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7 Excuses People Give for Not Getting Help for Addiction


If you have a loved one with a substance use disorder, you have probably encouraged them to get help only to be constantly rebuffed. It may have even led to arguments or fights. It can be terribly frustrating to watch drugs and alcohol destroy the life of someone you care about and be unable to stop it. Often, a better approach to encouraging treatment is being willing to listen without judgment.

Not only will this help you better understand what your loved one is experiencing, but this kind of compassion is also often more persuasive than all the pressure tactics in your arsenal. You may hear some of the following excuses people give for not getting help, identified by the National Survey of Drug Use and Health.

“I Don’t Have a Problem”

Approximately 95% of people with substance use disorders who don’t seek help just don’t believe they have a problem. Some of these people legitimately don’t see their drinking or drug use as excessive or problematic, while others are in denial, and others are aware they have a problem but they are too afraid to do anything about it and insist that everything is fine.

If you spend all your time around other people with substance use issues, your baseline for normal use may be off. If your loved one really believes they don’t have a problem despite overwhelming evidence that they do, it may be time for an intervention. At the very least, they will no longer be able to ignore the ample evidence of a substance use disorder. Interventions led by experienced facilitators have a good track record of getting people into treatment.

“I’m Not Ready to Quit”

When a loved one tells you they realize they have a problem but they aren’t ready to quit, it can be even more exasperating than flat out denial. To the average person, if drugs and alcohol are causing serious problems in your life, it’s time to quit. However, if they don’t quit, it means they have some compelling reason. This is when it is particularly important to listen and try to understand your loved one’s ambivalence.

Most people with substance use issues don’t use drugs and alcohol just because they love them so much—although that’s certainly true sometimes—but rather because drugs and alcohol help them cope with some kind of pain, often resulting from trauma or abuse.

Whatever the case, quitting feels like giving up something vitally important, whether it’s a way of coping with challenging emotions or a way of connecting with friends. It’s important to understand this if you want to help them move forward.

“I Can’t Afford It”

People often believe that addiction treatment is for rich people but in reality, there are treatment options for every budget. If you have no money at all, there might be 12-step meetings or free clinics in your area. If you have a little money at your disposal or decent health insurance, you can see a therapist who specializes in substance use issues. Moving up, you can look into outpatient programs and residential programs.

There is even a wide range of prices for these programs and the most expensive ones aren’t necessarily the best. There are more ways than ever to pay for addiction treatment, including insurance and government programs. Treatment programs usually have people who can help you figure out how to afford treatment. While whatever help you might be able to afford might not be exactly what you need, it’s still better than no help at all.

“It Will Affect My Job”

This is one of the more pragmatic objections to treatment. It’s true, for example, that there is still a stigma attached to addiction and it’s true that taking time off for treatment might mean missing some opportunities for advancement. However, there are several important things to note. First, your employer can’t fire you for taking time off for addiction treatment. The Family Medical Leave Act will protect your job for up to 12 weeks.

Second, there are a lot of treatment options that won’t require you to miss work at all. You can go to 12-step meetings, see a therapist, or enter outpatient treatment while still living at home and going to work.

Third, a substance use disorder will also affect your job sooner or later. Addiction is a progressive disease and even if you are able to keep it from affecting your job performance right now, your work will likely suffer in the future. It’s far better to do something about your substance use on your own terms, rather than waiting for your boss to notice, assuming they haven’t already.

“I Don’t Want People to Know”

As noted above, the stigma of addiction is still very real, despite progress in recent years. It’s a legitimate concern, especially for people whose livelihoods depend on their reputation. As with work, your friends, family, and neighbors will eventually notice your substance use and it’s better to address it on your own terms. Treatment programs and therapists are bound by the same confidentiality as doctors and hospitals, so your best chance of keeping your substance use issues private is to be proactive about getting them under control.

“I Don’t Know Where to Get Treatment”

This is another pragmatic challenge. Although it seems like treatment programs are everywhere these days, it’s hard to know who to trust. Even among quality, reputable treatment programs, not every program is a good fit for every person. Choosing a good treatment program may feel completely hopeless to someone with a substance use issue, especially if they have a co-occurring condition such as major depression or an anxiety disorder.

Be willing to thoroughly research the most appropriate treatment program for your loved one. If you don’t know where to start, more often than not your doctor, therapist, and even your local church will have a list of resources for you to contact.

“I Can Quit on My Own”

Finally, some people with substance use disorders like to believe that they could quit if they really wanted to, and don’t think they need treatment or any accountability. In reality, one typical sign of addiction is trying to quit but being unable to. When your loved one says they want to quit on their own, they’re still trying to pretend they have control over a situation they lost control of a long time ago.

If they insist on taking this approach, discuss specific plans, goals, and timelines for quitting. Set up clear lines and methods of accountability, such as “How long, specifically, will it take you to get sober?” and “How do you intend to accomplish it?” You can also ask “How can I know you’re really not drinking or using in secret?” It’s great if these questions and methods of accountability can effectively work. If not, it strengthens your case for getting your loved one into a more structured plan of treatment.

Getting someone you love to accept treatment for a substance use disorder is one of the biggest challenges you’ll ever face. Addiction tends to make people deceptive and willing to do anything to avoid quitting. Knowing some of the common excuses can help prepare you for the challenge.

At Enlightened Solutions, we know that the roots of addiction are complex. It’s difficult for people to come to terms with having a problem and it’s difficult to face the reasons for the problem. That’s why we strive to create a supportive, positive environment that uses both modern therapeutic techniques and ancient wellness practices, such as yoga and meditation. To learn more about our approach to treatment, call us today at (833) 801-5483.