Barriers to Overcome in Getting Someone to Rehab

addict sitting in dark hallway

When a family is trying to save a loved one from the perils of addiction, the obstacles to success often seem overwhelming. The first step to lowering those barriers is understanding them. Let’s look at some of the reasons recovery for a loved one can look impossible and how to overcome them.

1. Know it really is addiction and know rehab is the answer.

In most cases, addiction has existed for a considerable time before a family adds up all the little problems and realizes the real situation they are facing. The addicted person does his best to conceal the signs of drug use and manipulate those around him. And most parents aren’t educated on what addiction looks like. If the situation and problems go on and on, and if the individual has promised to do better and has failed to keep that promise, it’s time for rehab. That is the only safe and acceptable solution because the person has shown that addiction has more power over him than he has over himself.

2. Locating your loved one.

It’s not unusual at all for the addicted person to be out of touch, especially if addiction has gone on for quite some time. You may have to find him before you can talk about rehab. If he no longer has an established home, of course you will check with relatives or any friends you know about. If you can reach him, you can persuade him to visit you for a holiday or other event, or offer some incentive for him to show up. If this is the route you take, you should have other support people with you when he shows up to help you convince him to go to rehab. Choose stable, mature family, friends or professionals like a priest, coach or favorite teacher to support your purpose of getting the addicted person to choose rehab.

3. Help them see their self-worth.

Heavy drug use takes a terrible toll on a person’s morale and self-respect. Especially with the most damaging drugs like heroin, painkillers, crack cocaine and methamphetamine, it’s common for an addicted person to not care if he lives or dies. He certainly doesn’t think he’s worth saving and usually feels like his family (that he’s harmed so many times) should not “waste” any more money on him. You’re going to have to gently but firmly remind him of all the good he did before he was addicted and try to get him to realize that after rehab, he can be that good person again.

It’s vital to remember that at heart, he knows the truth. He knows that it’s the drugs that have ruined him. He knows his own worth. But it’s buried under tons of hopelessness. Be gentle. The goal is to see a little light dawn in his eyes again.

4. Help them overcome their fear of withdrawal.

Many addicts have been through cold turkey withdrawal one or more times and have a deep dread of ever experiencing it again. When an addicted person arrives at a Narconon center for his recovery, his withdrawal is thoroughly and expertly supported with around-the-clock help. Generous nutritional support helps ease the worst of withdrawal sickness and pain and one-on-one work with staff help keep a person’s outlook brighter. Gentle exercises extrovert a person—many people say the exercises help them “stay out of their heads”—and make the process as positive as possible.

5. Give them hope of an enjoyable life after addiction.

Along with losing their self-worth, an addicted person fears that life will never be enjoyable again if they get sober. You will have to remind them of how rewarding life can be on the other side of rehab. Help them envision the individual accomplishments you know they would value—getting their kids back, being back in touch with family or friends, maybe finishing school. Maybe they like sailing or cooking or building things or mountain biking. Be careful not to overwhelm them with goals that might be too grand for the moment. Remind them that a sober life can have both small and large joys and they can experience those joys again.

6. What if your efforts fail? You’ll need an interventionist.

If you try your best and he doesn’t agree to go to rehab, you still have a card to play. A professional interventionist has experience working an addicted individual through these changes and more, and he’s not emotionally tied up in the situation like a parent or family member. If you don’t know any interventionists, Narconon Ojai can help you find one. Contact us at 1-877-936-7435.

7. Keeping them in rehab.

Once a person is safely in rehab, the challenge shifts to keeping him there. In most centers, there’s a wait period before a person can call home while he makes an initial adjustment to being in rehab and goes through withdrawal. Once those calls come, you may hear a bitter string of complaints and accusations about the center and staff. In the vast majority of cases, this phenomenon occurs because the addicted person feels compelled to get out of that safe place and go back to using drugs. Of course, there are occasionally bad centers and staff. It’s smart to get to know one or two people at the center you feel comfortable with that you can consult about any problems. You will also need to be prepared for this probability and know how you will handle it. You will have to be ready to refuse to come pick him up or provide financial support so he can leave. Without other options, he’s more likely to focus on his recovery.


Sue Birkenshaw

Sue has worked in the addiction field with the Narconon network for three decades. She has developed and administered drug prevention programs worldwide and worked with numerous drug rehabilitation centers over the years. Sue is also a fine artist and painter, who enjoys traveling the world which continues to provide unlimited inspiration for her work. You can follow Sue on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.