If you have a loved one who has been spiraling out of control with their addiction you have probably tried many times to get them to stop. Often this means a continuous cycle of threats, promises, reprieves, relapses, then new threats and promises. The cycle usually goes something like this:
1. Early on you might mention that they seem to drink a little too much; maybe they should cut back
2. Your loved one gets a little defensive, but agrees that maybe he/she should watch their intake
3. As time goes on, you get more and more concerned about their drinking, you start to bring it up more regularly
4. Sometimes your loved one feels remorse and apologizes; sometimes they get belligerent and try to turn the tables on you (if you got off my back about everything maybe I wouldn’t need to drink so much)
5. At some point you may threaten them with consequences – I’ll leave you; I’ll cut off your finances; I won’t make excuses for you anymore
6. If the threats are credible, they might try to control their drinking for a while, but usually it’s only a matter of time before they have another episode that causes a fight
7. You once again threaten consequences, or maybe you beg, cajole, or maybe even try to make a deal with your loved one (maybe telling a young adult if they stop drinking you’ll buy them a car; or telling a spouse if you stop drinking I’ll agree to that boat)
8. You get other concerned friends and family to talk to your loved one
9. Sometimes they agree to cut back, or get sober, more often they fall back off the wagon soon after
10. As your frustration builds life is chaotic and unpleasant with your loved one. Maybe you leave, or you resign yourself that they will slowly kill themselves, because your begging, threatening, or bargaining seems futile
If you recognize that you are at any point in this cycle, you have some challenges ahead. Only a small percentage of people with addiction ever actually “hit bottom” and get treatment. An even smaller percentage of alcoholics and addicts actually commit to a program of recovery that will make long-term success possible.
Sometimes the only choice is to bring a certified addiction intervention specialist into the fold. Intervention is something quite different from what you see on A&E’s Intervention reality show. It is a very methodically planned process that includes many hours of pre-intervention work long before the addict or alcoholic is ever approached.
According to Earl Hightower, who has done over 2,000 interventions over the last two decades, the pre-intervention work is the key to a successful outcome. He explains that intervention is not an event, it is a process that has a specific goal in mind: getting the addict or alcoholic to accept treatment then guiding them across that bridge to a long-term recovery plan.
The main benefit of bringing an expert in intervention into the process is that person is not part of the family system – they have not been compromised by years of manipulation and maneuvering on the part of the addict. If you recognize one thing about your addicted love one it should be this: they have perfected ways to keep their addiction going regardless of the consequences. Part of that has been learning how to get around you and other family and friends by compartmentalizing their life. They make sure each person only knows what they want them to know. By fragmenting the experience, it can be very difficult for a family to get together and approach the addict as a collective. The interventionist teases out all the lies, manipulations, and subterfuge and brings the full picture of the addiction into the light. No longer can the addict hide within the chaos he or she has created – the game is over because everyone is completely informed and a consensus has been built.
Some addiction interventionists also do case management. There can be a lot of benefits in having a neutral third-party manage the process of admission to treatment, discharge planning, and after-care therapy and support. Family members are often seen as critical and distrustful – and for good reason – it’s hard not to be critical and mistrustful when your loved one has been abusing alcohol or drugs for many years. The interventionist can be a sounding board not only for the addict, but for loved ones who might be struggling with the major changes to the family dynamic before, during, and after treatment.
If you are struggling with a loved one who has an addiction, the first step is to reach out for advice and help from a qualified professional. An addiction interventionist may be the right choice to help move your family toward recovery.