You may have reached the point of feeling that until you have done something to address the troubling situation of your addicted loved one, that you will not be able to sleep, focus, or fully enjoy your own life.
You may have heard about interventions and seen dramatic versions on television. You may feel pressured to quickly take similar action to help the addicted family member and to get him or her into treatment.
Take the Time to Explore Various Options
A sense of urgency about getting your loved one’s situation under control is totally understandable. And high price interventionists often bank on this sense of urgency – with lavish but at times hastily prepared ‘showdowns’ that may include escorting the addicted family member to treatment. Full-blown formal interventions of this kind, if well done, are often effective. However, there may be other options that are not only less costly, but which at times, may work as well or better.
A well-done formal intervention involves careful preparation, usually over a few sessions. This involves deciding who will participate, and coaching participants regarding the specific examples that each will share when the actual intervention occurs. Careful attention will be given not only to getting your loved one into treatment, but also to setting up appropriate long term supports, limits, and contingencies for the addicted individual, and for the rest of the family upon his or her return from treatment.
More Minimal Ways of Intervening
If a full blown intervention is not needed, at times it may be useful to let the troubled loved one know that you (or you and some other family member) have sought help because of the distress that you are experiencing, and a need to figure out how best to proceed. He or she might then be invited to a session with the counselor that you have been talking with, to provide a forum for all of you to discuss various options. Sometimes it may be useful to set up an agreement about a series of stepped-up action plans, so that if plan A fails, plan B will next be required. (For example, the addicted family member will stop drinking and attend a substance abuse day program to support this. If this fails to adequately support abstinence, that he would also take antabuse. And if this, too, is insufficient, that he or she would go to a residential rehab.)
Find a Therapist Who Will Help Find the Best Option for Helping Your Loved One
Find a therapist who can help you understand and sort out the various options, and then choose one that will provide the most help given the needs not only of the addicted family member, but also of other family members who are being affected.
Look for a therapist knowledgeable about addictions and familiar with effective treatment options (including residential treatment, day and evening programs, outpatient groups, and self-help programs).
Equally important is the therapist’s ability to understand family dynamics and how to effectively intervene. This will require a therapist able to do a sophisticated assessment of the family situation, available supports, financial resources, and leverage that can be brought to bear to effect change. She will hear out family members’ concerns and reservations, including fears related to unsuccessful past attempts, and will assess the likelihood of family members supporting one another in whatever plan is undertaken.
Finally, she will help you and your family understand what can realistically be expected with various levels of intervention. She will help you decide if a formal intervention is likely to produce the desired result, and if the timing is right for doing it now. And if you do decide to do a formal intervention, she will help you do so in a way that will provide peace of mind about the steps you have taken, regardless of what happens ultimately to the substance abuser (whether or not he or she makes it to a treatment program, stays for the program’s full duration, or succeeds after discharge). You should also come away with a better sense of the choices and options available for your own future self-care even if your loved one’s behavior continues to be unpredictable.
Other Relevant Articles
- Dealing with the Challenges of Living with an Addicted Loved One
- Getting Help for Yourself When an Addicted Loved One Needs Treatment
- When an Adult Son or Daughter Needs Help Growing Up
- How to Support a Loved One who is Addressing a Drinking Problem
Dr. Marsha Vannicelli is an internationally recognized author and lecturer who has written two highly acclaimed books and many articles along with scores of workshops and lectures about her work with substance abusers and their family members.
© 2018 Marsha Vannicelli