Tuesday, July 06, 2010


I was flipping through the channels on a rest day I had to take last week, and since there was almost nada on tv, I stopped at A&E that was having an "Intervention" marathon. Since I helped Ron some with interventions and he did hundreds of them, I've learned something about them. Basically, the people closest to the person with an addiction problem come together to share their concerns and decide if they want to do an intervention. If they do, they all write letters to the person sharing how much they love him/her, why they are concerned and that they want him/her to get help. They are very specific about the help they want him/her to get - usually in-patient treatment. They've got a suitcase packed and the treatment center is ready for the person. The person is not told about the intervention in advance because the hope is that the person will say "yes" before he/she has had time to think up a bunch of excuses. So when the actual intervention takes place, each person reads their letter to the person with the addiction and then asks him/her if they will please get help TODAY.

Ron was successful with the interventions he did about 99% of the time - meaning that the person agreed to go to treatment. That doesn't mean that the person recovered but at least the family and friends have done their best to get the person to accept help. The interventionist has already explored with the friends and family the ways they have been "helping" the person stay addicted. Examples: lending money, providing transportation and housing, legal help, etc. If the person refuses REAL help, friends and family must stop "enabling" by not providing the kind of help they provided before and letting the person experience the consequences of his/her behavior/choices. Frequently, when the person is faced with the consequences, he/she will then accept help.

Of course, there's a lot more to an intervention than what I've described, but I've put down the three basic parts: 1) Loving confrontation - describing concerns rather than criticizing 2) Offering specific help that has already been arranged so that as soon as the person says "yes," off they go. 3) Ceasing to protect the person from the consequences of their addiction/behavior with the hope that the pain the person will suffer from the consequences will motivate him/her to get help. Another vital piece is that the people involved in the intervention not be severely addicted themselves, that they have been trained in how to behave in the intervention and can be trusted not to relapse into old ways such as verbal attacks, etc., that they can be trusted not to warn the person about the interevention, and that they will commit to end their "enabling,"

This whole process is extremely emotional and painful for everyone involved. Everyone involved must do all of it with love and not anger, condemnation and threats. Usually that's one of the things they've already tried without success.

The weird part of this is that the process is completely foreign to most people. What we all seem to do is throw fits and point out to out of control people that they need to change. All that happens then is that they get mad and cut us out of their lives. Then we usually switch to ignoring them out of anger and hurt. None of that works, of course. But you would think we would notice that it doesn't work. Instead we just keep doing it hoping it will work "this time" probably because we don't know what else to do.

There are people who are out-of-control who are not addicts. It's so hard to decide when to try to help. But if those people have no control over their destructive behavior, how will they ever get better if no one intervenes? Usually out of control people are not only self-destructive but harmful to other people as well. Everyone is suffering. Maybe we should all learn how to "intervene" in a loving way.

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