If you know a friend or family member abuses drugs or alcohol, you may feel alone and helpless. You’re far from alone though: 50 percent of Americans know someone suffering from substance dependency. How can you help?
Interventions can help your loved one realize he has a problem and seek treatment, but the meeting requires careful handling. An intervention is not a guilt trip or an opportunity to level accusations at the addict. Doing so will only make the addict defensive and angry. The intervention could degenerate into an argument or shouting match, with the addict refusing to seek treatment.
Effective substance abuse intervention programs give you a chance to tell your loved one how you honestly feel —that you care about him and his well-being. Ideally, the meeting leaves the addict feeling better about himself and willing to seek treatment. Even if an intervention doesn’t produce immediate results, it need not be considered a failure.
Let the Addict Know You Care
Addiction often results in social isolation, as the addict tries to hide drug-related behavior and focuses more and more on obtaining and using his chosen drug. Under such circumstances, it’s easy to forget you have family and friends who love and care for you.
An intervention reminds your loved one he’s not alone, and there are people willing to listen and help. This can make it easier for an addict to seek help. People who are loved are worth something, which can improve the addict’s self-respect.
Taking the First Step
Your first intervention may not go the way you planned. The addict may become defensive, refuse to talk or even storm out of the room. Don’t assume this means the intervention is a failure. Instead, see it as the first step down a long but worthwhile road to recovery.
People don’t always talk about addiction, preferring to pretend the problem doesn’t exist. This creates a perfect environment for substance abuse. The addict knows she can continue to abuse drugs or alcohol, and no one will confront her with her self-destructive behavior. Co-dependant family members often cover for the addict, which allows the addict to avoid self-responsibility.
Talking about addiction blows the addict’s cover. She knows you’re no longer ignoring the problem. She can no longer evade responsibility for her actions. With time, this can lead to a willingness to enter rehab.
This is wonderful when it happens. The addict experiences a moment of clarity, and realizes he needs help. Perhaps it results because you share your concerns and love. Perhaps he’s been teetering on the brink of recognizing his problem for some time, and the intervention gives him the strength to take the next step. Whatever the reason, moments of true clarity often lead to your loved one seeking help.
It’s likely you’ll encounter resistance initially. Resistance may be overt, with your loved one refusing help. Resistance can also be more subtle, with the addict pretending to accept help, but without planning to actually let it change her behavior.
It may take time and more interventions to change long-established behavior patterns, for both you and your loved one. Ultimately, it’s up to your loved one to decide to pursue sobriety. By offering your love and support, you’re helping them make that decision.
The pictures in this blog are being used for illustrative purposes only; and any person depicted in the content, if any, is a model.