“…we have found that love is a powerful force when confronting addiction. We’ve learned that when we expand the role of love, it is love, rather than toughness, that first breaks through denial.”
~Jeff Jay, Love First: a Family’s Guide to Intervention
This is the conclusion of a four-part series.
If your family situation has you considering a San Diego outpatient alcohol rehab or drug recovery program, then you have undoubtedly heard the term “tough love”.
To many, this means that they should abandon their suffering substance-abusing loved one to their own problems. It is the “carrot-and-the-stick” approach, heavy on the stick, and relies on the premise that the addict/alcoholic will come crawling back for help, once they have hit “rock bottom”.
In the previous installments, we discussed why the rock-bottom approach may not always be the best idea, and why the emphasis in “tough love” should be on LOVE.
Positivity and Love Can Overcome Addiction
Substance abuse disorders are regarded as a disease of deflection, deception, and denial. The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that 95% of American citizens suffering with an addiction say they don’t need help.
So what is the antidote to such denial? HONESTY.
Start with open, non-judgmental conversations. The goal of this type of positive motivation is to make the substance abuser feel heard, supported, and able.
There is a theory that says that substance abusers aren’t really in denial – that, instead, they are acutely aware that their drinking and drugging is causing problems.
They don’t freely admit to the problem because they don’t want the embarrassment, they don’t want to risk their relationships or freedom, and most importantly, they don’t want to give up their alcohol and drugs.
Why? Many people who have become physically dependent, and stop abruptly begin withdrawal symptoms within 1-3 days. Learn more about their addiction and detoxification. Some can’t imagine attending social events or not seeing other friends who use drugs, or they fear feeling a sense of shame because they ‘don’t fit in’ with other friends and acquaintances or even family members who are social drinkers or recreational drug users.
There are techniques though that can be learned to get your addicted loved one to drop their guard and forthrightly admit how their addiction is negatively impacting their life –
- Ask open-ended questions – “What do you think… How could we… What can we…etc. Avoid simple yes-or-no questions or questions. This promotes open communication and better understanding.
- Praise positive behaviors – When the suffering substance abuser does something that supports their eventual recovery, immediately acknowledge the action. Small victories add up.
- Listen to any concerns they may have – Communication works both ways. Never talk at substance abuser–discuss things with Hear what they have to say. When you understand why they might be hesitant to accept treatment, you are can better encourage them and allay their fears.
- Improve their everyday life without minimizing the dangers of substance abuse –This means highlighting the positives of their daily life. By making a conscious effort to be positive and supportive, you demonstrate to the substance abuser that there is a path beyond shame, guilt, and misery.
The idea behind positivity is that once the struggling substance abuser starts to again feel accepted, understood, and most of all, safe, they will open up the possibility of being convinced about the benefits of drug and alcohol rehab.
This is not just an overly-optimistic theory. A 1999 study that involved 130 families using this type of positive encouragement was conducted, and the results were overwhelming–
- Two-thirds of the substance abusers who had previously declined treatment changed their minds.
- This is double the success rate for traditional “confrontational” interventions.
- It is triple the rate for those families who only went to 12-Step support meetings.
These results were duplicated two more times – later that same year, and again, three years later.
What can we learn from all of this?
It shows that a successful Lasting Recovery does not have to be based upon the negativity and despair of “hitting rock bottom”. The basic human desire for something more – something better – can be an equally powerful motivator. Positive encouragement and support can have a beneficial effect that lasts much longer than desperation or compulsion.
If you want to learn more about recovery through encouragement, support, and hope, contact Lasting Recovery today. We are the outpatient drug and alcohol abuse program in San Diego. We provide multi-layered treatment options tailored to the individual, as well as services to the family.
Hope exists and the journey to a Lasting Recovery starts with one phone call.