Drug Rehab: Suggestions for Relating to Someone Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol

AlcoholIf you have someone in your life whom you love and who is also struggling with an addiction, you might not know how to relate to him or her. Perhaps you’d like to see your loved one attend drug rehab. Perhaps you’ve like to get the best drug rehab help for your friend or family member. But how do you bring it up? How do you relate to that person in a way so that he or she trusts you?

Dr. Michael Pantalon, author of Instant Influence: How to Get Anyone To Do Anything – Fast, provides the following two suggestions, which are based upon the therapeutic method called Motivational Interviewing. These pointers are for those who are watching their loved one make poor life choices due to their drug or alcohol use and who want to see them get drug rehab help.

Of course, most people are not trained therapists, but you can still utilize the principles of this therapy to talk to your loved one in a gentle and loving way. For example, these are two basic pointers that might be useful to facilitate having a productive conversation about getting into drug rehab.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

In other cases, you might always encounter your friend or family member drunk or high. It might be rare that you see your loved one sober. You might live together or work together and he or she is often intoxicated in your presence. If that’s the case, here are some tips regarding how to relate to your friend or family member while he or she is under the influence.

  • Approach in a way so that you don’t re-traumatize that person.
  • Approach with care.
  • Respect personal space.
  • Use gentle, soft voice and body language.
  • Make clear, brief statements.
  • Focus on the here and now.
  • Show respect and do not put the person down with judgments or criticism.
  • Use humor, if you think that will help to create a connection. But obviously don’t use humor at the person’s expense.
  • Stay calm and avoid getting into a confrontation.
  • Empathize with the person.
  • Work to disarm fear.
  • Calm the fight or flight response in the person you’re talking to.
  • Give the person time to process.
  • Repeat yourself as often as necessary.
  • Check that he or she is in physical health and is safe.
  • Leave the situation if the person becomes agitated or behaviorally inappropriate.
  • Validate the person when warranted.
  • Offer concrete help if he or she asks, such as places to seek drug treatment, a safe place to rest, a safe place to sleep, and places to seek medical attention.
  • If a person is intoxicated and also suicidal, do not leave him or her alone. Instead, call 911 to ensure safety and professional support.

It’s not always easy to encounter someone who is under the influence of substances. However, often just our presence is enough. With a loving and gentle presence, whether or not someone is drunk, he or she can feel safe knowing that you are there.


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