April 23, 2018

How to Get Your Loved One Help After They Say No

Written by Alex Thompson

We sat with St. Christopher’s COO, Brandy Klingman, LMSW, BACS, to ask the following questions about substance use disorder.

How can we tell if our loved one has been using substances?

I think there are few things. One is, we always have a gut instinct about things and sometimes trusting our gut is really important in this case. Use can be pretty tricky and someone suffering from addiction has to manipulate, lie and deceive you in some way just to survive. Part of it is going to be a gut issue, you’re going to have to go with your gut if something seems off. Ask questions, get support, and get a counselor in there or a professional in there.

Another thing is you can start looking for signs and symptoms of use, which is going to include some stuff like abnormal behaviors, loss of interest in daily life activities. Maybe they loved doing art and they are not doing art anymore. They loved hanging out with their friends and they are no longer with their friends, they’re with a different crowd. Large time gaps missing, unexplained or explained in a weird bizarre way. You know, “oh I was out at the store and someone robbed me” and those long elaborate stories. Missing time, changes in their behavior, changes in appearance. Sweaty or clammy kind of look can be an indication of use or withdrawal from use. And then also, are they keeping up with their daily expectations? Are they doing the same things they were doing before? Going to work, coming home, and helping with the kids – those sort of things.

How do we get them to seek help? If they are denying it, they don’t want to come forward, how do we manage that? How do we get them help?

Well, I think a couple of things. Number one is getting support. If you know you are in this situation and you’re not an expert in addiction or in treatment, it’s going to require support. That’s the number one thing I recommend to people, is to seek out support from someone who knows addiction. It doesn’t have to be a professional, it can be someone who has been through recovery or someone who is in Alcoholics Anonymous. Go to an Al-Anon meeting.

The second thing is, get a professional involved. Talk with your loved one in a very compassionate, kind but firm, way. “I really want you to get help, this is not okay, this behavior is not okay, and I am very concerned about you, and I want you to get help immediately.” If they say no, I would think it’s time to get a professional involved.

What if they say no? What if you are working with a professional and you’re going to Al-Anon and you are doing all the right things. What if they are just not going to treatment and refuse help?

If that happens, which it does, it’s time to draw a line. Come up with some bottom lines and some boundaries that you can live with as a spouse or as a loved one of the person. For instance, lots of moms will say, “should I kick him out and make him live on the street?” I can’t answer that for them. I mean that’s a very personal decision to have to decide and to live with. I always encourage people to make decisions they can live with and then stick by them. If you’re saying, “ok look, I’m not going to pay for college anymore, I’m going to take your car away, I’m going to move in with my parents, I’m going to move the kids in with my parents” that kind of thing, those are things that people can live with. Sometimes people say things like, “I’ll never see you again”. That’s not something you can stick with.

So, drawing some firm boundaries, only supporting the health of the person and not enabling the addiction or the disease is the next step.

Each week, St. Christopher’s Addiction Wellness Center answers questions about substance use and mental health disorders on Facebook via live video. To submit your questions or watch the next episode, follow us on our Facebook page.

If you’d like a free and confidential consultation, please call 877.782.4747.