It can be heartbreaking to watch loved ones destroy their own life with alcohol or drugs. The destruction caused by these substances is usually obvious to those close to the addict, but this individual can be completely oblivious to what is going on. They will try to blame their problems in life on other people or just bad luck. If friends and family try to convince them otherwise they become defensive and possibly even aggressive. The fact that this person is so resistant to giving up the substance abuse can lead loved ones to conclude that they are hopeless cases. This is hardly ever the case and there is almost always a way to get beyond resistance to recovery. It is not possible to force the person to want recovery, but they can be encouraged to reach this point.
Those who have developed a physical and/or psychological dependence on alcohol or drugs will usually be reluctant about giving these substances up – this is known as resistance to recovery. Unless the individual becomes willing to change there is very little that can be done to help them end the addiction. Even if they are involuntarily forced to enter a treatment facility they can still relapse as soon as they return home. It is therefore vital that these people are able to get beyond their resistance and embrace a new and better life.
There can be many reasons for why the individual is resistant to help with their addiction problems including:
* Even if the individual accepts that their life in addiction is unsatisfactory they can resist giving up the substance abuse because they fear change. There is comfort in the familiarity and deciding to change means leaving this comfort zone.
* When people have become physically and psychologically dependent on alcohol and drugs it means that they will suffer unpleasant withdrawal symptoms should they try to stop. The individual can use their dislike of these symptoms as an excuse to stay addicted.
* It is common for those who are caught up in addiction to be in denial about their situation. They will blame everything except the substance abuse for the problems they have in their life.
* Those individuals who are trapped in addiction can have many misconceptions about recovery. They may believe that it has to involve finding God or becoming a living saint.
* It can be almost impossible for the addict to imagine a life where they can be happy without alcohol or drugs. This means that they view recovery as a joyless life.
* One of the most common fears that people have about recovery is that it will be boring. This is because it will have often been boredom that drove the individual into substance abuse in the first place.
* If the individual has low self esteem it will mean that they will not expect much out of life. They may be convinced that a life of addiction is the best they can hope for.
* There are addicts who do want to end their addiction, but they believe that they have to hit rock bottom before they can quit. The danger with this kind of thinking is that they can wait until it is too late – the only time to give up an addiction is now.
* Some individuals will have had bad experiences with previous attempts at recovery. This will have left them feeling bitter and resistant to any further attempts at sobriety.
* Addicts tend to surround themselves with a support network of drinking or drug using peers. This group helps to keep the individual trapped in the substance abuse because the person can fear losing these friends.
* Many addicts have low self efficacy, and this means that they do not believe they have the ability to quit the substance abuse.
* Those who have abused mind altering substances over a long period of time will have made this the main focus in their life. By giving up alcohol or drugs they will need to give up a large chunk of their personal identity.
* There are some addicts who can be described as high functioning and outwardly successful. The fact that these individuals have such a well maintained addiction means that they may not see any need for change.
Not all addicts will fit the stereotype of the person who is struggling to hold things together. Those who have a well maintained addiction can appear outwardly successful and be well respected by friends, family, work colleague, and in their community. This individual can use their success as a means to justify their substance abuse, and they will have no problem finding people who agree with them. Those who are high functioning addicts can be particularly resistant to recovery because:
* The individual may feel that they have far too much to lose by admitting to their problem. They can worry that it might harm their career or that they might lose some of the respect they have worked so hard to earn.
* There can be a culture of heavy drinking and drug use in some professions. It can be difficult to break away from this culture.
* The most common reasons for why people break away from addiction is that they hit rock bottom. The high functioning addict can use their wealth and success to prevent themselves from hitting this point.
* The individual may believe that they have too many responsibilities, and this means that they cannot take time out of their life to get help with their addiction problems.
* Highly successful people can feel like they have earned the right to abuse these substances. They live by the dangerous motto of work hard, play hard.
* If the individual is a celebrity they will fear the media attention that would arise if their problems became public.
Even when the individual accepts that alcohol or drug abuse is destroying their life they can still delay seeking help for their problems. If they have low self efficacy it means that they do not believe that they possess the ability to quit. This is because self efficacy refers to the belief that people have in their ability to achieve something. The lower their self efficacy the less likely a person is to achieve something – it is failing before even trying. It is often the case that low self efficacy is coupled with low self esteem, and this means that the individual feels that they deserve their current situation.
It can be heartbreaking for family and friends to watch a loved one destroy their life with alcohol or drugs. If the addict remains resistant to recovery these individuals may begin considering the possibility of involuntary admission to rehab. This is where the person is put into such a facility against their will but by court order. Up until a few decades ago it was relatively easy for family members to have a loved one committed but times have changed. The law changed due to abuses of system where people had been involuntarily detained unfairly. It is now difficult to have anyone committed, and they need to be an imminent danger to themselves or other people. This means that involuntary admission to rehab is not usually a viable option anymore.
There is a great deal that can be done to overcome resistance to recovery including:
* The resistance that addicts have to recovery will vary over time, and it will be at its lowest when they have messed up because of alcohol or drugs. If family and friends suggest rehab at this time the addict will be more receptive to the idea.
* Hearing about and spending time with those who have managed to build a successful recovery can be inspiring for the addicted individual. The desire to emulate this success can overcome any fear of change.
* Constantly lecturing the individual about the need to give up alcohol or drugs can be an ineffective strategy. A better approach might be to leave recovery books and other material in places where this person is likely to see them.
* An intervention is where family and friends come together to confront the individual and demand that they get help. The power of numbers can be effective and an assisted intervention can be even more effective.
* By learning more about the likely experience of withdrawal symptoms it can put the addict’s mind at ease – it is hardly ever any worse than a mild case of influenza. There are also pharmaceuticals that can make the withdrawal process more comfortable.
* An addiction therapist will be able to help the individual see beyond their denial. They can also help this person develop the self efficacy needed to become willing to enter recovery.
* Once the high functioning addict understands how much they have to lose by continuing the behavior, and how much they have to gain by ending it, they will usually become more receptive to recovery.
* Learning the truth about life in recovery can help the addict overcome their objections to it. They will not be expected to live a boring life or become a living saint – the truth is that a new joy awaits them in recovery that is greater than anything they have previously known.