How To Tell An Addict Is Serious About Recovery

By: Lakeview Health Staff
Published: June 17, 2024

The unfortunate reality is that substance abuse is a serious problem that millions of individuals continue to face every year. According to The National Survey on Drugs and Health in 2022, almost 17% of people struggled with a substance use disorder in the past year. 

It can be hard to believe that someone struggling with addiction is serious about treatment and willing to change. So what are the signs that someone is ready to seek treatment for their substance use disorder?

Actions and Words that Demonstrate Readiness for Treatment

Anyone who has watched popular television or read memoirs about addictions will be familiar with the idea that “the first step is admitting you have a problem.” Popularized by the twelve step model, this notion recognizes that for many who struggle with addiction, recovery, and treatment is often predated by years of denial, downplaying, and hiding signs of active addiction. 

While families and friends may feel lied to or abandoned, substance users are most often in denial and “lying” primarily to themselves. Therefore, when your loved one admits that they use drugs and alcohol in a problematic way and are struggling to quit, this is often the first sign that they are ready to begin their journey. 

Once someone has expressed interest in seeking help, they may still struggle to formulate those plans or put them into action. At times, it may feel like they are all too comfortable remaining stuck in their patterns of use. For those without firsthand experience with drug and alcohol addiction, it can be difficult to understand the behaviors of an addict. 

So how does a friend or family member know that their loved one is not just telling them what they want to hear but actually taking steps to heal themselves? Reinforcement. 

Ready for Change – What Treatment Looks Like and How to Provide Support

Inpatient substance abuse treatment facilities are sometimes the best option for a person dealing with addiction, offering an immersive and structured environment for individuals struggling with addiction. This setting removes patients from their daily triggers and environments that may contribute to substance abuse, creating a safe space conducive to recovery.

Inpatient programs provide around-the-clock medical supervision, personalized treatment plans, and various therapeutic modalities. The comprehensive care ensures that both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction are addressed, which significantly improves the chances of long-term recovery.

Family Therapy and Healing Together

Many inpatient rehab facilities, such as Lakeview Health, recognize the vital role that family support plays in the recovery process. These centers frequently offer family therapy sessions, which are designed to involve loved ones in the healing journey.

Family therapy can help address and resolve underlying issues, improve communication, and mend strained relationships. By engaging family members in therapy, inpatient rehab programs aim to foster a supportive network that continues to provide encouragement and accountability, enhancing the overall success of the treatment.

Personalizing Treatment When Someone is Ready for Help

When an individual is ready to seek help for addiction, personalizing the treatment plan to their unique needs is essential for achieving successful recovery. Real-world constraints such as insurance, finances, geographic region, and readiness for treatment all limit the available options. Making plans in close communication with the person experiencing addiction, as well as those who can support them emotionally, physically, or financially, is vital.

If the individual needing care has dependents or needs to continue working, intensive outpatient care could be a more feasible first step compared to inpatient treatment. Consulting with an expert is crucial before deciding on the level of care; professionals use various assessments to recommend the most appropriate treatment plan.

Additionally, it is essential to find a facility that has expertise in safe detoxing and offers comprehensive services for both substance use disorders and mental health. As addiction can co-occur and often overlaps with experiences of trauma, anxiety, and depression, it can be crucial to address those underlying mental health issues while on the journey to recovery. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 20% of individuals experiencing mental health disorders are also combatting a substance use disorder. 

Ways to Prepare Individuals for Treatment

If you’re hoping to encourage someone you love to seek treatment, consider the following ways to support them.

  1. Find and compile a list of resources such as possible counseling/community organizations, meetings near them, and options for rehab facilities. This may also include calling your insurance provider to get a list of recommended addiction treatment facilities along with understanding their policies and benefits.
  2. Offer to tour the facilities with your loved one. Ask questions and be engaged. They may be too overwhelmed or anxious to think of everything they need to know. 
  3. Listen to your loved one’s needs and desires. You can remain strong in your boundaries while also finding the right path forward for everyone involved. Treatment often requires extensive counseling; communication is key and it’s good to start now. 
  4. Do your own research! Read about addiction, examine your own patterns of use, and consider what you can do to help your loved one and yourself.
  5. While it’s important to support your loved one as they seek treatment for addiction, it may also be helpful to empower them in the process. Rather than doing all of the heavy lifting yourself, focus on helping them find resources and professionals they can contact.
  6. Provide your loved one with a list of reputable treatment centers, therapists, and support groups, and offer to assist them in making the initial calls if they feel overwhelmed. Sometimes, a therapist may even suggest that the individual make these calls themselves to reinforce their engagement with the recovery process.
  7. Encourage your loved one to reflect on what treatment looks like to them – what is holding them back and what do they hope to gain from treatment? What are they afraid of? 

Ways to Support Loved Ones after Relapse

Whether it’s a stolen drink at a party or a week-long binge, everyone knows that relapses occur. Contrary to how it may seem to you and your loved one, relapses are not a failure in treatment. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, anywhere between 40-60% of people relapse after initial treatment. They emphasize that the rate of relapse is similar across substance use disorders and other chronic mental health and medical conditions. Triggers exist all around and when confronted with life’s circumstances, it’s not uncommon to fall back on old patterns of behavior. 

Individuals who relapse often experience extreme guilt and remorse afterwards, even “confessing” seconds or minutes after their slip in judgment. In those moments, it’s important to recognize that recovery is nonlinear, mistakes happen, and that a change in practice is more useful than sitting in shame, which can lead to continued drug use and relapse and make recovery more difficult in the future.

After a relapse, encourage your loved ones to attend a meeting again, call their sponsor, or increase their number of therapy sessions in a week. Depending on the individual and the severity of the relapse or substance used, more time in a rehabilitation center or detox facility may be necessary, as well as an in-depth aftercare plan.

How to Support Someone Who Isn’t Ready for Treatment 

Supporting someone who isn’t ready for addiction treatment can be challenging but is crucial to their eventual recovery. Here are several strategies to help you navigate this difficult situation:

Educate Yourself

The first step in offering effective support is understanding addiction. Research the nature of addiction, its psychological and physical impacts, and the various treatment options available. Being well-informed enables you to have more meaningful conversations and provide accurate information when your loved one is ready to listen.

Express Concern Without Judgment

It’s important to communicate your concern in a non-judgmental manner. Use “I” statements to express how their behavior affects you and them, rather than accusatory “you” statements that may put them on the defensive. For instance, say, “I worry about your health,” instead of, “You need to stop using drugs.”

Provide a Safe Space

Create an environment where your loved one feels safe and understood. Offer a listening ear without immediately jumping to solutions. Sometimes, just feeling heard can be the first step someone needs towards considering treatment.

Set Boundaries

Setting healthy boundaries is essential for your well-being and theirs. Clearly communicate what behaviors are acceptable and what the consequences will be if those boundaries are crossed. Consistency in maintaining these boundaries helps foster respect and accountability.

Seek Professional Guidance

Consider consulting a professional for advice on how best to support your loved one. Therapists, addiction counselors, interventionists, and support groups can provide valuable resources and strategies to help you cope and effectively support your loved one.

By following these guidelines, you can provide compassionate and effective support, offering the best chance for your loved one to eventually seek the addiction treatment they need.

Identifying when your loved ones are serious about getting help is crucial to locating and providing the proper resources. Grow your awareness and pay attention not only to their patterns of use but also to the signs that they’re ready for treatment. The more they “invest” in their own treatment through dedications of time, energy, inquiry, practice, or money, the more certain you can feel that they’re committed to sobriety.