As an addiction counselor in Greensboro, NC., I work with both alcoholics/addicts as well as with the people who love them.
My partner is currently drinking/using and I'm scared.. I want him/her to seek help, but don't know how to get them to do so. I feel overwhelmed.
An addict will seek treatment/help when they are ready to do so. Humans hate change -- we are programmed to do what we've always done until we have a reason to do something different. In some aspects of life, this can be more simple to accomplish -- for example, if I've worn the same shoes for 10 years and they have a big hole in the sole where my feet touch the pavement, it will likely be quite easy for me to make the decision to buy some new shoes.
When addiction comes into the picture, this gets much more complicated. Imagine that every time you went to make the decision to get new shoes, you got the shakes, started sweating uncontrollably or felt an overwhelming need to hold on to those shoes that you could not control. "Just throw the damn shoes out!" someone might say. "I don't understand why you just can't get rid of them."
Obviously these shoes bear no comparison to chemical dependency, but it is just a silly example to explain how consequences get muddied when addiction enters the picture. For some addicts/alcoholics, significant consequences can motivate change. It is often what folks are talking about when they say they have hit "rock bottom". But for others, seemingly significant consequences (like multiple overdoses for example) are just not enough.
I say all of this to say that whether or not your partner seeks recovery is not up to you. As loved ones, we are just not that powerful. This is often the scariest time as we see our loved ones becoming increasingly more self-destructive.
There are some things we CAN do:
1. Take care of yourself - As codependent loved ones the idea of putting ourselves first is often foreign, but if we are going to be able to support our loved ones, we have to take care of ourself first. This might look like basic self-care.- making sure you shower, get proper nutrition and do some things you love.
2. Connection - A popular view is that the opposite of addiction is connection. This applies for loved ones as well. Connect with others who understand your struggle and can offer experience, strength and hope to you as you navigate the recovery process. Al-Anon family groups are helpful for this. http://www.greensboroalanon.org/index.html
3. Set Boundaries and Allow Your Loved One to Feel Natural Consequences - Going back to what I said before, consequences get people into recovery! If we try to prevent our loved ones from feeling and experiencing consequences, we are enabling their addiction and getting into a sick cycle of codependence. Instead, set and enforce boundaries. This is a difficult part of recovering as a family member -- we have to be willing to stop trying to control the alcoholic/addict. Setting boundaries is often difficult as there have been so few we have been able to set and maintain before. We tend to either "overshoot" by setting too rigid of a boundary and/or withdrawing completely or "undershoot" by setting too lenient of a boundary. Having someone to walk you through this process is helpful! We can't do this alone (no matter how much over-functioning we've done in the past).