It’s hard if you’ve seen your son, daughter, or cousin or uncle high on drugs. It’s not easy if you’ve been to the hospital with your brother or sister for alcohol poisoning. Likely, you’re at a point where the drinking and drug use has got to stop because you’re seeing your loved one waste their life away. You’re watching your family destroy his or her life and you’ve pulled all the cards already. There aren’t any tricks left in the book to try to make them stop.
If you’re in these shoes, it might be time to let go. It could be time to give your loved one the autonomy he or she needs to make the right decision for him or herself. Although it’s an incredibly scary position to be in, the best thing you can do is let your family member decide for himself how to proceed.
Taking a Different Approach
Now, this doesn’t mean giving them the full reigns to wreak havoc with drinking or drugs. Rather, it means approaching them a bit differently. It means talking to them in a way that respects his or her inner authority.
Dr. Michael Pantalon, author of Instant Influence: How to Get Anyone To Do Anything – Fast, provides the following suggestions. These pointers are for those who are watching their loved one ruin their life with drugs and you want to see them get substance abuse treatment. You want to see them succeed and stop making choices that are destructive. Pantalon’s pointers are based on a therapeutic method called Motivational Interviewing. This is a form of therapy that drug counselors use with recovering addicts. It seeks to evoke a person’s intrinsic desire to change. It does this by exploring his or her ambivalence to changing behavior, given the pros and cons of using drugs or drinking.
For instance, it’s clear that your loved one is, on some level, enjoying their drinking. It feels good, it perhaps takes the pain away, and it might give them a sense of power and inner security. However, at the same time, they might see how drinking gives them a hangover, gets in the way of concentrating at work, and causes alcohol poisoning and trips to the hospital. Drinking too much is leading to relationship problems, health concerns, and loss of memory. The inner struggle of wanting to quit because of its consequences versus wanting to keep drinking because of the benefits is the ambivalence that needs to be resolved. Exploring and resolving this ambivalence is the goal of Motivational Interviewing.
Talking to Your Loved One
Pantalon’s pointers listed below are based upon this type of therapy. Now, although most people are not trained therapists, you can still utilize the principles of this therapy in the way that you talk to your loved one. For example:
- Don’t tell your family member about how you feel. Instead, listen to their thoughts and feelings. Listen for what he or she is communicating underneath the words. Then, when you respond, repeat back to your loved one what you heard in your own words. This process strengthens trust and respect. He or she may feel heard and understood versus being pushed or coerced into anything. In this way, he or she may be able to understand your point of view rather than feeling like you have the answers and that you’re trying to tell them what to do.
- Don’t tell your loved one why he or she needs to stop. Rather than giving orders, ask questions to invite how your loved one feels about drinking or using drugs. Ask about how they feel when they’re drinking along with some of the consequences they experience. You might ask questions like “Have you ever done something you regretted while drinking?” or “What are some of the reasons you might want to quit?” You can also invite them to answer, on a scale from one to ten, how ready they are to get help.
These are two basic pointers that might be useful to facilitate having a more productive conversation with your family member about getting into substance abuse treatment.