5 Things To Say To An Alcoholic Who Doesn’t Want To Be Helped (#4 is a doozy!)
Alcoholic denial is staggering, no question.
It will continue throughout thick and thin, no matter the events that come up during an alcoholic’s life, and the idea that the alcohol use, was partly to blame, is *out of the question*.
Sometimes you’ll see bizarre responses when you instigate conversation around wanting to help them.
Anxiety, aggression, fits of rage, storming out the room, indignation… sound familiar?
Breaking Through The Denial....Momentarily
But what if you’ve seen enough evidence from a loved to know, that they, underneath it all, *do* want help?
You won’t see it often, but in moments….glimpses….their vulnerability will surface, and the part of them that truly wants help, knows they *need* help, will surface. Just for a moment.
Then, as if it never happened, the real person you just saw before you will instantaneously vanish back into the depths of inebriation, rationalisation, and – let’s face it – lies.
There is no alcoholic on the planet who runs into treatment, 100% willing. That’s just a fact.
Expecting them to have that willingness, that level of insight, to know, and to fully appreciate that treatment is the only option, at that moment in time, is foolhardy.
But most have just a little willingness at least – and a realisation that – when it really comes down to it – they’ve tried literally everything else.
The Answer Is....Not Me
And therefore, the answer, *must* lie outwith them – in something else.
And it is, from this basic conclusion, that the roots of alcohol recovery are born.
As all good 12 step followers can tell you, we may not know exactly what the answer is, but we know, it does not lie within us, alone (or we’d already have tried it by now!).
So, how to help this person? Who has some, but not quite enough, willingness to get help?
5 Things To Say To A Loved One In Alcohol Denial
1) You know this is a problem, I know this is a problem. There’s no secrets here. If you don’t get help, here are the negative consequences that will happen…
The key here is to take off the kid gloves. And send the message that…the rules have changed. There is a part of them that is resisting treatment now and I understand that.
But we must lay out the negative consequences of not taking action, and most importantly, follow through(!) on these promises if they don’t seek help.
Make no mistake, this will be painful to implement, but is effective, and will undo the enabling behaviour that many families unwittingly find themselves caught up in.
2) If treatment is not the plan, then what is?
It’s ok to not want alcohol rehab treatment or help at various times. It’s fine. But you are responsible for your own life, as we all are.
You know, and I know, that there’s a problem. It’s undeniable. Look at the consequences in your life, in the outside world.
So, if treatment is not the answer – then what is? What is *your* plan to get better?
Note - the key here is to push responsibility back to them, and send a clear message that no-one, not event the professionals – can do this for them. They need help. And they need to admit that, and take the help that’s being offered. And if they don’t want that, then what is their plan instead?
3) Where do you see this going, in 6 months, if you don’t get help now?
What will life look like? What will people be saying to you? What will you be feeling? Will you still be here?
Much as we hate to do it, it’s necessary to reinforce the pain of not taking action sometimes.
4) All of the things, that you currently believe you cannot cope with, without alcohol – there IS help available, for all those things.
This is crucial. An alcoholic’s worst fear is that – you will take my substance – my coping mechanism – my friend(!) – away, and I don’t know how to cope with life’s events without it.
Whatever the fears are, whatever the events are that they have concluded they cannot cope with - there IS support available for. How have all the millions of alcoholics in recovery so far done it?
By getting support.
Recovery is a team sport.
5) You deserve help. Help is available
As simple as it seems, there are 2 major beliefs alcoholics run – (i) help is not available (ii) I don’t deserve the help.
By offering these basic reassurances, you’re targeting very sensitive points, that hit their biggest fears, and at least partially, alleviate them.
What To Do Now
Use the above tips.
And when you approach them – try to see “through” them.
What I mean is, recognise, that by speaking about the possibility of getting alcohol help, of getting treatment, to an alcoholic you’re actually speaking about taking away their only coping mechanism, and it’s literally the *only* way they know how to cope.
That’s exactly why we see these uncharacteristic, bizarre behaviours, outbursts, episodes that are just “not them”.
What you’re seeing on the outside, are their external behaviours to try to maintain access to their only coping mechanism – their only means to feel – just ok – in life.
But this is not the real them. This is not the version of them that has possibility, capability, and a future. It’s a protection mechanism.
Don’t take it personally.
Recovery is a journey of waking up, taking responsibility, and getting the help to do that.
And by following these pointers, you may just help someone find the motivation to take on long term recovery, in earnest.
Hope it helps.