Resisting Treatment? You Can Break Through to Recovery

Are you resisting treatment for your addiction, or do you have an addicted loved one who is? It’s a difficult spot to be in. On the one hand, treatment seems such an obvious need, but on the other, it appears that it just won’t get done. A lot of us dig our heels in for quite some time before we finally go to rehab. It’s not that uncommon, and even though it seems irrational to others, there are good reasons people resist and postpone treatment. Getting to the bottom of the problem helps unlock the resistance. Then, things can move forward.

Anxiety, Self-Doubt, and Fear

All of us resist things that make us anxious or fearful, and no one wants to take on anything that requires intensive effort when we think we will fail. Often these are the very ‘simple’ reasons people resist rehab. It’s not that they believe they don’t need treatment, and it’s not that they don’t want it, but they are fearful they can’t do it.

It’s unfortunate. But, we often believe others are better equipped than we are, and many people with addictions were long ago convinced they are less than others in many ways. It’s ironic that we can compare ourselves to other suffering people and think I’m not doing this right! I’m not the right kind of addict to go to rehab… Even in the deepest despair of our lives, self-doubt can keep us from reaching out.

Many people who are resisting treatment in this way need help and support prior to getting to rehab. A lot of us need ‘pre-treatment’, working on the idea of going for help, and getting ready to accept help. It’s common in counseling sessions every day, everywhere. People with addictions prepare themselves for treatment, coming to understand they deserve help, and that this is their world, too.

There’s Never Time for Me

A popular misconception is that people with addictions don’t work or carry daily responsibilities. It’s true that there are degrees of impairment, and that at later stages of the illness, impairments can be very apparent. However, it is also true that many people have significant problems and continue functioning for some time. Unfortunately, many would greatly benefit, saving themselves and families a good deal of suffering by going to treatment earlier, far before serious and pervasive impairments occur.

A common reason people put off getting help early in an addictive illness is that they feel there is no time to do so. Many live with chronic stress, using substances to self-medicate and feel life and responsibilities are too burdensome to take time out for rehab. Resisting treatment in such a case can be as ‘simple’ as they can’t take time away from work, or have no one to cover their family responsibilities, such as parenting or caring for elders, while they are in treatment.

People in these kinds of situations often need help to prepare for rehab, too. Working with a doctor or counselor on an outpatient basis can help them find solutions for stress management and resources for support in their daily lives that allow them time to take better care of themselves, and go to treatment.

When Significant Others are in Denial

Some have significant others in their lives that resist them going to treatment. The loved ones may believe there is no addiction problem at all, or that treatment is an unnecessary luxury, and if there is a problem, willpower is all that’s needed. Such resistance from loved ones can be a powerful force. Feeling unsupported is difficult in any circumstance, but particularly when you are struggling. Also, having those close to you deny the need for treatment can reinforce your own denial.

It is helpful in these situations to seek other sources of support such as professionals or addiction recovery self-help groups like AA or NA (Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous). It is also important to back yourself up, taking your own concerns seriously and not being pressured out of them. Letting go of any power struggles with resistant loved ones can save everyone a lot of struggle. Putting time and energy into working with those who understand substance problems instead can open the way to treatment and recovery despite significant others who are in denial.

When Significant Others are Also Addicted

When significant others are also addicted, they may resist any moves you make to enter treatment and recover. This can be especially difficult when couples are addicted together. The relationship is intricately tied together by substance use, as is the shared life. It can feel like a loss to the partner who remains addicted, and can also feel like abandonment or betrayal when the other decides to be substance-free. And, these are not just feelings but reflect profound changes in a relationship in which addiction has played a significant role. When one’s partner does become abstinence, a great deal changes in the relationship and in shared daily life.

Many people manage to be substance-free and stay committed to a partner who continues to use. However, many others find this to be too difficult a situation to continue in. No one outside the relationship can determine what you should or should not do. It is a very private and individualized issue for anyone in this position. Consequently, seeking help is important for your individual concerns and to address your partnership or marriage. There are also community support groups such as Ala-Non and Codependents Anonymous that can be very helpful if you decide to recover and your partner does not.

Resisting Treatment Due to Denial

Denial is a core characteristic of addiction and it prevents us from fully seeing the severity of our problems. It can even prevent us from seeing any problem at all. However, denial is not always a static thing. It can come and go. Many people will have recurring moments of knowing they need help, for example, and then will fall back into thinking things really aren’t that bad.

A ‘stuck’ situation can develop when denial comes and goes. You can develop what is known as ‘ambivalence’, or see two different things, and want two different things at the same time. You might see the problem and want treatment, and you might not see such a big problem and think treatment isn’t needed. These perceptions can come so close together that they leave you stuck and unable to make a clear decision to get help. Also, apart from denial, another type of ambivalence is that you may very much want to go to treatment, and very much not want, too, simultaneously. It makes it impossible to take action and can be not only frustrating for you, but for those who love you as well.

It is helpful to work with a counselor who can help you resolve your ambivalence. The process usually involves exploring all sides of the situation so that you clearly know your thoughts and feelings about the issue. As things clarify, you will move closer to a decision and the ability to take action. Also, as clichĂ© as it may sound, this is the stage in which a detailed ‘pro’s and con’s’ list is helpful. Simply writing down the reasons you should go to treatment vs. the reasons you should not can be very helpful.

Resisting Treatment due to Shame

Shame is the feeling that you are somehow damaged as a person, and are less than others. We live in humiliation because of it, and also in fear of exposure and further humiliation. Shame is a common experience for people with addictions, and it can be crippling.

An addictive illness itself can fill us with self-loathing and depression, but also there is a cultural stigma and much misinformation about addiction that is shaming as well. To make matters worse, loved ones often make desperate attempts to shame us into sobriety, believing that if we felt badly enough about our substance use, we would stop. Unfortunately, the reverse is more likely to happen. We tend to use more when we feel more acutely ashamed.

Many who need treatment don’t reach out for fear of being exposed to further humiliation when others discover their substance problem. And, even in a therapeutic setting, may not freely participate due to shame. Education is often a helpful way to break through the binding shame that results in resisting treatment. Learning about addiction as an illness rather than a moral failing can be life-changing. Coming to see oneself as a human vulnerable to a human illness is beneficial. It can help one accept the need for treatment, and to participate in treatment honestly.

Getting the Help You Need and Deserve

Getting the help you need and deserve can take some preparation if you are held back by any of the issues above or similar ones. Many have to prepare themselves for rehab by sorting out their own personal obstacles, and countless people have spent a lot of time clearing the way to treatment, only to have great success once they are there. There are many resources that can help you prepare for treatment. You can find help in counseling, in support groups, and in online resources.

If you decide that it is time to enter an addiction treatment program, we can help you find the right program and smooth your way there. We offer free consultations to identify your specific clinical needs and preferences. We will also help you clarify your insurance coverage, and make sure we offer recommendations that are appropriate for you. Give us a call today if you or your loved one is ready to get well.