Daniel Linder, MFT
Confront addiction or substance abuse
For any person who’s concerned about a loved one who is likely in the throes of an addiction, the steps are education, communication, and an action plan. Sometimes an intervention is warranted; sometimes it’s not. But an intervention implies a specific six-step process that I take family members through that results in them talking to their loved one about their concerns and the loved one’s need for treatment of their addiction. It really puts the pressure on the person to get the help that they need.
I see the intervention as an ultimate act of love where the family, or whomever, are doing whatever they can rather than stand helplessly, watching their loved one self-destruct. It is also during the process of the intervention that you’re giving to give your loved one a reality check. Whenever there’s an addiction, there’s a lot of denial and an inability to know what’s going on; their perceptions are distorted. And sometimes, depending on what the situation is, there’s an implication that if they don’t get the help they need, they can’t continue having a relationship with you because you can’t carry on watching them go down. It’s too painful. So if they want to have a relationship with you, they must value their health, get the help they need, and you’ll be there for them a hundred percent. That is sort of what happens at the end of the intervention.
The steps of the intervention are education, recollection of events, memories and situations that make it clear that there’s a problem and that you had very strong feelings about, and then a rehearsal process. You’re going to be confronting your loved one. And, like I’ve said before, there has been a pink elephant in the room, so there’s a lot of avoidance, a lot of tension. Emotions will be running very high, and you could lose track of what you’re saying or get scared, so a rehearsal is necessary. A rehearsal is also necessary to weed out anyone who is not ready to go forward in the intervention and be an effective participant. I have to assess that all the time through the steps of the intervention.
After the rehearsal, we talk about Murphy’s Law and develop the action plan, trying to account for everything that could possibly go wrong so the plan is as foolproof as possible. And then, when I feel the family is ready to go, we bring in their loved one, have a powwow, and they tell their loved one everything they have to say. Chances are very good that the loved one is going to get the help that he or she needs because the love is going to be felt.
Usually, it’s a tremendous relief. It’s a relief because the loved had never received, or hasn’t received in so long, the love and the connection that was expressed during the intervention. That’s one of the driving forces for addiction in the first place. There was a disconnect from the people that they love, and isolation set in. And it became very painful and unbearable and drove their need to seek relief. Oftentimes during the intervention, there’s a relief that there is love there, that the connection is restored.
For an addict, there has also been a lot of hiding. And when there’s an addiction, the progression of problem sets in, and the addict is just burning out trying to keep their life up, keeping up the pretense that everything is okay, keeping the destructive consequences from showing up and invading their life. The addiction is their secret. But, finally, during the intervention, the addict is tremendously relieved that they don’t have to keep this secret up anymore; it’s out. They don’t have to expend any more energy hiding. They can finally get some help, and there’s hope for a better life and better relationships with the people that matter most to them.
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