The Willingness of an Addict—Help Is Possible

Holding hand

If there is one phrase heard more often than any other when trying to get a loved into treatment, it got to be, “I'm not willing, I don’t want to go.” It’s a common line, and unfortunately, it’s easy to stop once you hear it.

While many people hear this and believe it to mean an addict is not willing, it’s often not the case. Nearly every addict has moments when they are lucid and realize the devastating effect drugs are having on their lives and those around them. For many addict’s that’s simply too much to confront and so they tend to deny not only their use but the deep pain they feel at the harm they are doing themselves and those around me.

It’s this pain and fear that you’re actually trying to address when getting and addict to agree to go to treatment. The only way to do this is to help them understand that Help Is Possible.

What Exactly Is the Willingness of an Addict?

When we try to work with addicts, we need to start distancing ourselves from the sort of stigmatized notion that addicts are just one big “unwilling” bunch. It never helps us to think of addicts in a negative light. We need to think of them as people who need our help. And we need to start framing our efforts and our thinking to the tune of, “My son is an incredibly willing individual. I just need to help direct his willingness towards the constructive path of sobriety, not the destructive path of addiction.”

Debunking the Myth of an “Unwilling” Addict

In that same vein, I’d also like to debunk this myth that most addicts “don’t want help.” In fact, the opposite is true. Addicts do want help. They want to get clean and sober quite badly. The only problem is, the nature of addiction itself, both the physical and the psychological sides of it, is so overpowering to the individual that he simply cannot bring himself to seek the help that the needs.

Addiction is so compelling that it leads some addicts to believe that help is unattainable to them, as badly as they do want it. That leads many to become standoffish, to act as though they do not want help, to rebel, to move out of the house, to hang up the phone, to disconnect, etc. But parents and other family members need to rest assured that, deep down inside, an addict does want to get better.

Focusing an Addict on Something Better

As parents and family members of addicts, our role becomes one of not trying to force change upon our loved ones, not one of trying to make them accept help, but rather it becomes one of trying to assist them in accepting that they need help, and more importantly that Help Is Possible.

This isn’t always easy, because the trappings of addiction are many and well-entwined. However, our best options are those which include talking with the addict. We must try to shift their view to get them to see how harmful their actions have become.

Here are some ideas:

  • Talk about how your loved one’s habit is hurting themselves. Addiction is a dwindling spiral. If allowed to continue, it only gets worse, not better. It important that you provide a solution to this. They need to understand that help is possible and that they simply need to allow it.
  • Talk about how your loved one’s habit is hurting you. Sometimes an addict does not care one bit (or may not seem to care anyway) about the harm his addiction is having on himself. That’s when you should show him the kind of toll his addiction is taking on you. Again, make sure you offer a solution. Have a rehab picked out, and get them on the phone with the intake counselor if possible.
  • Talk about how your loved one’s addiction is hurting other family members. Sometimes addicts will be in denial about just how bad their habit has become. And that’s because addicts are inherently good people, and they don’t want to face the truth about the kind of damage they are doing to their loved ones.
  • Talk about what the future looks like if your loved one continues using drugs and alcohol. Most addicts use drugs and alcohol because they are trying to cope with past harms and struggles that seem insurmountable to them. Most addicts are partially stuck in the past, paying little attention to the present, and thinking nothing of the future. But that’s pretty dangerous because the future looks worse and worse for them the more they use drugs. Your role can be one of really showing them just how bleak their future does look if they keep using drugs.
Narconon Graduate with family

Narconon is Here to Help

Having a family member or loved one who uses drugs and alcohol is a challenge and hardship every day. But we must never give up on them. We have to continue working with them, over and over again, for months if necessary, to convince them to get better. Remember, their life is at stake here.

Narconon offers a unique drug rehabilitation program that delivers unprecedented results. For over 50 years, Narconon has helped thousands of people who were thought lost to the trappings of addiction. We are here now because we know that anyone can overcome addiction.

If you need help getting your loved one to shift their willingness towards treatment instead of drug use, towards a new, invigorating, and drug-free life instead of a dark, dreary road towards death, call Narconon today.



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.