Perhaps your life has become increasingly complicated by the stress of dealing with a loved one critically impaired by alcohol or drugs.
For more than 30 years I have been working with families torn by substance abuse. Their suffering includes ongoing emotional or physical abuse, behavioral unpredictability leading to financial upheaval and/or child neglect, tarnished family celebrations (weddings, christenings, graduations ruined by emotional upheaval and embarrassment), and often fear for the very life of the substance abuser.
I see spouses, parents, and adult children and grandchildren of substance abusers. Each situation is
unique in some ways, but similar in terms of the suffering, overwhelming preoccupation, and the toll on family members individually and collectively.
Whatever your relationship to the substance abuser, you may find your own ongoing therapeutic work useful to deal with common reactions of rage, guilt, and ineffectual over-involvement. And you may need more — a way to more effectively mobilize to create change for yourself and your troubled loved one.
When a loved one’s addiction is making your life miserable, it can seem nearly impossible to focus on your own self-care. The people you turn to for help may be supportive in terms of empathizing with your anguish but may be at a loss to know what to suggest other than attendance at Alanon meetings, or the possibility of staging an intervention.
Both suggestions may be useful. However, few people (including most therapists) have any idea about what goes into an effective intervention, or the exact purpose aside from connecting an addicted loved one to some form of treatment. And equally important, even those who do know something about intervention tend to discuss the pros and cons mostly in terms of its impact on the substance abuser, neglecting the impact on his or her family member(s).
In contrast, when I help a family member consider the prospect of intervention, a key focus is helping the person who has come for help get to a better place in dealing with his or her painful situation. That may involve setting up a formal intervention, but that is not always the best answer. Often smaller steps, thoughtfully considered, may be equally effective.
When careful work is done to assess the issues that you and your family are struggling with and to come up with an effective plan, you will walk away feeling that you have done what you can and have given it your best shot. You will also understand your potential to impact the substance abuser’s behavior as well as the inherent limits in your ability to exact change.
© 2018 Marsha Vannicelli