In the past (Ways You Can Help an Addict) blog I talked about the importance of communication. The goal in the first blog was to establish new truthful communication without dysfunctional dialog. In this post, I will continue talking about the best way to begin having open communication with an addict in your life you’re trying to help.
Ok. Hopefully, you have established a rapport based on truth and mutual respect. You are now going to be able to help where you couldn’t before because there was no truth present.
You also have made it clear you have no agenda; making them feel comfortable that you are not going to shame or berate them.
As for your side, you feel hopeful you will not be taken advantage of with lies and false promises. Now, after a few simple check-ins with them that didn’t lead to any lying or arguments, you feel confident you can move on.
Ask Don’t Tell
I am sure you have been dying to know everything about their life that you’ve missed because of their addiction, but be patient. Start slow. Don’t open the floodgates and start with a barrage of questions. Start slowly with something that is easy for them to answer truthfully. An unfortunate choice of question would be “are you still using?” Of course, this could lead to a big fat lie. So, instead, you can start inquiring as to “how they are doing?” Remember, whatever you do, “ask” don’t TELL them anything.
You will be conversing with them in a personal way for the first time in a while. How they answer will determine if you are talking to them, or their addict mind. Should they answer “I am not bad” or “I am ok,” this would be a good sign? This response would indicate they show respect for you and themselves. Most likely they are not alright, but by saying so means they are taking responsibility for their problems. Should they answer with “awful, I don’t know what to do?” Or, “I have no money to eat and the friends I am staying with are kicking me out.” Alert! All this could be true, but you need to exercise caution before you offer any help here.
First, they apparently aren’t starving to death, or they wouldn’t be standing in front of you. Secondly, they must be sleeping somewhere. I know this sounds cynical, but you have to be very sure they are telling you the truth and not pulling at your heart strings for drug money.
Let’s assume you believe them. Where do you go from here? I suggest you do your best to follow up and see if any of this is true. One way you can do this is bluntly ask who they are staying with and ask permission to call and see if this is in fact true. If they are unwilling to give you a number to call for some reason, like, “They don’t have a number” or “their cell has been turned off” offer to go over and see if maybe there is something you can do to help. If they balk at this, they are probably lying to you.
All of the above is all hypothetical, of course. You can’t script how the conversation will go because you are only writing your lines. There is no way you can predict what they are going to say. Just stick to the basic outline: honesty, firmness, and respect.
“So, if I think they are lying to me, should I just go?” No! Don’t mess things up by being rash, instead leave this on a good note. No arguments and no accusations of lying. Tell them how sorry you are to hear this and wish them well. You can always try another day.
If they don’t ask you for any money, things might be turning for the good. Thank them for talking to you and tell them how nice it was to see them. Don’t leave just yet!
Addicts are smart and can manipulate anyone. The fact that they know you very well is even more of a problem. If you are seemingly strident about not offering any help without proof, they will respect this. They won’t like it, but they will respect it. They will also have respect for your calm demeanor. If you panic and start coming up with ways to help them, they will consider you weak and hammer at you until you give them what they want.
Now that you are about to leave, I suggest your closing question could be, “do you think you might need to go to detox and rehab?” To an addict this is like asking them to take a bath in acid, so be prepared for just about any answer, especially if they are not ready to get sober.
How they respond to that question will determine where they are with their addiction. If the answer is “yes,” go immediately; don’t delay; don’t go home and plan things in a couple of days, just go.
If they answer no, let it go; they aren’t ready for help. The worst answer you can hear is, “yes, but I need some time to get things in order.” Don’t even bother with this because, if you agree to this, their next question will be to ask for some money to tide them over until they go. “Going” will never happen and you will be at fault for believing them. All your hard work to get them to this point will go down the drain in a big lie. If this happens, wait for another time.
Always remember you are talking to an addicted mind. Never forget this! You may be looking at a loved one, but you are talking to the devious mind that resides in them.
The Next Step
Let’s assume things went well and you don’t have to wait for another day to get them to agree to rehab. What’s next? The next step is to get them into detox because they can’t go to a rehab without being in detox first.
“Ok, I have them in rehab now what?” Relax, you just got several more pieces back. You have an honest dialog between you and your loved one. You have mutual respect where no one is scamming the other. No one is mad, and there is no animosity. You have made some huge inroads to a new truth based relationship. And now you have them in a safe place: rehab.
Be prepared for many questions from them before, during, and after rehab. Questions like, “what’s going to happen when I get out of rehab?” and “Where am I going to live?” Don’t give any details. In fact, don’t tell them anything. Calmly answer everything with “that depends on you,” or “we will talk about this when you get out.” Of course, this will be frustrating, and they may erupt into a tirade. Remain calm and resolute; don’t tell them anything you may regret later. Ultimately, they will accept that more will be revealed later and stop bothering you. They will find solace with your calmness.
I am a strong proponent of Sober Living Homes. If I had a child or loved one in trouble with drugs and alcohol, I would arrange a six month to a year stay to help with their aftercare. Personally, I wouldn’t bring someone right out of rehab to live with me. Though, I may be biased because I was a client and a manager of a Sober Living Home. (read my blog on Why you Should Live in a Sober Living Home for more info).
“But they have been to rehab before. Why will this time be any different?” For one, you are completely honest with each other, and you are being firm and calculated for another. You appear to have a plan, and that’s attractive to anyone. When you drop someone off at rehab with angst and anger, how do you think that makes them feel while they are there? Conversely, if you are calm and seem to have a plan for this, it gives someone hope and a reason to believe in you.
Let’s be clear here; an addict isn’t capable of planning anything except for their next fix or drink. Having someone come into their life calmly, honestly, and firmly is what they need.
You have some control here now but don’t abuse it. Make no demands; in fact, be very evasive with your next moves.
“Excuse me, what?” Let me explain. You have done the near impossible; you have pulled them away from their addiction with calmness and honesty. You have not promised anything to accomplish this. Instead, you allowed them to come to light. Despite what you think, no addict wants to be in the shadows chasing dealers around, begging, borrowing and stealing. This life gets old, but, without help or some event like time in jail, they aren’t likely to get sober on their own.
I haven’t talked about any plans as of yet because that would interfere with the previous steps. Of course, you have to have some plan of attack. As I stated before, rehab is important and necessary, but it’s not the end of the story. In many ways, rehab is just the beginning.
Once a person leaves rehab, they are sober and, for the most part, feeling good. However, many remain lost without a plan for aftercare. Let’s look at the obstacles facing a person leaving rehab.
Generally speaking, upon leaving rehab, a person may or may not have a job to support themselves. Also, they may not have a residence to go to either.
To further complicate things, they may have court cases pending, such as DUI or a possession charge that need to be cleaned up.
They also may be facing debt hanging over their heads. Some, if not all addicts, have bad credit, with accounts going to collections; due to unpaid credit cards or cash advance loans (yep addicts are a very busy lot when they have to be).
These are troubling things, but they may not be all. Addicts also have to face a stigma that is attached to them. Friends, family, and others have a tendency to treat them as if they are not normal.
Try to imagine coming out of rehab and having to face the possibility of, no job, no housing, court cases, bills in collections, bad credit and a huge bull’s eye on your chest saying “I’m an addict.” Now, if you were an addict, how would you escape all of this quickly and easily? Without a plan to address these issues, they won’t go away, and neither will the effect they are having on the addict.
You will need to have a plan to address these issues they are facing. This plan will not include you directly, (as in paying for everything that is needed) rather, you will be an advisor only. Sit down with them and write out all of the obstacles they will be facing and give advice as to how to tackle these problems.
Helping an addict is not easy. In fact, it’s very hard and takes a huge amount of time and effort to right the ship. There is no way to predict if your efforts will help. In all honesty, you must have blind faith because there are no guarantees with recovery.
All of these suggestions thus far in part one and two are merely guidelines. Every addicted person is a unique personality, so reaching out to them to will require ingenuity and intuition.
In part three of this series, I will focus on all of the things I talked about regarding challenges they will face after rehab. I will also discuss long-term aftercare, such as Sober Living Homes.