ALCOHOLISM AND ADDICTION INTERVENTION
In earlier years, many of those suffering from addictions had little recourse other than Alcoholics Anonymous and what could be learned in treatment centers. Unfortunately, many of them couldn’t remain abstinent and died. With the advent of interventions, those statistics may no longer be valid. An intervention is a way to raise an addict’s or alcoholic’s bottom sooner than he would on his own, and hopefully, before it’s too late. But why is an intervention effective, and how does it work?
Dealing with Denial
It would be lovely if an intervention were as easy as it looks on television. An unfortunate component of addiction is denial. Denial tells the person afflicted that they don’t really have a problem. It prohibits an addict or alcoholic from seeing things as they really are.
Many a family member has shaken his or her head at what’s apparent to everyone but the addict. The rationalizing, empty promises and ludicrous behavior of the alcoholic mystifies and frustrates those around him. Nothing seems to get through.
That insidious denial spreads through the family unit like a virus, and life becomes centered on “helping” the addict survive and stay out of trouble. Unfortunately, that “helping” most often turns into enabling, and the whole family dynamics slowly change around the addict’s behavior. The addict is driven by something a non-addict probably can’t understand. And enabling means simply that the “help” offered only serves to ‘help’ the addict continue using.
Enough is Enough!
So denial and enabling are often the biggest barriers to treatment, and they are formidable obstacles. Most are not aware of either, so breaking through is no easy task. One would think that what is obvious can be dealt with. Perhaps in other areas of life, but when it comes to addiction, that may not hold true. A professional versed in these matters knows what he‘s up against, and can make sense out of what you can’t. Love is blind, but a professional is not.
What Exactly is an Intervention?
Those who have seen the television show may have an idea, but of course, things are never as simple as they appear on camera. Generally, there are three types of interventions: a personal intervention, a group intervention, and a professional intervention. The latter is often a last resort after one or more of the above fail.
A personal intervention is usually a loved one or close friend confronting the addict about their using. It almost always fails, because addicts are master manipulators and avoid confrontation at all costs. An addict so vehemently resists anything that will get in the way of his using that he will pull out all stops in his denial.
He makes empty promises. He knows exactly what buttons to push, because he has been honing that skill for years. He knows you love him, and will use that to his advantage - not because he is a bad person, but because his addiction is stronger than everything. He needs what he is addicted to like we need food and water. Usually family is no match for that kind of compulsion, and family at this point may not even know what enabling is… they just want a solution.
Although this type of intervention is largely ineffective, it does serve to bring awareness of the problem to the table.
A group intervention is often the next tactic chosen, now that the addiction has continued to progress and can no longer be tolerated. Most often, a group intervention is loved ones confronting the addict in a group, trying to model a professional intervention, only without the professional.
This can be shaky ground, and may even backfire with devastating results. One must remember that those who love the addict may be completely unable to bust his denial, but rather may send him into even more resistance and manipulative behaviors. The farther the alcoholic is in the progression of the disease, the worse his denial.
The addict plays on your fears and makes promises that you want to believe. He’ll shift the focus or avoid interaction at all. “I refuse to listen to this… Dad’s the one who needs help, not me… I promise I’ll go to meetings… I can quit anytime I want to… let me have a few days, then I’ll go to treatment…” The excuses abound and family hasn’t enough firepower to counter that kind of denial.
Clergy, if not trained in dealing with addictions, are minimally effective. Family has to deal with their own fears about what will happen to their loved one if they don’t continue to feed him or give him a place to stay. They may fear the addict’s threats to cut off communication or some other form of retaliation, and give in, leaving things right where they were, only worse. Now the addict knows what your intentions for him are, and he’ll do what it takes to prevent the dreaded outcome: treatment.
In the end, sometimes when all other avenues are exhausted, a family will hire a professional to do the intervention. Though choosing this option first would eliminate much headache and heartache, most have to exhaust their best attempts first. Professional interventions are by far the most successful - by a rate of 90 percent.
One of the first differences with this option is that it is conducted under the tutelage of one who has been specifically trained in this area. A credentialed interventionist is no stranger to denial, as many were once alcoholics or addicts themselves who have recovered and rebuilt their own lives.
The interventionist will spend time with loved ones, educating them about the disease of addiction and what they can do that will help, and, importantly, what doesn’t work. A professional intervention is conducted in a non-threatening way using specific, proven guidelines.
Family and friends are often too close to the situation and must develop new boundaries. They learn healthier ways to deal with the addict in their lives that circumvents the usual, manipulative tactics. They receive help in writing, then keeping, their bottom lines - an absolute must if there is to be any success.
Everything from where treatment will take place, to packing bags and getting to the appropriate treatment center, are all covered in advance so once the intervention takes place, the addict goes right then and there - eliminating the time he may use to plan his escape. No addict/alcoholic ever wants to go to treatment unless he has to. An intervention is about making it very difficult for the addict to continue on in his addiction the way it’s been.
Perhaps the largest benefit of a professional intervention lies in implementing fundamental changes in the family dynamics. Even if the loved one balks, he often changes his mind soon after, as the consequences of his using become apparent in a way they never were before. Family now has support in keeping their bottom line.
Intervention Services has developed seven key goals that help to make an intervention successful. Those goals are:
- To empower the family through education in addiction and enabling
- To remove any enabling factors that are contributing to, or allowing the addiction to continue
- To set healthy boundaries within the family so that they are no longer negatively affected by the drug or alcohol use of their loved one
- To create a solid team within the family that works together instead of independently
- To change the dynamics within the family to more effectively handle the addiction and increase the willingness of the alcoholic or addict
- To formulate and implement a long-term recovery plan in order to increase the chances of permanent abstinence and then adhere to the plan as a family
- To learn effective tools to not only get their loved one to treatment, but to help keep him there and focus on recovery after he returns home
Some may worry that an intervention is something they can’t afford, but one can’t put a price on life, and that’s what’s so tragically at stake. Addiction is fatal with out some form of recovery. Addictions can run through families for generations, ruining lives, until someone breaks the cycle and starts the healing process. Perhaps it’s better to invest in a new way of life for your loved one then to spend that amount later for funeral expenses.
If the solution is what you’re looking for, trust a professional. You wouldn’t hire a plumber to do your drywall, but so many seek help among those ill-equipped to provide it. A professional intervention can mean the difference between prolonging the inevitable misery, or shedding light on what has proven effective for thousands. Explore the facts and choose the best option for your family.
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