Why Does Someone Back Off After Asking for Help?

Many parents and relatives have asked this question, “Why did he back off after asking for help?” The answer is almost as varied as there are struggling substance users.

The person who asks for help with their addiction and then backs off has their reason for backing out. Anyone who has dealt with a loved one with this issue knows the complexities. Despite the varied situations, there are, however, some common traits that may be of assistance.

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Have you ever approached your loved one with a solution or a number to contact a treatment facility, only to have them blow up at you?

Has it ever occurred to you that maybe it’s your fault or you did something wrong?

A person who is struggling with some form of substance misuse has accumulated a large number of wrongdoings. It isn’t that the individual is bad. It’s just the nature of addiction. To varying degrees, unwittingly, the person harms others when their addiction takes over. They do many things they’re not proud of. When you approach them so they seek help, it tends to bring these actions to the surface unconsciously.

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Enabler Defined

First Step in
Helping Someone

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A Yelling Match to Avoid

The person’s defence mechanisms quickly turn the situation into a yelling match. They try to throw you off course by pointing out how you failed them. They avoid their own responsibility for their state of affairs. Engaging the person can result in regret, remorse, shame and less connection with your loved one.

A better action is to let the person vent without engaging in the same behaviour. No matter the cussing, finger-pointing, hatred, and venom, listen and do not engage in the same behaviour. It will cease eventually. Then, a calm discussion can occur.  

Suggested reading: Dos and Don’ts in Helping

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Dos & Don'ts


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Blaming Others – Common Occurrence

The person may tend to blame you for their condition… Have you ever felt that maybe it’s because of something you did?

It is an attempt of the addicted person at self-pity. They feel like a victim, making you think you’re causing all this. They may twist the facts or say that you are selfish. It leaves you doubting whether what you do to help is okay. Often, the individual will minimize their actions but emphasize yours. It can lead to an emotional roller coaster. It makes you question whether or not you should continue to help or what to do next.

It results in a person feeling like they must be very careful in approaching it and watching their every word or action. You may fear that any wrong word may cause them to leave, not speak to you for days or weeks, etc.

You Have no Blame for Wanting to Help

The key thing about this is that you are not to blame for wanting to help them. You are doing the right thing. Don’t stop just because it may upset them. One way to do it is to ensure first that you do not tell them what to think. Second, do not make less of them or their actions. Remember, anyone misusing substances does so to avoid a personal unwanted problem. Your best approach is to ask questions and listen.

Suggested reading: Helping someone

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Five Steps
Through Denial

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Lying to Avoid the Truth

Unfortunately, another common fact is that most people with substance use disorder will lie. So, they deny it and make you question your truth. For example, you know you had $40 in your handbag, yet after their visit, it’s gone. 

Even when you face them with the facts – they will tell you straight to your face, “No, I did not take it. You must have lost it.” It is, most of the time, part and parcel of addiction.

Most of these lies are acts the person is ashamed of and would feel terrible if it was discovered. The fact remains that they will create their reality and believe it as the truth. Unless caught in the act, this behaviour is not worth your trouble to address.

If things disappear, take appropriate precautions. But attempting to get the person to admit it won’t happen. Once the person is off drugs and through a suitable treatment program, will they be able to come clean with you. The person will rise in responsibility and will be able to admit and take responsibility.

Aggression and Intimidation

This particular trait may be more visible with pre-existing issues like anger problems. Sometimes, it can occur whenever the word NO is used. They will not accept it. It can trigger manipulative, aggressive and intimidating behaviour towards the person saying NO. They can threaten to harm you or harm themselves. Giving in to every demand is not an answer either. So, what should one do?

More often than not, the demand is for money for whatever reason the person can come up with. Tell them you will pay the bill directly or purchase the item for them. But giving in to the request would simply enable the person’s addiction.

Suggested reading: Enabler Defined

Emotional Blackmail

Any person using mind-altering substances can be very charming to get what they want. It is part of the tricks to get support and help. Anyone who may feel sympathy for their condition will feel they are doing a good deed in assisting. This situation can go on for a very long time, especially if someone is willing to “feel sorry for them” or “can’t deny someone in need,” etc.

There is a big difference between a person who is down on their luck and someone who is not changing their destructive ways. It can get out of hand, especially when the enabler cannot furnish what is wanted. The turn of attitude can be dramatic.

The user will cut contact, give the cold shoulder for days and weeks, refuse your phone calls, etc. The addicted person intends to cause you anxieties, worries, and fears for their life and get what they “want.” It may be very difficult to deal with this behaviour. Know that you’re not alone. You can call our toll-free number for support or join an Al-Anon group.

Dealing with the Above Back off Traits

At any time in the above information, you may think giving in is honest help or caring for the person. But, in fact, this is not the case. All addictions worsen when not addressed properly. Family members who do not have a good support system will also suffer.

There are ways to help families and addicted people find the right solution to their problems. There are professionals in the field who know how to do it. Seek their advice and follow it.

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Very kind and informative. It encourages me to continue supporting a beloved family member who has been through this problem.
Cyn C.
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Very very helpful in a time of desperation. I highly recommend using their service. They have the knowledge and experience. When one place did not work out they very quickly recommended another which worked out perfectly.
Lisa B
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Well, I'm not the best with words. I will do my best. My agent, Susan is the best person I've ever dealt with- she's been so professional, and patient and kind- and no one will ever understand how much she's helped me so far. My journey is not over yet, however the guidance I'm receiving is helping me so very much and I cannot thank you enough. Keep up the great work and thank you for being there for myself and my loved one- as I get the info I give to my loved one.
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Marc J. Bernard

Substance Use Disorder & Recovery Professional,
Referral & Consultation Counsellor

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