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Helping a Loved One Get Help For Addiction: Detox & Beyond

You’d do anything at all to help a loved one fight their addictions. In fact, you’ve probably been already doing everything you can think of. From getting them appointments with their primary care physician and counselors to calling your local detox facility to see if they have any beds open to everything in between. All the while, your loved one is spiraling out of control right in front of your eyes…and you’re scared.

The bottom line is that loving someone who is suffering from an addiction is terrifying and difficult to witness. You’d do anything to make their problems go away. You’d move mountains to see them go back to the lively and happy person they once were.

But unfortunately, there’s very little you can do on your own. The person you love needs to play an active role in their own treatment. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t be a major support as they make the decision to get treatment and go about the steps needed to begin the process.

And, if they are very serious about getting clean, one of the first steps they’ll take is going somewhere to medically detox.

addiction treatment

Does Detox = Treatment?

You may be wondering if a detoxification program will provide treatment for your loved one’s addiction. While a medical detox is a very important first step, it is not treatment.

To understand that statement, you must learn what a detoxification experience is like. First, the amount of time an individual spends in an inpatient facility is quite short.

Traditionally, if a person is detoxing from alcohol, they can expect a three-to-five-day stay in an inpatient environment. Detoxing from opiates may mean five-to-seven days in an inpatient environment.

In such a short span of time, it would be impossible to completely treat someone’s underlying issues of anxiety, depression, or other mental health challenges. Instead, a stay in detox will help to ensure that a person can get the drugs and alcohol out of their system in a controlled, medical environment. During this time they may also attend group sessions or receive individual counseling. However, this first step is just the beginning of their new journey in treatment.

Think of a spider web in your home for a moment. Similar to detox, if you simply sweep away the web, you’re don’t solve the underlying problem. It’s a temporary fix where you may clean up the exterior issue, but the problem still exists. The spider will simply return to weave a new web. Detoxification is simply the removal of the web. Treatment, the next step after cleansing your body of the addictive substances, removes the spider as well.

Detoxing Isn’t As Bad As the Media Makes It Look

If you’ve watched any movie or television show that addressed addiction in any form, it’s likely that you’ve seen a character enter, exit, or go through rehab. You may have seen them shake or sweat the drugs or alcohol out of their system, as they lay there physically ill from the experience. It’s torturous and emotionally overwhelming, yet, when it’s over, the character is suddenly healed.

This scenario couldn’t be further from the truth.

Rapid detox no longer works that way. It’s not something that will be terribly uncomfortable. The professionals at a detox center will help to keep an individual comfortable while they go through this process of removing the drugs and alcohol from their system.

But Detox is not the end of the road. It doesn’t do anything to remove the underlying cause of the addictive behavior.

Beyond Detox to Healing Underlying Core Issues

Now that you understand that medical detox helps safely rid a person’s body of the substances they’ve ingested, it’s time to think about how they’ll treat the emotional aspect of addiction and promote long term recovery.

While an intensive outpatient program or regular counseling might help, someone leaving a detox should seriously consider a residential treatment facility that can help them identify the underlying core issues, such as depression, anger, or anxiety, that fueled their addiction for so long. Though helpful, once a week counseling can’t get to the core of the emotional issues that individuals in recovery need to deal with.

Emotional-level issues are often irrational. In our society, we like to think. But we can’t think our way out of emotional stuff. A person must revisit the original experience and take care of it. That’s more of an art form.

There’s a lot of emotional work that comes with being clean. People in recovery need to pull up that rug where they’ve been sweeping their feelings of guilt, sadness, anger, and shame. They need to take steps such as cutting ties from individuals who are destructive to their health, while also rebuilding trust with the family and friends who supported them through addiction and into recovery.

And most importantly, those seeking treatment need to learn how to love and care for themselves again.

As previously mentioned, you’d move mountains to help your loved one get clean, but now that they are, they need to learn self-care and how to take responsibility for their own lives. It takes patience and hard work to travel from detox, at the first stage of treatment, to a life of self-acceptance and healthy choices. Continue being the best support person you can by encouraging your friend or family member to seek treatment after detox that addresses the root causes that got them there in the first place.

Helping a Loved One Get Help For Addiction: Detox & Beyond

Joe Koelzer

Joe Koelzer is a co-founder and CEO of The Clearing. He has years of counseling experience and a master’s degree in Spiritual Psychology from the University of Santa Monica.

After observing how depression and substance abuse impacted his wife Betsy’s life, Joe realized how broken our current system is for addiction and related mental health treatment.

He witnessed firsthand how an evidence-based approach coupled with Spiritual Psychology saved Betsy and enabled her to gain control of her life.

In co-founding The Clearing, Joe realized his dream of creating and sharing this innovative approach with others in a structured clinical setting.

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APA Reference
, . (2018). Helping a Loved One Get Help For Addiction: Detox & Beyond. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 15, 2020, from


Last updated: 18 Oct 2018
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