Confronting an addict with a suggestion of rehabilitation is usually an emotionally charged and difficult situation for concerned family members. Even so, it must not be avoided – it is vital to openly acknowledge the “elephant in the room”. The first step is always the most difficult, but also the most rewarding, to take. These situations necessitate a discussion that is open, honest and frank.
Concerned friends and family should sit the individual down and express concern for their wellbeing, asking the addict to accompany them to an assessment with a professional addiction psychologist. Do not get into an argument or take an oppositional stance. It is important that the family acknowledges that they are not professionals, and that all they are asking is for the addict to be assessed by a professional who will be able to evaluate the situation. If the psychologist or counsellor agrees that a problem exists, the family has an obligation to not stand by and watch the destructive behaviour patterns continue untreated, possibly resulting in a tragic situation unfolding.
Violent and angry responses are seen as strong evidence that treatment is needed. If the individual promises to stop using, this should not be taken as a serious commitment. An assessment should still be carried out, regardless of whether such promises are made.
Vital to the intervention process is the attitude of the family. The family must be prepared to remain focused and engaged, to not be appeased by excuses or promises, and to acknowledge the magnitude of the situation and the consequences of the addict’s behaviour. These most frequently take the form of financial and legal trouble, betrayal and deceit, and breakdown of relationships with family and friends.