Alcohol and substance abuse and addiction are difficult situations for all the family and friends, not just the sufferer. As desperately as it may be needed, getting help can be hard to face and even more difficult to accomplish. Today in an effort to destigmatize certain terms, addiction is often referred to as alcohol use disorder or for other drugs, substance use disorder. These conditions alter the brain chemistry in ways that can make it nearly impossible to quit without professional assistance. If that weren’t enough, the stigma that persists in most of the public perception of these illnesses creates shame and embarrassment for both individuals battling the malady and their family members. Any number of these factors lead many addicts to refuse to admit there is a problem, and therefore, deny the need or desire for any assistance. More often than not, concerned family members have to begin the conversation and intervene.
Unsurprisingly, approaching a loved one about getting help can be a daunting task. This article presents some tips and techniques that my help loved ones, friends, and family members present things in a way that doesn’t push the affected person further away. First and foremost, have a plan in place before intervening. Consider these strategies:
BEFORE Staging An Intervention
Educate yourself and the others who will intervene about alcoholism & addiction
Justified or not, most alcoholics & addicts feel misunderstood. Oftentimes they feel the most misunderstood by family. Let’s face it, addiction is difficult to understand for people who do not struggle with substance abuse. It can be difficult to understand why they just don’t quit, especially in the face of mounting and many times terrible consequences. Family members who take the time to familiarize themselves with what alcoholics and addicts are facing usually have better outcomes from their discussions about getting treatment than those who do not.
Know what drug(s) your loved one is using
Things aren’t always as they seem. Many people who think alcohol or another substance is the only problem are surprised to find out later that there were other addictions or problem substances involved in their loved one’s issues. Know what you are dealing with. Seek out the signs of different addictions and ways to discern what is going on without nagging, snooping or prying. A heroin addict deals with many different issues than an alcoholic or stimulant addict. And many people suffer from polypharmacy issues––more than one addiction. Even compulsive behaviors like gambling, shopping, pornography, etc. can also be in the addictive mix.
Research the specific drug(s); Understand as much as you can about what you are dealing with
Not only will your research help you recognize the signs and symptoms of different addictions, but it will also help you determine what treatments, including detox may be needed. For example, substances such as heroin, alcohol and prescription medications will almost always require professional support during the process of detoxification.
Now look into possible treatment options
Now that you know more about the problem substances and behaviors, determine the treatment option that will be most beneficial. There a myriad of treatment types and centers represented on the internet today. The sheer number of centers and all the lingo and types of philosophies and treatments can be nearly as overwhelming for families as the problem itself. For instance, the severity of the addiction will affect which program your loved one needs. While outpatient treatment may be enough for some individuals and less advanced chemical dependence and addictions, inpatient treatment is recommended for those who have been dealing with longer-standing moderate to severe drug or alcohol problems. Alternative therapies such as yoga, mindfulness therapy, and specialized care for things like abuse and trauma may be strong treatments for some patients, while others will benefit from more traditional approaches such as 12-Step programs, or faith-based care.
Establish a treatment budget
It’s a reality, in most cases price must also be taken into consideration. Not everyone has an unlimited budget, some have private insurance plans, but others do not. Not to mention, price isn’t always a complete indicator of the quality of the treatment offered. However, if you find a program that fits the task, but may be more of an investment than the available budget, there may be financing options or other alternative and creative financing options.
Gather friends and family members to help
Usually, you are not the only one concerned about your loved one and their addiction. Talk to close friends and family members about how they feel. Present them with the information you’ve gathered regarding the treatment options. Answer any questions and ask if they would provide some support. In many situations, it is best to confront an addict with more than one person. This way they can truly see how widespread the effects of their habit has become and the array of people in their lives who are pulling for them.
Prepare everyone for a negative reaction, but expect the best
In most cases, the person being intervened on doesn’t respond well to being confronted about their substance abuse. They may express anger, hurt, embarrassment, confusion, or a wide range of other negative emotions and/or behaviors. It may feel like you are doing the wrong thing after they begin to react. The better you and your fellow interventionists prepare for this and constantly remind yourselves that this is all part of any intervention, it will be largely beneficial in the long run. There’s really nothing to lose, when you consider the worst-case scenario would involve doing nothing at all, letting addiction run its destructive, and often deadly course.
Conduct the intervention
Professional assistance is recommended when conducting an intervention. Licensed therapists and counselors known as interventionists have the training and experience to guide the intervention in the right direction. Interventionists can not only help you lay the groundwork for the intervention, but they can guide you and your family during the entire process. They will stress the importance of listening in a non-judgmental manner and teach participants to avoid presenting accusations. After all, just like in most situations in life, it isn’t what you say, it is how you say it. A trained interventionist will assist you in being supportive and loving, but firm as well. The guidance of an interventionist can help you and other participants maintain the courage to voice your fears, feelings, and plans for the future.
The goal of an intervention is for your loved one to accept help. In most cases, this comes in the form of a voluntary admission to an addiction rehabilitation and recovery treatment center. If the addict agrees to get help, they should commence the plan prepared for them right away. If they choose to deny help or attempt to delay, you must have consequences for this. Let them know you will always be there for them should they decide to accept help, but until then you must maintain your boundaries for your own well-being and the well-being of the entire family.
Follow through with plans
A key factor to an intervention is to make sure that all who participated are prepared to follow through with the original plan and pre-determined boundaries and consequences. If your loved one refuses treatment, you must cease enabling them, and possibly even cease communication until they are ready. This may be one of the hardest things you will ever have to do, but no matter how much you love them, their relationship with drugs is toxic and it could harm your family. On the other hand, if the addict agrees to treatment, make sure that the option is still available, and be sure they understand that you will support them as much as possible.
Learn to move on
Regardless of which decision your loved one makes, work on not holding their past mistakes against them. This does not mean ignore potential signs of a relapse if they should arise. If you suspect them of using again, confront them and maintain the boundaries. Let them know you want to trust them, but you cannot afford to ignore any potential warning signs. Through all of this, remember that you have done everything in your power to help your loved one. There may come a time when you have to leave the rest up to them.
Addiction does not have to be a Dead End
Preparation is a vital factor in the intervention process. By going through these steps, you will have provided your loved one with a foundation for recovery. And while in many such circumstances the alcoholic or addict may not accept the help immediately, a well-staged intervention may make it more likely that the sufferer will be left thinking about the consequences of their actions and what life could look like if they were to accept the help. Drug and alcohol addiction can be a debilitating, even deadly illness, but with knowledge, love, support, and professional assistance your family can find peace and happiness once again.
If you or a loved one would like more information or the help of an interventionist, please reach out to Serenity Grove today. We are standing by to help you and your family make the best effort to get your loved one the care that they need as soon as possible.