Persons suffering from alcoholism and other drug addictions are prone to serious denial about the harmful effects of their behavior on themselves and others. Efforts to reason with them and convince them to stop causing such damage are frequently met with denial, defensiveness, justification or minimization and sometimes even attacks upon the loved-one that is trying to help.
Talking to such alcoholics and addicts in a rational and objective manner is often useless or even counterproductive. In other cases the alcoholic-drug addict may agree with fact that his behavior is harmful to himself and others, he may agree that he needs to stop drinking alcohol and/or using drugs, and in some cases even make an attempt to stop. This is often followed by a repetitive cycle of relapse, sometimes lasting for years. Some addicts develop a sense of remorse, guilt, and a determination to “never, ever let that happen again.” But, no matter how sorry they are or how determined they are, they are powerless to stop drinking alcohol or using drugs on their own for any real length of time.
Family and Friends
The people in an addict’s life, especially those closest to him, become frustrated, angry, depressed and often hopeless. They have become well aware that something is seriously wrong and that the alcoholic or drug addict desperately needs help. But they are baffled and helpless as to what to do when the alcoholic-drug addict insists that he is just fine, that everything is under control and if a problem does develop, he is fully prepared to take care of it on his own. He does not, he assures anxious friends and family members, need any help. If they continue to press the point he becomes defensive and often angry and may begin to point out their own shortcomings, to drag up old conflicts, or simply walks out in a huff – full of resentment and self-pity for being so grossly misunderstood and badly treated, because even if he does have a problem, though he really doesn’t think so, he’s only hurting himself!
Like A Tornado
The turmoil caused by practicing alcoholics and drug addicts can be considerable and it tends to get worse rather than better over any period of time. Addiction causes people who are not naturally that way to become progressively more self-centered, inconsiderate, dishonest, defensive and suspicious as time passes. They may experience unpredictable mood swings, outbursts of emotional and sometimes physical violence and make major decisions without any consideration. They begin to act like the proverbial loose cannon and can cause a great deal of destruction not only in their own lives but in the lives of those close to them. Such people are correctly said to be out of control and those who care about them often do not know what to do but stand helplessly by and watch as they create more chaos for themselves and everyone around them, praying that the outcome will not be legal problems, an institution, injury or death and that sooner rather than later he or she will hit bottom, come to his or her senses and either stop on their own or seek professional help. However, though he’s roaring through other people’s lives like a tornado, left to his own devices, it usually requires some type of very traumatic experience to get an alcoholic or addict to admit that there is even a chance a problem exists.
The technique of intervention gives those who care about the alcoholic or drug addict a tool and a forum by which they can express their concern in a structured, focused format that often leads to the first step of recovery. A well-organized and properly conducted intervention has been the gateway through which many alcoholics and drug addicts have passed from a miserable existence of addiction to a lifetime of health, happiness and inner peace.
An intervention consists of a group of friends, family, co-workers or other important people in the alcoholic-drug addict’s life who will present in a non-accusatory way their observations and concerns about the individual’s behavior as a result of his or her alcohol and/or drug use. This is done in a controlled, objective, and systematic fashion in order to overcome the denial and minimization of the addict and to present a unified front of support and care as the plea and recommendation is made by all present for the addict to get some help to stop his self-destructive behavior.
Treatment for the alcoholic or drug addict is sometimes unnecessarily and dangerously delayed because of the false belief that the addicted individual must first “hit bottom” and thus “want to get better” before he is ready for help. The purpose of the intervention method is to break through the alcoholic’s powerful denial and avoiding defenses that have been built up and strengthened over a number of years in most cases- and to connect him at least temporarily with the reality of his addiction so that he will accept the help that everyone but himself is well aware that he needs. The collective feedback of people who know him well, who have observed and can describe the effects alcohol or other drugs have had on his personality and behavior, and the effect that they have had on them, is a powerful, if only temporary, antidote to the strange lack or loss of contact with reality that is called denial.
Properly done, an intervention is confronting but it is also deeply caring and supportive. Each participant first affirms the worth of the alcoholic or addict and their positive feelings for him or her, which in fact is the only reason they have agreed to participate in the intervention. If they didn’t care, they would just leave him alone and let him destroy himself. But because they do care they supply him with their factual observations of how he has behaved -and frequently misbehaved- due to alcohol or drugs. One by one and in non-judgmental, factual terms they describe to him actual negative experiences that they have had with him because of his drinking or drug use. There is never any shortage of these when one is dealing with the kind of alcoholic or addict for whom intervention is appropriate. The cumulative effect of these descriptions, coming as they do from people who know and care about the alcoholic, is to hold up a mirror before him in which he is forced to see himself as he really is.
Detox and Treatment
The aim of most interventions is to get the alcoholic or drug addict immediately into a detox center. Experience shows that promises of reform, sincere and often tearful as they may be at the time, seldom hold up down the road without ongoing assistance of some kind. A well-planned intervention has arranged the specific detox center in advance, taken care of all practical objections, and even packed the alcoholic’s suitcase so that he can be driven straight to the detox facility.