I’ve spent more than two decades helping people and their families contend with addiction issues. These are some things I’ve found myself saying frequently and consistently.


1. The idea that the person has to “want to stop” is a myth.

At some point, a person must become internally motivated to change in order to achieve long-term recovery. That almost never happens before a person enters treatment.  That’s’ why they need help. It’s the job of treatment professionals to help them understand why they should want recovery.


2. Treatment works.

We all hear stories of public figures going in and out of rehab. The way we see addiction treatment portrayed in popular culture breeds skepticism.  But, a person who has cancer generally doesn’t get better if they don’t follow medical advice. The same applies to substance use disorders. When people don’t complete treatment, don’t follow treatment plans, or don’t follow aftercare plans, chances are they will relapse.

Like every other area of healthcare, quality of care varies. Treat your search for an addiction treatment facility the way you would if you were looking for a brain surgeon. Ask for help.


3. They all say “I can do it on my own.” It’s almost never true.

We all want to believe in the people we love. But, if they could do it on their own, they would have done it already. 


4. Support the solution, not the problem.

As confusing as it can be to deal with a loved one who is suffering, or in early recovery, asking yourself this question can clarify a lot of quandaries. “Am I supporting the person, or am I supporting the addiction?” If you don’t know the answer, ask for help.


5. The longer you wait, the more difficult the problem can become.

It is unrealistic to think you can manage this on your own. Trying to do that can complicate things substantially. Even if it just means a phone call, speak to a professional. Don’t let your shame prevent you from getting the support your family needs.


6. Your loved one is in no position to make rational decisions.

When I hear a family member say something like “he doesn’t think he needs need that much,” it’s a red flag. When in the midst of an addictive process, it’s highly unlikely the person can understand what they need to do to heal.


7. You’re dealing with the addiction, not the person.

Because we are so emotionally involved with the person in crisis, it’s nearly impossible to be objective about what’s happening. As difficult as it may sound, try not to take it personally, and try not to judge them.


8. No one aspires to become an alcoholic or addict

Living in active addiction is profoundly painful. No matter how careless or indifferent your loved-one may seem, remember, they‘re lost and they’re hurting.


9. If a person can’t be happy, they can’t be clean and sober.

If a person is in such distress that they resort to continually numbing themselves, to the point of self-destruction, the alternative has to be better for them to want to change. This means living a heart-centered life. The path to recovery is a path toward meaning, toward purpose; toward fulfillment.


10. Get support for yourself.

If you are at a place where you’re looking for answers, addiction has likely taken a heavy toll on your family already. Sometimes the best decision you can make is to see a therapist yourself, or to attend mutual support meetings like Al-Anon or Families Anonymous.


If you have questions or need help, you can email me at tom@tomgentry.net.