What to Do When Your Addicted Loved One Says, “I Don’t Have a Problem”
When someone struggles with drug addiction or alcoholism, getting that person help becomes the priority. Addiction is a lethal crisis—something that claims the lives of thousands of people every year. There’s no telling when a deadly overdose or accident could come about. That’s why getting an addicted loved one help as soon as possible is a must.
But what do you do when your loved one is in denial? What do you do when they think that they don’t have a problem? How do you get your loved one help when they don’t want to get help because they don’t believe that they need help in the first place?
Tips for Handling the “I Don’t Have a Problem” Objection
One of the most common objections that family members and loved ones hear from an addict is, “My habit is under control. I don’t have a problem.” We know this is a delusion, as any degree of drug use is, of course, a problem. But how does one address that objection? What do you say to your loved one to get them to see past that denial? While everyone’s situation is going to be different and unique, there are some tried and true methods that we can make use of. Here are some ideas:
- Work to get them to “see” the problem. This is a delicate process, but your main objective lies in working with your loved one to get them to see why their drinking or drug use is a problem. You have to do this in such a way that you don’t overwhelm them with accusations and labels. Stay away from that path. But use real-life examples of times when their drinking or drug use was a problem for them or others. Use logic and real scenarios to make your point, and repeat this process over and over again until they start to see the truth behind your observations.
- Make it a team effort. If your addicted family member or loved one is firmly stuck in denial and they aren’t willing to budge, get other family members and friends involved in the process of convincing them to get help. That can take place in the form of official intervention, or it could be done simply by meeting with the addict regularly and talking to them about getting help. Be sure you don’t “gang up” on your loved one, as addicts can easily be overwhelmed when confronted by large groups of people. Be kind, calm, and pleasant with them.
- Don’t enable them or agree with them. No matter what, don’t enable your loved one, and don’t agree with their denial just to “keep the peace.” To agree with them or enable them is to flow power to their denial. You can be kind, compassionate, loving, and caring for your family member, but do so without agreeing with their denial or enabling their addiction. Avoid enabling your loved one by refusing to do anything that would help them continue their addiction habit. That includes things like giving them money, a cell phone, a place to stay, a car, etc. No matter what, hold your position and determination that they need help. Don’t ever compromise on that point.
- If something isn’t working or getting results, change it. There are dozens of different intervention techniques out there. The tried and true Johnson Model, confrontational techniques, one-on-one methods, “love first” methods, and so on. You don’t have to commit to one approach when your loved one continues to exhibit denial. If you are trying to convince them to get help and they’re just not having it, change up your approach. Don’t be afraid to seek the help of a professional interventionist. In fact, you may want to consider this as a first approach.
- Don’t ever stop trying. Denial is not a permanent condition. Addicts move in and out of denial all the time. But you would never know that if you did not continuously work to help your loved one. No matter how bad a loved one’s addiction is, the family member who makes an effort every day to help their loved one get better is simply going to be more successful than the family member who only makes an effort once every few weeks, once a month or, “when it’s convenient for them.” Be the former.
- Go for the close, every time. It’s kind of a unique perspective to look at a discussion with an addict as though it were a sales pitch, but in a way that is precisely what it is. When you are working with an addicted loved one, trying to convince them that they need to get help and that they do have a problem, you are trying to sell them on the indisputable fact that they do need to get help at a rehab center. One of the big mistakes that family members make is they do not continuously ask their loved one to seek help through treatment. They don’t “Go for the close” as the salesman would say, they become worried that their loved one will get mad at them. And yes, that might happen. But if you don’t ask your loved one to get help and continue to repeat that request, it’s just not going to happen.
Looking Denial in the Face
Trying to help a drug addict or alcoholic is no walk in the park. Throughout this endeavor, an addict will throw a lot of curve balls your way. But the most challenging objection is likely always going to be some form of denial. That is a tough one to overcome. But persistence, using various tactics, and staying the course with them will be successful in the long run.
What a lot of people don’t realize about addiction is that people who struggle with a drug habit ultimately know that they do have a problem. Deep down inside, an addict knows that what they’re doing is wrong. They do want help, and they do want to get better. But their struggle is that they cannot seem to break free from their day-to-day grind of drug use or heavy drinking. The habit always seems to get the better of them.
Keep in mind that your loved one inherently knows that they have a problem and that they need to get help for it. You have to persist with them, and they will see it your way.
They also might complain about the price of the help they need and say they can’t afford it. The thing is that they can’t afford not to do it; their life is at risk, and the family wants them around for a lot more years.
Reviewed and Edited by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP