Many families have spent years trying to understand why their loved one continues to use. For some, everything goes fine for awhile…and then they are off and running again, completely forgetting the promises they made or the embarrassment of what happened weeks before. For others, it seems that they just don’t care.
“I don’t know why everyone is making such a big deal about this. Everyone parties a little bit. I could quit if I wanted to. I just don’t feel like it right now.”
Defiant, reactive, or even apathetic, it seems pointless to even confront them. For even other substance abusers, it is just so sad. They seem to sincerely want to quit, but can’t seem to summon the courage to follow through.
Why do they behave the way they do? And, more importantly, what is going to happen when we intervene? Will things get worse?
The Reactions of the Alcoholic or Addict During the Intervention
When considering an intervention, it is not uncommon for a family member to be concerned about how their loved one is going to react or be affected by an intervention. Due to a misunderstanding about the intervention process, many people think that an intervention is a “surprise ultimatum”.
Nothing could be further from the truth. An intervention, properly delivered, is usually a loving, emotionally powerful experience.
Part of our job as interventionists is to prepare you with how your loved one is going to react to this whole process. Surprisingly, most substance abuser behave in a very predictable manner and our job is to help you see, ahead of time, exactly what this is going to be.
In order to understand and predict the actions and reactions of your loved one during the intervention process it is first important to understand the very nature of addiction itself.
In almost every case of actual addiction it isn’t the substance (whether it be alcohol or drugs) that is the primary problem, although understandably it’s use is causing problems. Rather, the alcohol or drug use is but one of many symptoms of an underlying problem.
That is what effective treatment and recovery is about, getting down to and handling the underlying causes and conditions…the true problem. So what is this underlying problem?
Quite simply, an addict or alcoholic is really only about one thing, and that “one thing” isn’t even drinking or drug using, for again the use is just a symptom.
What an addict or alcoholic is really about is avoiding discomfort at some level and to some degree.
Whether it’s emotional or mental discomfort (feelings on the inside), physical discomfort, or external stress, it is a diminished ability to confront these things that dictates almost every move an alcoholic or addict makes, including their substance abuse.
We cannot emphasize enough that the operating basis of an addict or alcoholic, whether sober or loaded, in almost any situation is all about and only about avoiding discomfort.
To make this point completely understandable, when we arrive to your home, we are going to help you understand this by describing an intervention scenario where we sit down and speak to your loved one about their substance abuse.
Now, this may be a scenario that you may have already experienced, or one that you may be experiencing for the first time in the next several days.
Read more: Intervention 101
When you understand the alcoholic or addict the intervention becomes manageable
Imagine if you will that you are going to sit down with your loved one and have a discussion. You are going to talk to him or her about their drinking or drug use; how it’s affecting them, how it’s affected you, their life and their future. Also imagine that you are going to discuss an adequate treatment solution (usually in the form of a comprehensive inpatient program) in order to solve the problem.
Now, no matter how loving and caring you may be during this conversation, your loved one will most probably find this topic very uncomfortable, whether he is sober or not. For him, it may feel more of a confrontation than a discussion, and for him it will be a very uncomfortable situation to be in. In addition to this, going to a treatment facility is definitely an uncomfortable option.
“Please go away…” – The Alcoholic or Addict
As we described before, the operating basis of an addict or alcoholic is about avoiding discomfort, so part of our job will be to describe all the various methods of manipulation he may use to make this uncomfortable situation, treatment facility or conversation simply “go away”.
We will empower you as a family by helping to predict, in advance, several of the most commonly used methods of manipulation that an alcoholic or addict will use in order to avoid confronting or facing an uncomfortable life situation, using an actual intervention as an example. Most people think that a substance abuser’s primary problem is drug or alcohol use. Actually drug or alcohol use is a symptom of avoiding this discomfort.
Which means that the problem isn’t so much a drug or alcohol problem as it is one of how he handles an uncomfortable feeling or situation.
“What can I say or do to make this uncomfortable situation go away?” Which is really the same reason he uses drugs or alcohol, isn’t it?
Understand that it doesn’t matter what the alcoholic or addict says….it only matters what he does. An alcoholic or addict can be quite skilled at telling you exactly what you want to hear, even if it isn’t true, just to get you off his back.
Understand that in addiction and recovery words and promises without actions mean nothing. These are his survival mechanisms that he has learned that have worked for him in the past. Whether it is lies, threats, running away, drinking or using, each of these make uncomfortable things, feelings and situations “go away”. And for him, it is these same methods that he will also use to make the intervention and its goals disappear.
Interventionist for the Alcoholic or Addict
If you do not have an interventionist trained in these manipulations, then you as a family will be unable to effectively intervene. To make all of this more real, if a family member was stricken with cancer, and collectively as a family you sat down with him to talk about the problem and outline an effective solution, then odds are that he would be receptive even in light of his condition.
He would probably use none of the manipulations that a substance abuser uses, even though it would obviously be an uncomfortable topic. In addition to that he would probably be receptive and willing to participate in any comprehensive solution. It is the cancer that is the problem and there is a solution.
In comparison, with a drug and alcohol addiction it isn’t necessarily the drugs or alcohol itself that are the problem. If you don’t understand the underlying operating basis, then you will forever chasing the drug as the problem…just like your loved one.