Interventions: Healthy and Unhealthy Support
For any person who has witnessed a loved one struggle with the issues that come with addiction, be it an addiction to alcohol and/or drugs, gambling, sex, shopping, or eating, the line that determines the boundaries between healthy and unhealthy support usually is crossed unexpectedly and without intent. The desire to believe in the person suffering from addiction’s best abilities and traits as being enough to bring the person back to the healthy, productive lifestyle once led becomes the rope onto which sober family and friends hang.
Conflict usually becomes a frequent feature surrounding the person involved with the addiction. Those observing the changes in temperament and behavior understandably avoid producing more conflict, or any “stirring of the pot”. Ironically, the temperament and behavior of those who are surrounding the one suffering from addiction also experience changes in temperament and behavior as interactions become strained, doubts riddle thoughts, and often unspoken concerns develop into outright fear.
For very different reasons, all involved in this situation begin the struggle between what they hope for and what they are actually witnessing. The ability to identify appropriate roles becomes more difficult as the cycle of chaos, dishonesty, and uncertainty takes hold. The person suffering from addiction cannot readily see the damage that is taking place because s/he is in primal mode, obsessed with filling the inner cry for whatever the addiction is that has taken hold, much the same as a famished person’s craving for food.
Love From Family Members Is Not Enough
The pleadings of those they love are not enough to counter the pleadings of the brain for more of the addictive behavior. Those who care for the addict find themselves continually hoping to “love them back”. Functioning under the well-intended but misguided notion that somehow the answer can be discovered if they just hold on long enough, loved ones strain to make their tears noticed and their pleas heard.
Their commitment, they hope, will successfully withstand the battering long enough to convince the addict to stop. The truth is that addiction is a disease of the brain and body that removes much - if not all - of the person’s ability to tap into the resources of the mind and spirit. The brain and body have been trained to need and respond to a particular behavior repeatedly.
The struggle truly is with the power of the brain, not the power of the will. It usually requires a crisis for the wall of misconceptions to be breached. Be it the diagnosis of a health malady, an inability to get or keep employment, the severe weakening of the family structure, or a serious legal problem, the time comes when there is no escaping the fact that the consequences of an addiction have taken over the lives of those suffering and those who surround them.
Interventions are a means for a third party - the interventionist - to assist those concerned with the addiction of another. The goal is to formulate a plan that effectively addresses the need for the loved one to receive the appropriate care and direction to help stop the continuance of addictive behavior. Interventions are meant to serve as a method to “raise the bottom” for those suffering from addiction before more destructive consequences and crises occur.
Why Interventions Can Work
The strength of interventions comes from the fact that a group of people comes together to become educated, prepared, and committed to facing the issues that have resulted from the addiction. The goal of interventions is always to lovingly but firmly confront their loved ones from a position of unity and conviction and to present a shared bottom line and plan of action. The intent is to convince the individual that there is an undeniable need for the addiction to be addressed immediately in a pre-determined program where arrangements have been made prior to the intervention itself.
While interventions seem scary and riddled with the risk of one further removing him/herself from those who are concerned, the reality is that an insidious and painful form of separation has already taken place once the addiction has taken hold. An uninterrupted life of addiction provides only one guarantee, and that is a guarantee of continued and increased separation coupled with more crises for everyone. This is the stark reality of addiction and is the measurement upon which the decision of anyone concerned with the life and future of an addict should be based.
Sidney Sarfaty LAADC