How to Do the Hard Work of Saving an Addicted Person’s Life

Woman stressed

This article is written for anyone who has realized that someone they care deeply for is abusing drugs or alcohol. Maybe it’s been going on for years—decades, even. Maybe it’s been a secret, with hidden bottles of alcohol or drug-using paraphernalia that was explained away each time they were found. Or maybe the substance abuse has been out in the open. Now, finally, the destructive effects are too constant and obvious. This situation must come to an end.

At this point, there is no other choice than to face the problem and convince this person that they need drug rehab to recover from their addiction.

Anyone who has tried to save an addicted person knows that this can be a difficult task. It’s common for that person to reject help or even turn on the person offering it. It is possible, however, to succeed if you approach the task the right way.

Preparing for the Job Ahead

When you find yourself in this position, you have a huge and vital task ahead of you. In your whole life, you may never have someone else’s destiny in your hands to the same degree.

Many, many people have recovered from addiction and your loved one can, too. But it is nearly always challenging to get this person to accept the idea of going to rehab. You must prepare yourself for what lies ahead.

The points below can help you prepare. They were crafted from real-life experiences dealing with the addicted and helping them decide on sobriety.

It really is possible to convince an addicted person to accept an offer of drug rehab. It’s not usually easy, but it can be accomplished when it’s approached the right way. This is, frankly, the most important help that can be offered to an addicted person.

The Sequence of Actions Is All-Important

There is a workable sequence to the approach to getting them into recovery. If you simply rely on emotion and a desperate appeal to the person’s common sense, you are likely to fail.

When a person is addicted, it’s like the drugs have taken over their thinking. It’s very common for an addicted individual not to be able to lift themselves out of their addicted mindset enough to make the decision to accept rehab. If they do accept your offer of help, great! Still, look over this information before you start and be ready for any eventuality.

Parent talks to an addicted son

Here are eleven pieces of advice to help you prepare to succeed in your determination to end this person’s addiction and start their new, sober life.

  1. As you start this heroic task, prepare yourself. You’re going to have to be 100% true to yourself. You’ve seen the problem and you’re sure of the cause. You’re very likely to meet opposition from the person you are trying to help and maybe even from other family members. Maybe even your children, neighbors, your pastor or rabbi. They don’t know what you know. These people who are not experiencing what you have as a result of this person’s addiction may want to counsel kindness and patience when that’s already been tried repeatedly. If you’re reading this article, then you probably know that the only rational choice is getting this person into a good drug rehab.

  2. Now that you’ve made the decision, don’t let yourself be fooled. An addicted person nearly always becomes a deft manipulator. They don’t want to be found out. They’re making excuses to themselves every day that enable them to continue to use. They’re also going to try to fool you into leaving them alone. When heavy drug use and addiction are at the root of the problems, you’ll have to have steady faith in your perceptions and decisions. Don’t accept the lies or excuses any longer.

  3. Ask for help. Who’s around who can help you? Your parents? The addicted person’s parents? Your minister? A coach or counselor? Siblings? Best friends? Uncles, aunts or other family members? This is a time you need help and support. This is no time to keep the problem a secret. But be judicious in who you ask. Don’t ask for help from someone who is weak or an enabler or who will let themselves be manipulated. Assemble a strong team.

  4. Prepare yourself to reject the guilt trip that is almost certainly going to come your way. Along with manipulation, an addicted person does their best to shift blame and responsibility. Everyone who’s going to be involved in addressing this addiction has to be ready to reject the shame and blame. As individuals and as a group, prepare your immunity to this attack.

  5. Anyone who has been paying the person’s rent, cell phone or gas money will have to stop. By paying their way, you (or whoever is doing the paying) are enabling them to continue their substance abuse. Do they come to you with a different excuse every month about why they need money? Do they promise to pay it back and never do? Then you’re enabling the addiction to continue. You have to cut off that escape route if you are going to get this person into rehab.

  6. Before you confront the person with the need to go to rehab, choose the rehab facility you want and work out the financing. This is vital because then, once you and your support team confront this individual with the need to address the addiction, you can move immediately to the next step: getting the person through the front door of the facility to begin their rehab.

  7. As much as you can, eliminate any reasons they might refuse to go to rehab. If they have children or pets, decide who’s going to care for them while this person is gone. Pack a suitcase for them so that when the time comes, the trip to rehab can start instantly.

  8. Plan the meeting in which you are going to face this person and insist on rehab. Schedule this encounter for an hour when the person is least likely to be intoxicated. Ideally, it would also be an hour that enables someone to drive them directly to the rehab you have chosen. Line up your whole support team to be there and then do whatever it takes to get the addicted person to arrive for this meeting.

  9. As a group, with the whole support team, face the person. Tell them how much you care. But the only option the group is offering is rehab right now. The whole group agrees firmly on this. The group is probably going to have to weather heavy doses of blame, accusations, guilt trips and excuses. As a strong group, inform this person that there will be no more support, no rent, car or cell phone payments, no more loans. It’s rehab or no support at all.

  10. When the answer is yes, get this person in the car with a trustworthy driver and the suitcase. Call the rehab and tell them their new client is on the way. Please note: Some people will break down and accept help when they are faced with this united front. For others, it may take more than one encounter. It is worth persisting.

  11. Finally, prepare yourself for the long road ahead. There are going to be ups and downs in this person’s recovery. When things go down, don’t despair. Either stick to the recovery plan or figure out if you need to make a change. When things go up, do your best to take it in stride and refuse to be euphoric about every little positive sign. Try to be resilient as the changes happen. Watch for and enjoy the improvements but be intent on staying the course.

The Final Result Is Worth the Investment of Time, Energy and Intention

Happy family in a car

Fully overcoming addiction takes time. Maybe months, maybe years. But finally beating addiction means that this person finally has their life back, along with their family and the ability to enjoy simple things like their children, achieving small goals and seeing a bright future ahead.

Remember this: No one wants to be addicted. No matter what they say or do. The desire to enjoy a sober life may be deeply, deeply buried but it’s there. It may not surface until this person has been in rehab for a month or more.

If you have chosen a good rehab, then the chances are very good that you can see that person you care for again, bright, much happier and capable of living a vastly improved life. It is worth all the work you have to put into the process to get them there.


Karen Hadley

For more than a decade, Karen has been researching and writing about drug trafficking, drug abuse, addiction and recovery. She has also studied and written about policy issues related to drug treatment.