves.
5. Don’t give up on them.
Be patient with yourself and your partner and remember that addiction is NOT an easy battle to win. Even if it takes a number of attempts and conversations about their substance abuse, it is possible for them to live a better life – one in recovery. Recovery truly is possible for everyone. If you keep on trying, you’ll get there. If you don’t, addiction will only take you to a few places: jails, institutions, and the cemetery.
Remember that even though drugs and alcohol may be currently a problem in their life, your husband or wife still loves you. If they had cancer, you would try to help them get treatment, right? Addiction is a disease with an appropriate treatment, and it starts with getting help. Call us today.
Getting Clean & Sober at Home
Today, more than 75% of hospitals and healthcare providers offer access to telehealth treatment, with 29 states having gone so far as to enact telehealth parity laws, which force insurance companies to reimburse patients for telehealth at the same rates as they would for in-person treatment.
If you’ve been thinking about getting clean and sober, or if you’ve been wanting to work on and strengthen the recovery you already have, it’s never been easier to do it through telehealth.