Family Addiction Recovery Posts

Whatever the addict or alcoholic says or does while in active addiction is just noise. Realize that they are not themselves. They are controlled by an illness that is cunning and baffling. Their addiction will do or say anything in order to protect itself. The addict is a control freak. They are liars and master manipulators.

It is natural to second guess your assessment of your loved one. As you contemplate an intervention, tough love, or other methods of dealing with the addict in your life you will see conflicting evidence. Just as you become convinced of one thing something will happen and you think maybe your were wrong. For example, a young man recently reached out to me for help. He really wanted to quit drinking. Together we started going to recovery meetings. To his family this was a good sign. Just when all hope was lost he started making progress. But this was just noise. He was still drinking. He wasn’t getting better and reality was that he was spiraling. He was getting worse.

Here is why this is such an important concept to understand: if you listen to the noise you miss the opportunities to help. It is hard not to get sucked in. We want to believe the best in other people. We want to believe what they say is true. More than anything we need hope. We need to hope that our loved one has a chance to get better. Here is the thing, we need to hope in the right things. People can change. Addicts and alcoholics can get better. Rarely do they do it on their own. Rarely are they successful on their first try. So we don’t put our hope in what they say. We don’t even put our hope in their actions.

Until they have strung together several days and have a sufficient amount of time sober we must always be aware that it could all just be noise. Even if they are in a treatment facility that is not sufficient for us to not be suspicious of the noise. I had a family member who had a drug and alcohol problem and finally agreed to get treatment. He was doing great in treatment. I personally talked to his case manager who told me he was doing a great job working his program. Then with about a week left in his treatment he walked away. He left his wife and two young kids at home. Completely abandoned everyone and everything in his life never to return. Today, fifteen years later, he is still living in active addiction.

Recognizing the noise is really about seeing the situation realistically. Don’t let yourself be fooled or manipulated. The only way you get your loved one back is by the addiction loosing it’s slave. That doesn’t happen easily. In order for the process to start the people in the addicts life need to start filtering out the noise and focusing on the only thing that matters – doing whatever it takes to help the addict get clean.

I recently had a young man reach out to me for help. He was desperate to quit drinking. Alcohol was destroying his life. I met him at a local coffee shop to hear his story and see how I could help. He had recently totaled his car and been arrested for drunk driving. The prosecution agreed to a deferment but it meant he would be on probation for 5 years and required not to drink. Violating his parole would have some pretty terrible consequences. And yet he drank. He wanted to stop. Tried doing it on his own. Finally he started reaching out for help.

After our meeting I agreed to help hold him accountable. I went with him to local AA and Celebrate Recovery meetings and started doing a step study with him. He was required to call me every day by 7pm or I would assume he was drinking. Over the next several weeks this went on. He came over to my house and hung out and we talked regularly. And still he drank. He would drink before we went to a meeting. He thought he was hiding it from me.

One weekend I didn’t hear from him at all until Monday. When he called on Monday he had this long crazy story about why he couldn’t call. The story may or may not have been true. You see, the problem is that even though he is a good guy and he really did want to quit, because of the alcohol he couldn’t stop lying. This story he told, it was serious, but I couldn’t tell if it was true. Ultimately it didn’t matter. As the weeks went by a pattern developed where he wouldn’t call me on the weekends. I would talk to him before the weekend and ask him what his plan was to stay sober. He never had one. I would suggest ways he could stay sober but he wouldn’t take them. His alcoholic brain already had a plan of getting totally f’d up. Which is what he would do. He would drink a bottle of vodka and drive. He hit stuff. Blacked out. Then did it again. It was scary and it finally scared him enough to realize he needed more serious help than what I or anyone else around him could provide.

Monday he checked in to a treatment facility where he will spend the next 28 days. This is his second time in a treatment center. Hopefully this time he gets it.

Along the way many of us asked the question, why can’t he stop drinking? Even I asked that question and I’ve been there. For those of you who aren’t addicts or alcoholics but have a loved one that is, you have likely asked this question hundreds if not thousands of times. This young man has a great support structure with a lot of people around him who love him and who are willing to help. He is not being enabled by family, which can sometimes keep an addict stuck. He also has serious consequences. His drinking got him kicked out of the place he was living. His drinking totaled his car and could have killed him or someone else. His drinking will land him in jail the next time he is caught. Yet none of this was sufficient motivation. What is his problem? Why can some people stop and others can’t?

There isn’t any easy answer to these questions but there is an explanation. The bottom line is that it comes down to compulsion:

an irresistible urge to behave in a certain way, especially against one’s conscious wishes

He has an irresistible urge, that no matter how much he fought it with his conscious mind, he could not win. The alcohol always won. Does this mean he was hopeless? By no means! Treatment isn’t a cure for addiction or alcoholism but what it provides is a period of time where the alcoholic is forcefully separated from his or her compulsions. It is also a time to learn how to handle your compulsions. That is what he has never learned. It is what I tried to teach him. It is why I tried to help him develop a plan for the weekends when the compulsion would be the strongest. It is why I told him he needed to go to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting every night.

Watching a loved one destroy their life when they should have every motivation and reason to stop is frustrating, infuriating, and a helpless feeling. What they are doing makes no sense. We don’t have to pretend it makes sense. We can understand it though. We understand it in light of it being a compulsion that they really don’t have the ability to fight on their own. They need help. They need new ways to deal with the compulsion. It is possible. But it isn’t possible to do it on their own.

Have you ever heard it said that someone needs to hit rock bottom in order to change? Sometimes an addict or alcoholic will get clean and sober then relapse and you hear the excuse said, “Well I guess they just haven’t hit rock bottom yet.” Rock bottom is a myth and can be destructive.

Why is “Rock Bottom” a myth

The myth is that an addict needs to hit rock bottom in order to change or that if they haven’t changed it is because they haven’t hit rock bottom. Have you ever seen a homeless alcoholic? Have you ever seen a drug addict that has lost everything? Wouldn’t you say they’ve hit rock bottom? If not, how would you define rock bottom? And there lies the problem: how do you define rock bottom?

The truth about rock bottom

Let’s set the record straight about what it means to hit rock bottom:

  • Rock bottom is different for everyone
  • Some people can survive at rock bottom for a long time
  • It plays no part in whether or not a person is ready to change
  • Interventions are not intended to create a rock bottom
  • Rock bottom does not determine whether or not a person will relapse

Why the Rock Bottom myth is dangerous

Addicts, alcoholics, and those involved in self destructive behaviors need help. If they could stop on their own, most of them would. But they can’t so they don’t. They don’t need excuses. They don’t need to wait for the “magical right time” to get better. When we say they need to hit rock bottom we are creating this magical time where everything is going to work out right. While we wait we suffer and they suffer.

Helping someone put their life back together is messy. It is painful. It is full of emotion. It if full of fear. What we don’t need to add to the process are myths that can disappoint or give reason to delay. If we believe that someone has hit rock bottom and is therefore ready to change, when they don’t change or they relapse we are disappointed. This can lead to hopelessness and we end up in a worse state than before. We can’t loose hope and we can’t give up. And we can’t use excuses.

So often we get angry with the addict or alcoholic and wonder why they don’t change. Why don’t they just stop drinking? Can’t he see that drugs is ruining his life? Can’t she see her drinking is tearing apart her family? Why don’t they stop? This is the question I would ask you: if they could stop don’t you think they would? Isn’t the most miserable person you know the addict in your life? Often they will say they are going to stop. They will make attempts to stop. But they always fail. They fail until they finally give up and they lose all hope for a normal life.

The answer to the question of whether or not they can stop on their own is simple but it isn’t easy. The simple answer is no. No, they cannot stop on their own without help. Let me clarify, I know many who have quit drinking on their own for a period of time. I don’t know any who have recovered. I don’t know any who have never drank again. Some went years without picking up a drink or a drug again, but at some point they did.

Last Sunday I got the following email from a young man, 28 years old, who desperately wanted to get clean:

Hi Chad, I don’t believe we have met but we are connected in so many more ways than I previously thought. I have a story that in ways are probably very similar to yours and am in the process of getting clean and sober for what I’m hoping is the final time in my life. Over the past 10 years I have kicked 2 separate lengthy meth addictions, beat my heavy addiction to oxycontin following my near fatal motorcycle accident, and am now working on quitting synthetic opioids for the second time in the past 3-4 years. This past October on a road trip I experienced sudden cardiac arrest, died twice, and against all odds managed to be part of the 8% of people who recover from SCA with zero brain damage. I have never gone to a treatment facility, and have decided if I’m not 100% clean by my 29th birthday I will go that route. I really appreciate you sharing your story because that alone provides me with much needed hope and positivity that will aid me in the battle ahead. For now I would appreciate you keeping this between you and I. My hope is that in the not so distant future I too can share my complete story because hearing yours gave me that glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel. You are an inspiration and I just wanted to thank you for your drive to help others like us… not bad people, just people who have made bad decisions.

He mentions the several addictions he “kicked” over the past 10 years. The truth is he didn’t kick any of them. He sobered up for periods of time but his addiction continued. He didn’t go back to meth – he replaced one drug for another. His ability to stop from time to time convinced those around him that he could beat his addiction. He convinced himself that he could beat his addiction. I can’t tell you how heart broken I am over this email because this young man died the next day. His addiction took his life. He never made it to his 29th birthday. He was surrounded by family and friends that loved him dearly but they didn’t know or understand addiction and how to get him the help he really needed.

I want to be very clear here because I don’t want my words to be misunderstood at all. His family and friends are not to blame. I do not blame or put any responsibility on them. I don’t know them personally but I am certain they did the best they could with the information they had. But that is the problem. When our child has a fever and complains of an ear ache we know to go to the doctor to get antibiotics for an ear infection. But when a loved one is suffering with an addiction we have no idea what to do and so often we do the absolute wrong thing. We end up loving them to death.

I sent an email back to this young man right away. I was worried about him making it to his 29th birthday. I knew well enough that he wasn’t going to be able to stop on his own and usually when someone makes that decision they go out hard one last time. That last time is what often kills them. I asked him to meet me for coffee. I invited him to come with me to a recovery group. My prayer was that I would have time to help him. I didn’t. I had no idea his time was up. I question if there was more I could have done. Maybe I should have been more direct. Maybe I should have pushed harder. I didn’t even know him that well and I have those thoughts; I can’t imagine what his family must be going through. We don’t know when time will run out for the addict in our life. We don’t have the luxury of time. If you are reading this and there is someone you are worried about, what are you waiting for? Are you going to love them to death? If you don’t know what to do then hit that contact button and send me a message. I’ll help get you started.

There is a big misconception when it comes to defining what an addict or alcoholic is. Most people think it has to do with whether or not the person in question can abstain from their substance of choice for any length of time. You hear things like, “Well she doesn’t drink every day so she can’t be an alcoholic.” Another way people define addiction is whether or not there is a physical component. If he goes through any sort of physical withdrawal when he doesn’t have his drugs or alcohol then he is an addict or alcoholic. The problem with these definitions is that there is an element of truth to them. Certainly someone who doesn’t drink everyday may not be an alcoholic or someone who has withdrawal symptoms likely is an addict but neither of those define addiction.

When I got into treatment I finally realized that I was an addict and alcoholic. But I didn’t fit either one of the definitions above. There usually was a couple of days a week where I didn’t drink or use drugs. When I got to treatment I didn’t have to go through detox like most people because I hadn’t drank in the 24 hours. I also had no physical withdrawal symptoms. But if you knew me then, or know my story, there is no doubt that I had a problem. I was stuck in a cycle that I couldn’t get out. My life was swirling around the toilet bowl and I was inches away from disaster.

So how do you define an addiction? I gave a clue above. It really is simple. Anyone who experiences negative consequences as a result of their drinking, drug use, video game playing, pornography viewing, or any other in the long list of addictions. Still that is a little vague so let’s clarify.

First of all, negative consequences is plural. We are not talking about getting in trouble one time. We aren’t talking about one hangover. This is pattern behavior. We will see the same thing over and over. The addict may have trouble with relationships, may have trouble holding a job, may be arrested multiple times for driving under the influence. There are a lot of different types of consequences. It could be health consequences. And there will likely be a mix of consequences. Personally, I had financial problems, relationship problems, I had put on a lot of weight, and I wasn’t very pleasant to be around.

Despite these negative consequences the addict or alcoholic doesn’t change. They continue to do the same things. To the outside world they seem crazy. We shake our heads at what an idiot the person is. The reality is that the person is stuck. In and of themselves they do not have the power to change. Their life has become unmanageable.

The simplest and most elegant definition of an addict or alcoholic I believe is this: Anyone who’s life has become unmanageable and is powerless to change it without help. If you are wondering whether or not your loved one has a problem ask yourself these simple questions:

  1. Has their behavior negatively effected their life in any way?
  2. Are they unable to make any lasting positive changes in their life?
  3. Does their life seem out of control?

If you answered yes to any of those questions then your loved one likely needs help. If you are still not convinced here is one last test. Think of people you know who you are one hundred percent certain do not have an addiction problem. Does anyone ever wonder if they have an addiction? No, of course not. We never wonder if someone has a problem who doesn’t actually have a problem. It just doesn’t happen. So if you are asking the question, there is almost no chance that they do not have a problem. The fact that you are still asking the question probably means they aren’t too far gone yet. It means they still have hope. It means the sooner they are able to get help the better the chance they will have of a normal life again.

As the name implies, an intervention is an attempt to intervene. One myth is that an addicted person needs to hit rock bottom before they will be ready to get help and that an intervention is an attempt to create that rock bottom. This simply isn’t true. It may be that it does create that bottom but that isn’t the point. I know in my case, my intervention was a defining moment and it certainly did create a bottom for me. It is still hard for me to look back on that event because of the absolute bottom I hit that day.

An intervention is an interruption and may even be better named as that. The addict in your life is stuck in a pattern of self destruction. If you analyze their behavior you will see the same behaviors repeating themselves. Obviously there is the using but also there is the isolation – where you may go days without hearing from them or even be able to get in touch with them. There are the good days that give you hope that maybe change is on the horizon. Then there are the bad days where you are totally hopeless and feel you may have lost them forever. There are the huge mood swings and the path of destruction left in their wake as they tear through your life like the Tasmanian Devil in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Over the months or years these behaviors have likely repeated themselves over and over and over again. The first goal of an intervention is to interrupt this behavior pattern and give you control back over your life.

What is the purpose of an intervention?

As I stated, we want to take control back from the addict. They have been controlling and manipulating you and your family for long enough. We lovingly tell them that we are no longer going to allow their sickness to make us sick. For this reason alone the intervention should give you hope. It isn’t just for the addict, it is for you too.

The second reason for the intervention is to offer the addict help. We give them the opportunity to get well. We communicate with them what we love about them, what their addiction has done to us, and what we believe their life could be when they are sober. Through this process we hope to awaken something in them. We don’t get our hopes up too high, we’re only just trying to spark something that will bring them to an agreement to get help.

The final reason for doing an intervention is because it is the best tool we have available. If you are like most people, you have tried everything else. You have tried reasoning, you have tried begging, you have tried love, you have tried tough love, and you have tried anger and yelling and nothing seems to work. Why hasn’t anything else worked? Because you were using a screwdriver to hammer a nail. You have to use the right tool for the right job.

How does an intervention work?

Interventions are typically attended by close family and friends of the addicted person. By this gathering of loved ones we hope to apply peer pressure in firm but loving way. Typically the people attending the intervention will have met beforehand and created a plan. They will have prepared letters that will be read at the intervention that outline the good they see in the person, how their addiction has effected them personally, and a plea to get help. There is also a separate letter prepared that is called “the bottom line.” This is shared if the addict refuses to accept help. The bottom line is not a punishment and should not be constructed as one. The bottom line has two purposes: let the addict know that their destructive behavior is not allowed in your life anymore and to apply that final bit of pressure to get the addict to treatment. As best we can we communicate that we love them but we are not going to love them to death.

An intervention should always be facilitated by a third party who is trained in interventions and is not emotionally involved with the addicted person. Attempts to do an intervention on your own can have disastrous consequences. It would be like hiring an accountant to be your electrician. The reason for this is that interventions are highly emotionally charged events and emotions cloud judgement. And, probably most important, the addict has likely already figured out how to manipulate you and other family members. You have already proven that you are not able to do this on your own.

How effective are interventions?

This is a very difficult question to answer. An effective interventionist will likely have an 85% – 90% success rate of getting the person to treatment at the time of the intervention. Sometimes the addict doesn’t go the day of the intervention but ends up going within a week so the effectiveness can be as high as 90% – 95%. It is important not to confuse the effectiveness of an intervention with the addict getting better. The goal of the intervention is not to cure the addict. It is only to get the addict to a place where they can receive help.

When is the right time to do an intervention?

Yesterday! The longer someone is stuck in their addiction the harder it is for them to break out of it. It isn’t impossible but just like with any disease, the sooner it is treated the better the chances of success. If you are reading this right now with a loved one in mind then the time to do an intervention is now. There isn’t going to be a magical “right time.” There isn’t going to be a time that is easier. There aren’t other options that you should exhaust first. I’ve seen it too often where the family waits until it is too late. Or they take half measures which don’t work. This really is a life and death issue so take action today.

Usually when we hear the word disease we think of something like cancer or diabetes. Alcoholism or addiction is not something most people think of as a disease. When they hear it called a disease it sounds confusing and even kind of annoying. After all, to drink or get high or play video games or have sex is a choice right? People with a real disease don’t have a choice. At least that is the logic.

There is a lot of evidence to show that addiction, in all it’s forms, is more than psychological – it is more than a choice. Scientists have found real physiological evidence to support that addiction is not just a choice. Some people are more prone to becoming addicts than others. It is the same with many other diseases. For example, if you have heart disease or diabetes in your family your chances of also getting it greatly increases. In the same way, if you have alcoholism or addiction in your family, your chances of becoming an alcoholic or addict greatly increase.

My point in this article is not to go into all the scientific evidence to prove that addiction is actually a disease. My point is to help you think of addiction differently. If we see addiction for what it really is, more than just a choice, I believe we will have compassion on the individual and then be able to help treat them. A correct diagnosis is the basis on which treatment can begin.

Personally, I don’t know if labeling addiction as a disease is really helpful. In some ways I think it brings the wrong things into focus. Instead of discussing how to help the suffering addict and the loved ones he or she is affecting, we enter a debate on the definition of disease. The point is not whether or not addiction fits into our classical definition of disease, the point is that the addict no longer has a choice, they need treatment and without it they will die.

You may still be saying, “Yes but to get better all they have to do is make the decision to stop.” The hard part about that statement is that in a way it is absolutely correct. The problem is they can’t stop. They don’t have the ability to make that decision. Even if they did make the decision they are powerless to act on it. The addiction is stronger than any decision. Ask yourself this: isn’t the addict in your life the most miserable person you know? Don’t you think that if they had the ability to change their life by simply making a decision to stop that they would? So if they can’t stop on their own then what is the answer?

The answer is they need treatment. The disease needs to be interrupted. The interruption needs to be dramatic and powerful yet laced with love and compassion. And the only way this can happen is if it is guided by a professional. Please don’t read the information contained here and think you can go out and save your loved one on your own. Just as you wouldn’t attempt to treat cancer on your own, don’t attempt to treat the addict on your own. Botched attempts at treatment can actually make things worse.

If you have been around the Alcoholics Anonymous program at all you have probably heard the title of this post as a preamble to the reading of the 12 Steps. In the life of every alcoholic, drug addict, video game addict, sex addict, there are times where they make attempts to change their behavior. Usually they try to cut back. Or they even quit for a period of time. Or they only engage their addiction on a certain day or a certain time. They say things like, “I was drinking too much so I only drink on the weekends now.” They may tell you that they only smoke weed now and gave up the “hard stuff.” The ways of “cutting back” are endless and creative. When we hear these things, as a loved one of the addict, we are encouraged and hopeful that there is going to be real and lasting change.

A couple of years ago I saw my sister and brother-in-law heading back down the road of alcoholism. They had quit drinking for a couple of years but had never actually entered recovery. Let me pause here to make a quick distinction: quitting does not equal recovery. There are individuals who have the ability to quit for a period of time, often early in their addiction, but without a plan and method to recover from whatever sent them down the road of addiction to begin with, they are in grave danger of returning. When they return they find that their addiction continued even while they had quit. It is the demon returning to find their home swept and in order so they invite hundreds more demons. The next occurrence of their addiction is more terrible than the first. This was the case with my sister and brother-in-law. When they went back out it started slowly and everyone was convinced it wasn’t a big deal. Actually, no one was convinced, they were just hopeful in the face of fear. Having the education in addiction that I have I knew how it all would end. I could see the end and I knew the terrible future that awaited. It was two years of torture watching the slow train wreck of their lives. At one point I wrote a letter to them letting them know their lies weren’t fooling anyone and that they were on a slippery slope. They acknowledged they had a problem and wanted to change. Over the next year or so there were several attempts at change. But the attempts were half measures. If I’m being honest, even my letter was a half measure on my part.

Half measures give us hope. When my sister and brother-in-law acknowledged their problem and that they were going to change I was hopeful. Even though I knew better, I thought there was a chance they could change. After all, they had stopped drinking before. But what they had never done is enter or make any attempts at recovery. What is important to recognize as family or friends of someone suffering from addiction is that any attempt of willpower is a half measure. Just as recovery requires complete honesty on the part of the addict or alcoholic we must be completely honest about what we see in the life of our loved one. Accepting their half measures will only help them stay sick. Let’s call it what it is: half measures are lies and manipulation designed to get you off their back. Their demons are comfortable where they are and will do anything to keep you from interrupting the good thing they got going on. That’s why, when you try to stop them, they fight like hell.

Recognizing half measures for what they are is a big step towards getting your loved one help. If you can no longer be manipulated then you can set clear boundaries. The reality is that when someone close to you is sick, their sickness effects you too. If you are also sick, chances are you will keep them sick. In order for them to get well you must also get well. You also must not employ half measures. For example, if you set a boundary where your loved one is not allowed to sleep in your house if they have been out drinking or getting high then you need to stick to it. If they come to you after a night or day of partying and it is either sleep in your house or the sleep on the streets you need to let them sleep on the streets. If you allow them to stay in your house then your boundary was a half measure. Remember, half measures avail us nothing. In other words, they don’t work. In fact, they do the opposite. I know it’s hard to tell a loved one that they have to sleep on the street but what if that is the only way they will get well? By allowing them to stay in your house you have robbed them of the chance for a new life. Think about that! Are you willing to do whatever it takes to get your loved one well? Or do you want to stay sick with them as long as it is a little more comfortable? Wouldn’t you sacrifice a few days of terrible for a new life of awesome? Or do you want to stay in this life of mediocre misery? There is help. There is recovery. There is a good life. Others have it. Others have done it. It isn’t easy, but it is worth it.

Last night I heard the story of a young lady, twenty-four years old, who didn’t have any sober ups left. In case you are new to the world of addiction this means her addiction finally took her life. She had a two year old son and had gotten sober for nearly three years. But a few months ago her roommate noticed that her behavior started to change. It was a slow progression at first but as the days and weeks went along it became more and more apparent. Finally her roommate asked her if she was using again. She was. Her drug of choice was heroin. This beautiful young lady couldn’t live with the guilt and shame of her addiction any longer. She lost hope. Her bondage was so great that she saw only one option – suicide. They found her hanging from a bridge.

My wife’s cousin got married a couple years ago to a young man who had managed to put his life together despite a battle with drugs and alcohol. They had a son together. He had been sober for a while but he worked on fishing boats in Alaska and at some point along the way, while at work, he went back out with his addiction. His alcohol use and heroin addiction became so bad that the young couple separated and finally divorced. Two weeks ago he was found dead. He had choked to death in his own vomit.

When I got into treatment one of the things they taught me is that there are really only two options for alcoholics and addicts: jail or death. As long as someone is active in their addiction one of these will get them.

Recently I found out about a gal I went to school with had a problem with alcohol. She is married with high school age kids. On the outside they looked like the perfect family. But she had her secrets. Thankfully her family confronted her and got her into treatment. Unfortunately it was a low quality program so she didn’t get all the tools she needed to deal with her alcoholism. When she got home she was sober for a while but one day, in a moment of weakness, she bought a bottle of wine. In the middle of the day she was driving home – impaired to the point that other drivers called the police. When she pulled into her driveway the police were there waiting. Her 16 year old son watched as mom was handcuffed and arrested for DUI. She spent the next 18 hours in the local jail. Thankfully she got jail and not death.

We don’t know which one the addict we love will get. We only know they are guaranteed one or the other. But there is another option. They can get help. It starts with those that love them. You have the power, as the loved one of an addict, to help them stay sick or to help them get well. So many I talk to are afraid of the addict in their life. They see they are loosing that person and are afraid if they do something they will loose them completely. But if you believe there really are only two options for your loved one, jail or death, and when either of these is realized you will have lost them, then maybe you will have the courage to do something.

This site is dedicated to helping families navigate this scary road. If you have questions please contact us or look through the resources we have provided.

A friend of mine called yesterday asking me this question. She hasn’t talked to her mom since Thanksgiving which has been a couple months now. Her mom has been isolating herself and when she does contact my friend her behavior is bizarre. She will send irrational and nasty text messages, she will lie or not tell the whole story. Often times her story about events changes. My friend is worried about her mom but doesn’t know what to do. Should the family do an intervention? She knows her mom drinks wine but isn’t sure how much since she lives a couple hundred miles away. Is her mom an alcoholic or does she have a mental illness?

Her mom has always had issues and especially when things are bad in her life. At one point her mom was married to an abusive man and during that time my friend would receive these nasty abusive emails that were her mom was clearly drunk and slurring her words. They finally rescued her out of that situation and things got better. Her mom married a wonderful man and things were really good. But then two years ago her new husband got cancer and died quickly. Since then it has been a spiral downhill.

When my friend asked me if she should do an intervention on her mom this was my answer: what do you have to loose? Right now she doesn’t have a relationship with her mom. If she does an intervention and it doesn’t work (if you get a good interventionist the success rate is very high) then she is in the same place. Except, she will be able to rest knowing that she has done everything she could to help her mom. On the other side, if it does work, her mom will finally get the help she needs and they can start putting their relationship back together.

If you are reading this and asking the same or similar question then let me encourage you. Everyone in your situation second guesses themselves. Does she really have a problem? Is an intervention really the right thing to do? These questions are born out of your own fear. The reality is, if you are asking the question then 99.99% of the time the answer is yes – they need an intervention. Think about it, have you ever asked that question about a normal person? Is there anyone you can think of where you thought they were an alcoholic or drug addict and it turns out they weren’t? No, of course not. If you are asking the question then clearly there is an issue.

If that isn’t enough then consider this: over 52,200 Americans died of an overdose in 2015. That’s more than died in car accidents (37,757), more than died in gun deaths including suicide (36,252) and more than died in terrorism (44). This really is a life an death situation. Do you want to be standing at your loved ones funeral knowing you could have done something but didn’t because you were afraid?