The subject of forced substance abuse treatment is a hotly debated one. Last week we published an interview with an addictions expert and registered nurse, who spoke about the upside to forcing a loved one into addiction treatment. But even Diane Jones admitted that addiction treatment is only as successful as the level of engagement individuals have with the program. So, forced treatment can be quite successful, but not in every instance.
With benefits and drawbacks changing on a case by case basis, we thought it best to speak to former addicts, and loved ones of addicts, to share their experiences on forced addiction treatment.
Below are real stories from former addicts and their loved ones.
Forced Treatment Stopped My Friend from Drinking Himself to Death
He was alone in a rundown motel room. His drinking had just gotten worse since his wife kicked him out. And he was texting her and others drunken goodbyes, implying he was going to kill himself, likely drink himself to death. If it sounds like a cliché, yes, it is, but it was how I found him.
It was hard, being one town over from where he was at, and trying to find him on a Sunday afternoon. While I was worried about him, and said things had gotten so bad, I was also mad. Mad that he was leaving no other option out of all the times we had all offered to help him. I think it was the worry and the anger that gave me the courage to tell him he was getting help that day.
I prepared myself for how I would find him, silently praying it would be alive. He was disheveled, and needed a shower, but alive and very drunk. Worse than I had seen before. I was very matter of fact with him, letting him cry on my shoulder for a bit, listening to his story, and then telling him, it was time to get help. I told him if he did not come with me, I was calling the police to get their help since he was drinking himself to death and said that was his intention.
He begged me not to. He got angry. I said he had the choice of how he was going in for help, with me or the police. That look of helplessness came over him and he got his coat, and we went to the local ER. I was lucky. Our hospital has an inpatient psych and substance abuse unit. They could get him in that day. I know I was not able to help him, but something that happened while he was in there for a few weeks stuck, because he came out different, and more at peace with himself than I had seen in a long time.
You Can’t Fix Other People’s Addictions
I have never been forced into treatment for my addictions. That’s the thing about being a young, intellectual individual who can be a functional addict while still passing school with flying colors.
I was in high-school in the tenth grade when I became addicted to MDMA, along with still smoking marijuana and cigarettes. My mother knew of my Maryjane and cigarette habit, but she was an alcoholic and smoke cigarettes too, and my step-dad well, he smokes so much that he would give me some when I ran out and was desperate to burn.
My parents never knew about my real addiction to a hard drug, and to this day I don’t think they do either still. It took me years until I became clean off the drug, two years in fact. Then once I was off of MDMA, I moved onto psychedelics – acid and magic mushrooms. I did those for years on end, and I never stopped doing heavy drugs until it affected my health massively.
That’s the thing about addiction. You can force someone all you want, tell them that they need help, and threaten them or trick them into getting help. But at the end of the day, you can’t help anyone with an addiction. When they are alone or not in your presence, they will continue to do what they want, and they need to realize wow, I do need help. Until then, I think forcing anyone to get help is a bad idea, because even if it does help for a few days, or weeks – they will go back to their addiction.
For example, my cousin has a massive problem with drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. My mother and her mother forced her into going to a psych ward to get help for two days straight off any drugs. Once she got out, she stayed with her mother for a bit, only to end up repurchasing alcohol and her mother not being able to handle it.
You can’t fix other people’s addictions. Watching them spiral out of control hurts, but until they finally realize the problem for themselves, unfortunately, they will keep being addicts.
My Family Forced Me to See the Chaos of My Life
Technically I wasn’t forced into treatment; there was no legal intervention. But in my mind, I was being forced to go.
Alcohol was consuming my life! My family broke the news: I was going to rehab, (they loved me enough to intervene). I argued with them, made threats – but the following day my husband and father drove me to a treatment center. I remember it clearly. My body was sick, my mind even more so and it told me “This is a ruse to frighten you. They’ll never leave you here!”
Forty-eight hours in, the fog in my head started to lift. I was put on medication and into therapy; given a meal and told to “eat it.” (I’d long forgotten about food). I would be there for the next 28 days.
The center worked along the lines of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and involved one-on-one and group therapy. It was emotionally agonizing as I faced up to things I didn’t want to look at let alone accept!
I am truly grateful for my time in rehab – but it’s not where I got sober. I completed the program, came out armed with some facts and was soon back on the bottle. Had it all been in vain? Not at all – for although I continued to drink for a year after rehab, the seed had been sown. I had been shown the chaos of my life, had admitted I was alcoholic and had tasted sobriety.
People have all sorts of ways to recovery; I had to be separated from alcohol and shown the cold truth – and rehab did that. Although I hadn’t quite reached my rock-bottom, my time in there was the first step on my journey of recovery.
Do you think forced addiction treatment works? Send us an email and share your story of addiction at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read Part I of our forced addiction treatment series
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of those involved.