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Why People Enter Treatment

“No one enters treatment for a noble reason…” – Founder, David Lee

Many families fail in the intervention process because they attempt to apply logic to .  They often try and rationally explain to their loved one why they should quit abusing drugs or alcohol.  They try to explain why they should enter into rehab, how it is the most logical choice at the moment.  However, since the underlying causes of addiction are in regards to feelings (avoiding discomfort or seeking pleasure), then this means that addiction is primarily emotional. Addiction, for a substance abuser, is almost always a combination of emotionally based behaviors, not rational ones.  Now, what does that mean?

A Question to Understand Addiction

To make this more real, if your loved one was offered the two options listed below, which one would he or she choose?

Option 1

Stay at home attending a counselor one hour per week for six months. Doesn’t have to attend outside support groups, or change much of anything. Only see a counselor. This suggestion has approximately a 1 in 2000 chance of attaining one year of abstinence off of drugs. In addition, there will be a minimal overall improvement in life.  These odds will be explained.


Option 2

To attend a two year lock-down facility where clients can’t even step outside for a year and will have limited outside communication for six months. An extremely difficult program, however, this program has a 100% success rate. A guarantee that clients will never use drugs again, never want to use drugs again, will have improved family relations, and will be happier. A 100% guarantee for life.  These odds will also be explained.

Logically, the answer should be Option 2, the one with the 100% success rate for life.  However, in most cases, the substance abuser will choose Option #1, the easier more comfortable route, even though the odds of Option #2 are so incredibly successful.  They will state outwardly that they “feel they can beat the odds” or they “aren’t bad enough to warrant Option 2”.  This is an interesting dilemma.  Even for the sincerest of substance abusers who want to quit, most will choose the easier route in their recovery.  As a matter of fact, given most any choice in life, a substance abuser inevitably chooses the easier, more comfortable of the two, no matter how “logical” the alternative. This is what we are facing when sitting across from a substance abuser during an intervention.

Rational vs Emotional

We could explain the outcomes, and even show the substance abuser a thousand charts and graphs proving our point, but in the end it is pretty pointless to introduce rational arguments. A substance abuser in the grips of their addiction will not attend treatment for a noble reason nor a logical reason. Occasionally, us substance abusers or recovering alcoholics will “re-write” history and say that we “woke up one day, objectively looked at our lives and decided to enter treatment because we saw how much we were hurting those we love.”  In most cases, this is a fallacy.

At the moment when someone decides to enter treatment they, almost without exception, do not have the capacity to look at long-term rational outcomes or consequences that aren’t occurring right now.  As a result of addiction, they are still focused on a “what can I do to feel better right now” mentality.  A substance abuser will generally only enter into treatment if going into treatment happens to be more emotionally, mentally, or physically more comfortable than not going…at that moment.

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