“I love you, and I want you to get help.” It’s a powerful statement, and families torn apart by addiction might repeat this phrase over and over again during their interventions. In time, these family members may come to believe that pushing an addicted person into treatment is the only goal of an intervention, and they may work hard to make it happen. However, there are secondary goals that an intervention might help to address, and in time, the family may find that it’s these hidden objectives that can provide them with a truly robust recovery. These are just a few of the changes an intervention can bring about.
Families wounded by addiction may have only a passing understanding of the changes taking place in the person they love.
They might be able to identify superficial amendments, such as:
Weight gain or loss
Change in personality
Increase or decrease in energy
Difficulties with focus
Lack of personal accountability
But they might not be able to really understand the chemical changes that drive an addiction. Without this knowledge, it might be all too easy to accept blame for the addiction, or criticize the addicted person for his perceived weakness. These nasty feelings can impede communication, making an intervention less than successful, and perhaps making an addiction stronger and more persistent.
In the planning stages of an intervention, the family has an opportunity to learn more about how addictions form, and how they can change the way the person they love thinks and feels. They might learn about studies that suggest that the prefrontal cortex of the brain is damaged due to drug use, and this might stand at the root of compulsive and addicted behavior. They might also read articles or attend lectures in which former addicts discuss their behaviors, and the thoughts that prevented them from getting care. When families understand the issue a little better, they’re in a better position to help, and the intervention process can make that knowledge possible.
All of this education is put to good use during the intervention, and here, the family’s ultimate goal is to break through the denial and ensure that the addicted person sees the need for care. A study in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease suggests that people with addictions often deny their use of drugs when questioned by family members, and those who do deny their drug use tend to relapse to drugs quicker than those who freely admit to their problems. An immediate goal of an intervention is to break through denial and entice the addicted person to admit to the addiction and the need for help. It’s hard, but with the proper techniques and a significant amount of practice, it certainly is possible.
While an intervention can help propel a person into a treatment program, a well-crafted talk can resonate with the person in need and continue to deliver benefits as the treatment program moves forward. For example, families that break down denial in an intervention might provide an addicted person with a breakthrough that therapists can build upon in their sessions. A person who admits to addiction in an intervention might also admit to addiction in therapy, and the counselor and the person can then begin devising solutions for healing. The family lays the groundwork in the intervention.
The educational component of an intervention might also help the family to prepare for their role in the recovery process, as their work doesn’t end when the intervention is over. In most cases, therapists like family members to participate in therapy sessions alongside the addicted person, and these family therapy sessions have been associated with a robust recovery from substance use and abuse. For example, in a study of five families in the Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol, all the families showed improvements in communication and the ability to support one another, and sobriety rates were also improved. Families that participate in an intervention have an educational background they can build upon in family sessions like this, and they can make great strides as a result.
Even though therapy can be an intense help for people with addictions, these same people might sometimes feel tempted to abandon their treatment programs. They might find the work too difficult to complete, or they might simply miss their old habits and want to return to the lives they once knew. An intervention can also be helpful here, as some interventions contain elements that can compel people to stay enrolled in therapy. In some interventions, for example, families suggest that people who drop out of care might be removed from the family’s interactions altogether, or they suggest that the addicted person’s time with children might be curtailed. Even interventions that don’t contain threats can be compelling, as just reading through the notes and letters produced during the intervention could remind the addicted person of the pain the addictive behaviors cause the family. It could be the spur that keeps people from dropping out of the programs they need in order to get well.
Obviously, families that hold an intervention do so because they want the person to break ties with destructive behavior and build a clean and sober life that persists for years. While treatment programs can make that wish a reality, an intervention can lay the groundwork. As mentioned in a letter published in The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, cognitive functions in people with addictions to alcohol can return within three to six months after the last drink, which seems to suggest that people can make better decisions when their brain cells begin to heal. An intervention can put that healing in motion, but sometimes, families need to hold touch-up talks as treatment progresses.
They may find that the person they love feels compelled to relapse when presented with:
Families that hold an intervention might be capable of spotting a dangerous precedent as it unfolds, and they might know just when to step in and help. They might see the sobriety resolve wavering, and they might know the words to say that could help to change the tide.
An intervention could also help a family to break the cycle of addiction in their ranks. In a way, addictions can be viral, with poor behavior moving from one person to another in an endless circle of pain and suffering. Children might pick up addictive habits from their parents, and spouses might lean on drugs in order to relate to their drug-using partners. Without help, the addiction becomes knit into the very fabric of the family in ways that are persistent and difficult to ignore. Families that hold an intervention can keep this damage from taking place. They’re being proactive, allowing the whole family to participate in the healing process, and they may stop poor habits from moving from one person to another.
While it’s true that interventions can deliver amazing benefits to families in need, some families struggle with the logistics of these conversations, wondering how to structure the talk and where to begin to find help. They may even wonder about how the talk should progress and what sort of formula they should follow for their intervention. Should they surprise the addict or include them in the planning? Should they even hold a straightforward intervention at all or is conflict the best way to express the severity of the situation? If you have questions like these, we’d like to help. We have an extensive database of interventionists, and we’re adept at explaining the process and helping families to find the right professional to help them. Please call us to get started on your customized search.