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.