Should We Do An Intervention?

This is a question that I get asked frequently. I have posted about this before, and it is such an important question, that I realized that I need to comment about it often.

Families and friends of addicts and alcoholics rarely come to me to ask for help for themselves. They are worried about someone else’s use of drugs and alcohol on that person. It doesn’t take much for them to start sharing about how the addict or alcoholic’s behavior is affecting them and the rest of the family.

As the addict (seemingly) goes blissfully about the business of using, the rest of the family feels that their life is turned upside down and inside out:

  • They walk on eggshells, either to not upset the addict, or not upset other family members.
  • They aren’t sleeping
  • They are overeating or not eating
  • They are developing illnesses and emotional issues
  • Their finances are affected
  • Their own work or school performance is suffering
  • They worry the addicted person will die

Family members and friends seem shocked when I tell them “Help Yourself First!” I remind them of the instructions on the airplanes. You know, the one that says put your oxygen mask on first then help others; even (and especially) if you are traveling with small children, put your mask on first so you don’t pass out before you can help them. Those few precious seconds can save both (or all) of you.

So I ask them questions about themselves. It’s not why they think they came to me, but it is so important. In order to develop the plan they need to address the addiction, we need to explore their values, their knowledge about alcoholism and drug addiction; their strengths, hopes and fears.

Then we move into the story about the addicted person. What is their (his/her) Age, relationship, do they live in the home, what is their level of functioning as a student, employee, parent, child, spouse, and friend? Have they had treatment before? Was it considered successful or completed? What was the family’s involvement in any treatment?

.With the popularity of the TV show “Intervention” some people think that a “formal” intervention is the only type of intervention. This type of intervention requires time and resources. It can be very effective in some cases. The anticipated end result is the addicted person in residential treatment. That’s great if that is the appropriate level of care needed, and in many cases, an addicted person can be helped in other ways. Inpatient, or residential drug or alcohol treatment is not the only alternative, and is not always necessary or indicated.

So to answer the question “should we do an intervention?” my answer is you already are, you are here, asking for help and guidance. Once the secret it out, the family is eager to know, what do we do next?  The plan is individual for every family. Some families have more influence than they realize, and can engage the addict with a focused conversation. That focused conversation is actually an intervention. The family coming to a therapist, counselor or recovery coach to ask for guidance is an intervention. Breaking the silence is the first step to stop enabling; to stop keeping the addict’s secret, to healing the family and creating an environment of healing that strengthens the family and invites the addict or alcoholic to participate in the new paradigm.

 

Can I help your family take the first step? You can email me at jerri@jerrishankler.com to set up a complimentary consultation.

Canine Wisdom for Dealing with Urges

We have three Puggles who live across the street and drive my dog Loki crazy. They are barkers and howlers (the Beagle part of the Puggle), and Loki just can’t resist answering. Loudly, intensely and bark for bark. He just can’t seem to help himself, and sometimes, he will respond to my shushing him, and sometimes not. Sometimes I have to stand right in front of him and interrupt him to focus on me, sometimes I have to drag him away from the window or door. That, by the way, is no small feat since he is 75 pounds of muscle, tense, agitated muscle when he is “puggling.”

loki and sigLoki has some other more endearing qualities, like his job as a bed warmer (which I appreciate way more in the winter than the humid NJ summer). He jumps up and then circles a few times before plopping down right next to my legs with a big contented sigh. Here’s the really interesting part: if the Puggles start barking, the most he does is lift his head, look back at me, and then lays his head back down with another contented sigh. The dog owner sighs contentedly also. [Read more…]

Are 12-step programs the only way to recover from drugs and alcohol (part 2)

I wanted to start Part 2 with a clarification.  Sometimes, readers assume that I am not a fan of 12-step programs. That is not true, I am actually huge fan of 12-step programs; however, I also believe that if someone is not a fan of 12-step programs or won’t go to them, that there needs to be support options for them too. Refusing 12-step attendance is not necessarily a one-way ticket to death, jail or institutions.

In fact, there is little data about addicts and alcoholics who have recovered by other means. Or about people who attended 12-step programs for a time then stopped but continued to maintain abstinence and a successful life. Certainly treatment centers aren’t going to pay for these kinds of studies. I suspect it would be a challenge to find the subjects to participate. The data available is soft anyhow, as it’s all self-report. They can be tested for actual abstinence via blood, urine, breath and hair, but how to we measure “recovery?”  Is it living a life abstinent from substances? Is the quality of that life and where does the criteria for quality of life come from? [Read more…]

Are 12-step programs the only way to recover from drugs and alcohol? (part 1)

This commentary was inspired by a comment on a Facebook post by The Addict’s Mom asking the question “Do you believe that recovery can only happen in a 12 step program?” My response got so long, that I decided to post it to my blog instead.

There is no one “right” thing that works for everyone. There needs to be more attention paid to alternatives. One reason 12-step is “pushed” is because it is free. Treatment plans, motivated by $$, include connection clients with community (read free) resources for post treatment support. Insurance has shaped the current treatment models, and even the legal system has bought into this notion that 12 step is the answer.  It is good that the legal system is recognizing that treatment is essential, but again, 12-step and 12-step based program as not the only effective treatment modalities. [Read more…]

More thoughts about drug and alcohol interventions

I recently reviewed a book that I highly recommend: “Interventions: Opposing Viewpoints” After thinking about all of the information in that book, did a few searches about interventions and realized how easily one could become overwhelmed with information, not all of it in agreement. On a site call All About Interventions, I found an article called What is an Intervention?  It is a well written article that describes the process that the writer follows when helping a family get a loved one into treatment. There are two points in the article that I would like to comment on.

The first point is “An intervention is merely an invitation to seek additional care. Viewed in this way, it does not become a drama, but rather a reality of everyday practice.”  [Read more…]

Book Review: Interventions: Opposing Viewpoints edited by Susan Hunnicut

 

I saw this book on my local library’s new books shelf and am very glad it picked it up. . This is one of the best books I have read on the basics of addition and treatment. Of course, many of the chapters espouse my point of view, and I like them best, but even the viewpoints I disagree with are well-written and referenced.

There are four chapters, with various articles taken from other sources in each chapter that support the theme. The book is easy to read, the language is not highly medical or technical, and at the beginning of each article, there are questions to think about as you read. [Read more…]

Cleaning up loose ends by addressing depression

It’s that time of year, nearing the end of December,  when I feel the urge to clean up loose ends, finish projects started earlier in the year, to clean my house top to bottom and clear out what is no longer useful emotionally and materially. As much as I love books, I know I need to cull the collection every so often. Of course, my old text books from grad school were easy to part with. The hardcover novels are being repurposed into altered books and art journals.

I’m starting to go through the stack of books that I have read or scanned for useful information. Today I landed on Yoga for Depression by Amy Weintraub. This was my first introduction to Amy, and what followed was collecting her CD’s, DVD’s and taking a class with her at the Kripalu Center. I surprised myself by opening the book and beginning to read it, again. [Read more…]

I wish I’d said that about addiction!

I’m reading and reviewing some books that I know will be helpful for my clients and for my potential clients.  These  books answer questions about addiction, alcoholism and recovery.  The propose solutions. Most of all, they offer hope.

Recommended Books is the place to see some of the books I recommend. 

Sometimes, when I read a passage, I think, I know that, I should just tell it. Then I think, why recreate the wheel? What I need to do is reinforce and share the message, and let suffering families know that I am here to help them map out and implement the plan for their particular situation. Information is great, but translating and implementing it, taking the difficult actions is so much easier with support. You, the family and friends, support the addict, who supports YOU????

Today’s recommendations:  No More Letting Go by Debra Jay.  Debra has a warm and conversational way of talking about what happens to families as a result of having an addict or alcoholic in the system. She also clarifies some of the “conventional” wisdom that is often misunderstood to mean “stand by and let the addict hit bottom.  It is ALWAYS a good time to take action to keep addiction from taking down the whole family and giving the addict or alcoholic opportunities to accept help.

Are you ready to get the support you need to take action? Schedule a time to talk with me so that I can help you figure out the first step YOU need to take. https://my.timedriver.com/BC23N

Remember the siblings of the addict

I got a note today from a client who’s son is unfortunately now on his own journey doing the addiction dance. He’s actually too young to be labeled an addict yet, or right now in his journey in my opinion. However, early intervention is an important step. The family is being referred to a very reputable program; I mean, the son and his parents.

He has 2 siblings, one older and one younger who are not going to be included in the program.  They are all teens in middle and high school, and I think that this is a pretty big flaw in most adolescent treatment programs. Uhmmm,wait, that is a pretty big flaw in most drug and alcohol treatment programs.

Family programs, at least the ones I know about, and I’ve been in the business almost 25 years, focus on education about addiction and continue to put the focus on the addict and how everyone dances around the addict. Oh , they are told to go to Al-Anon or Nar-anon and take care of themselves ,but most families need more than self-help to learn to do this. The resources are limited for the adult members of the family and even sparser for the child members. Good intentions ,but not so great in practice.

Family and friends may not understand exactly what the addict is going through, but they are an integral part of the recovery process. Addicts do need a sober support network, but they also need to be a functioning part of their family, if they still have one. Yes, there are folks to do not have a family, and create a family in self-help and that’s really important.  This message isn’t for them, it’s for the families and friends who are still connected with and addict and want to be supportive and have the person back in their lives and a healthy and functioning way.

I am putting the finishing touches on just such a program.

What would YOU want to see included in a program to help your family, especially the siblings?

They can’t do it alone

OK, if you have someone in your life who is addicted to “Oxy” here’s a sad truth: They cannot stop on their own!  The addict will tell you they will just stop when you confront them/him/her.  I’m not saying s/he can’t, but I haven’t seen anyone yet in my practice who has been able to just stop, or wean him/herself off. That’s why it’s called an addiction, and that’s why there are detoxes to help.

Addicts, if they will accept the help, not only need to clean their systems of the drug, but need to break the cycle of using and all the associations to/with it.  Especially if they accept help under duress. Even if they accept help gratefully, they have been hoping for some time that someone would notice and care enough to ignore the wheedling and pleading and manipulation and present them with an option to get help, to stop, to have another chance.

So while you are trying to figure out how to help the loved one in your life, do the most important thing first: take care of you. Get support for you; get help for you.  Get enough sleep; eat right, and talk. Talk to someone who can help you work out the plan to confront, with love and compassion, and cope whether your loved one accepts help right away, or later, or never.

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