Admitting There’s A Problem
Many people with a loved one struggling with a substance use problem will see interventions on television and assume they’re seeing the whole story. This is sadly not the case. Rehabilitation from any kind of addiction behavior is a messy process. Though cliché, the adage is true when it says, “The first step to solving a problem is admitting there is one.”
Family and friends don’t always want to see someone they care about in a negative light or admit they may be witnessing that person having a problem with drugs or alcohol. They may want to protect their loved one, and that can lead to enabling behaviors.
Don’t: Assume You Can Handle It Alone
While no one knows a person like their family and friends do, there are some things that are beyond the scope of mere interconnection. While deep inside your loved one is still as you know and remember them, the dependency and substance abuse they are suffering from has changed them in ways you cannot imagine.
Their perceptions will be altered not only from the substance itself, but also the guilt and shame they likely feel from its use. You likely don’t know the situation surrounding how their substance use journey started, and they may feel no one – not even those closest to them – would understand (or would judge them for it).
For these reasons, the substance use you want to help intervene against has become entwined in their psyche. Common sense and logic may be of no help against these deep fears and problems in their mind. No matter how obvious the plan of action and reasons behind it are to you, it may not be visible through their altered vision of reality.
Do: Find Help for Intervening
This is where a professional intervention specialist steps in. They are specifically trained to handle these situations and understand a variety of techniques to help get through the wall of substance use to the person suffering inside.
Interventions are very personal situations, but there are many aspects that are similar among all cases. A professional can mediate discussions, calm tensions, offer an outsider’s opinion, and be a voice of reason above and beyond family and friends.
The role of a professional intervention specialist varies depending on each person. However, they can provide a more thorough explanation of what is actually happening inside the person suffering the addiction because there is no emotional tie putting strain on the conversation. While having loved ones showing concern and support can be a huge benefit in the recovery process, the fears and psychological effects of substance use can make the person feel incredibly pressured and uncomfortable. A professional in the mix can diffuse those feelings and help the person with the addiction problem to feel advocated for.
Don’t: Expect a Professional to Do Everything
When you invite an intervention specialist into the situation, the tendency will be to have them take charge (a la Dr. Phil). Though you likely don’t have the credentials of a specialist, you still know the person behind the addiction better than anyone else. You have a rapport with that person. You are someone they can trust, who wants them happy and healthy, and who will stand by them through this difficult journey toward recovery.
Your part is just as important, for entirely different reasons. The specialist will be relying on you to coordinate the recovery process and get other family and friends on board with the intervention.
This is not a one-man show, it requires the commitment and dedication of as many people close to the addicted person as possible. The more people in their corner, the more likely they will be successful in their recovery.
Do: Have All Your “Ducks in a Row”
One of the biggest pitfalls of “do-it-yourself” – and even professionally-assisted – interventions is a plan that isn’t complete or has too many chances for the substance abuser to give in to the fears, second-guess their decision, and back out of treatment. Having an intervention professional involved can help make the transition from intervention to treatment smoother.
Many intervention specialists have connections to inpatient facilities and a rapport with staff members that will aid the person with the substance use problem as well as their family and friends in getting the necessary help for recovery. Having the facility chosen, staff made aware, and in some cases intake/insurance paperwork filled out before the actual intervention can facilitate the admission process should the intervention be successful.
Going from the intervention directly to the facility, surrounded by family and friends, makes an otherwise-daunting journey much more manageable for your loved one suffering from addiction.
Don’t: Set Yourself Up for Failure
Even having a professional involved, interventions are very difficult things. The person with the substance use disorder will feel defensive, betrayed, angry, and many other emotions unique to their situation. If there has been enabling by anyone, having that security blanket taken away and being faced with an ultimatum of rehabilitation can have a variety of effects in substance abusers.
Don’t let what you’ve seen on television shows and documentaries fool you into believing that your logic and requests won’t be met with screaming and threats. There will be anger on both sides. There will be hurtful things said in frustration. An intervention professional can help to be an even voice and mediator, but everyone involved is still human. Emotions will be involved, and people might be hurt emotionally by what happens.
Having a positive attitude and outlook for what you hope the end result of the intervention will be is vital to its success. Nothing is ever guaranteed, though. So, while you’re hoping for the best outcome, always remember it may not end the way you expect.
Do: Remember Yesterday’s Failure Is Tomorrow’s Success
If your loved one isn’t ready to get help, or isn’t sufficiently convinced their problem is serious enough, they may refuse the treatment offered – or refuse the intervention entirely. The important thing to do in this case is to focus on the positives and remind them you’re all there as support when they choose to get help.
This does not equate into enabling, however. It is imperative that everyone close to the addicted person not give in and make their addiction easy to continue. Set boundaries to protect yourselves from the effects of the substance use. Set expectations to limit the chances of being let down by the substance use interfering with plans in the future. Be accountable to each other in telling your loved one their substance use isn’t going to be tolerated or covered up anymore.
It is entirely possible (though admittedly not easy) to love someone and not allow their using to continue being a hinderance to the rest of the family and friends around them. You are still able to be supportive and caring toward them without condoning their substance use. They may need that continual support to finally convince them to take the next step toward sobriety.
If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Giving up on someone you love is not an option. Keep the lines of communication open, keep the professionals you connect with involved, and take what you’ve learned through this intervention attempt as a lesson for how to make the next chance a success. Don’t let one misstep prevent you from reaching the finish line!