Overcoming Resistance to Recovery

Overcoming Resistance to Recovery


Watching a loved one struggle with addiction can be one of the most taxing and emotionally exhausting experiences. Naturally, we want to see people we care about succeeding in life, feeling happy and taking good care of themselves. Witnessing them going back to self-destructive behaviors over and over again instead is usually when we want to jump in and help.


You Cannot Force Someone into Rehab

You might already know that getting this person into recovery is the first step towards their healing and good health, but actually making this happen is where the challenge comes in. What happens when you confront someone struggling with addiction? I’ve witnessed several things. Sometimes they lash out in defense and even block the confronter out of their life for a period of time. There are often occasions when confrontation goes really well, but unfortunately, it’s not all the time. This kind of reaction can make you want to give up and feel hopeless.


The reality is that it’s not possible to force someone into recovery. They have to go willingly, and even if they were forced, there’s a much higher chance that they would relapse once they got home or become very bitter. There are, however, ways to encourage someone to want recovery…to desire a healthier, more present and fulfilling life.

Why Do People Resist Recovery?

Resistance to recovery happens when a person becomes dependent on a substance and has a strong aversion to giving it up. There are so many reasons why resistance can happen, but there are a couple that I see pretty often.




An all-too-common reason why addicts resist going into recovery is this feeling of comfort. In general, people want to feel comfortable in any situation, so when someone becomes accustomed to and dependent on a drug, it becomes a comfort for them – something to fall back on when things get tough. Another similar reason is the belief that there is no need for change and that they are functioning perfectly fine. It might not be obvious to others, but there are actually well-maintained addictions that could look different than how you’d normally imagine an addict. Culture, especially in America, is a huge contributor to these types of addictions with mentalities like “work hard, play hard” or a company culture that encourages heavy drinking after work. These look like “normal” habits because they’re so ingrained in what’s “normal,” but are actually really destructive.




Another reason for resistance includes legitimate fears about the recovery process itself. Depending on the type of drug, withdrawal symptoms can range from mildly uncomfortable to dangerous. Also, the person may have had or heard stories about bad experiences with relapses, such as getting into trouble or ruining friendships. They especially don’t want to build up hope in their loved ones and then let them down.

They’re Just Not Ready


Again, you can’t and shouldn’t force anyone into recovery. A good time for an addict to seek help is when they are ready to make significant changes in their life. If this isn’t their goal at the time, there are ways to encourage them to want healing. Intervention is always a great way to go.

This is especially the case when you’ve caught your loved one at one of their low points. If they’re at a time in their life where drugs have taken them to a more negative space, then they will usually feel more receptive to change. Also, there is definitely power in numbers. Gather as many friends and members of the family as are willing to voice their feelings on the matter. If  the person sees how much support they have and how much those they love want the best for them, then they will feel much more safe, held and inspired to go into recovery.

It’s always a good idea to focus on the positive aspects of recovery. Lecturing can cause a loved-one to shut down and feel resentment, strive toward inspiring – but always speak truthfully. If you’re constantly telling a loved one that they need to change, chances are they might avoid you to prevent hearing it over and over again. A tacit approach is to try something different such as sending them entertaining videos or podcasts about “living your best life” or something similar about positive change. Either remind or show them that sober life is amazing. Go kayaking or swimming in a lake, check out a meditation class, or do sports. Life after recovery is good.

Changing how someone thinks about a rehab facility can also change their heart about it. If they’ve never been to recovery, they might have terrible thoughts about what it’s like. Look into some good programs and show them that the best rehab can actually be more like a comfortable retreat than a prison – where they can eat well, make good friends, learn and feel good. I personally have seen that addicts are much more likely to go into recovery if they’ve met a successfully recovered person. Find someone that has successfully gone through recovery and is now leading a successful life. They can share stories about their struggles as well as their successes and be an inspiration for someone who’s resisting rehab.

At the end of day, use positivity, show that family and friends are there to support, and of course emphasize that life after recovery will be much more fulfilling. Friendships will be better and long-lasting, finances will be more abundant and sustainable finances, and overall health will be much better than ever before.


Recover Integrity is an extended care addiction and mental health treatment center for men. We focus on providing personal attention within a community environment as well as a nurturing environment and high-level clinical support.

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AUTHOR: Yeshaia Blakeney