Why He Will Not Go To Treatment

If you have a family member who suffers from addiction, have worked in the field of substance abuse or perhaps struggled with the illness yourself, then some of the following statements may sound familiar:

  • He drinks because of all the problems he has
  • Now is not a good time to confront him over his drinking.
  • He must want to get sober for himself.
  • He drinks because he suffers from depression, anxiety, grief, anger, divorce, trauma, poor self-esteem, etc……
  • He must hit bottom before he will be ready to get help

These excuses all have a certain plausibility. However, when you weigh the consequences of the alcoholics drinking, the excuses just do not hold up. The misconception that allows us to accept these excuses lies in the erroneous belief that we are dealing with a behavior problem. The A.M.A., the A.P.A. and N.A.A.D.A.C. all state that substance dependency is an illness (not a behavior problem). If alcoholism was an issue of self-control, then the alcoholic would surely have chosen his family over the drink. The addict would have chosen her children over the drug. If they in fact had any ability to choose, they would not have chosen jail or death over freedom and a life worth living. Once the disease of addiction/alcoholism progresses to a certain point; the addict loses the ability to choose. The craving has become greater than his ability to resist. You can hear the power of this compulsion to drink illustrated at almost any A.A. meeting. A member once stated “I would never give up my family for that first drink. I would never choose to abandon my job, my health or my freedom for that first drink. “But” He said, “I would for the SECOND drink!” If you can grasp the power of that statement, then you may have some idea of what it means to be an alcoholic/addict. The freedom of choice is long gone by this point, never to return in any measure.

An often-used excuse to avoid going to treatment is the statement, “I can quit drinking on my own.” The family may hold this belief too. Let us look at that for a moment.

As interventionists, we often get calls from spouses, grandparents, etc. who tell us that they have tried everything to help their loved one get clean and sober. They often believe that if they can just “help” their loved one get through some current difficult situation, i.e. unemployment, divorce, a health problem, trauma or mental illness, then he will be able pull himself together and no longer need the drugs or alcohol. A mother may say that she has been supporting her alcoholic son by paying his bills, car payment or rent. Sometimes the family will change strategies and adopt a “tough love’ approach. This may involve withdrawing all financial support, evicting him from the home or even threatening to take some sort of legal action. Either way, over time, the situation often does not improve. When asked how long she has been doing this, she may say that it has been this way for many years. When asked how he is doing, the mother often says, “worse than ever!” It is here that maybe a light can come on. She suddenly realizes that no matter what strategy she employed, NO MATTER WHAT SHE SAID OR DID, HE GOT WORSE ANYWAY! She can then start to see that this is an illness, not a behavior problem. She just took her first step into her own recovery and healing.

In the end, recovery is not just about the alcoholic. Usually, every member of the family has suffered to some extent. Sometimes the injuries are great, and much damage has been done. A successful intervention is not just about the addict, it is about getting the family on the road to their own healing and recovery. We want the family to get well, even if he (addict) does not. Recovery for the entire family begins when each individual family member embraces a plan for their own recovery, stops pointing fingers and quits playing self-defeating games which perpetuate the cycles of addiction.

A well-planned, well-rehearsed structured family intervention can reach through the addiction and, with love and support, help the addict to choose recovery. Do not wait for him to “hit bottom.” Sometimes the “bottom” is a tragedy that can not be fixed. And if that day comes, it may force the whole family “hit bottom.”