There is an adage: “You can’t get a chemically dependent person to quit using unless he* wants to.” This adage is based on myth. We believed this for years and buried many a fine but sick person. We now have a strategy called “intervention” which is designed to interrupt the otherwise progressive and often fatal illness of chemical dependency.
Often those close to a chemically dependent person will shy away from the prospect thinking that an intervention is disloyal; a way of ganging up, to plan a confrontation without the chemically dependent person having any knowledge of the plans. They say to force a person to go for treatment is unfair and won’t work. That simply isn’t true. Now consider the following: If we were observing a tumorous growth at the side of our loved one’s head and our loved one was not acknowledging their condition would we say that we cold not help him until he wanted help for the tumor? Certainly not. We would do whatever was in our power to get our loved one to a professional for help.
One of the major symptoms of chemical dependency is denial. Denial is simply an inability of the afflicted one to recognize his condition. If he cannot perceive that the primary problem is his using chemicals, it is unlikely that he will give them up. He uses chemicals to cope with his problems and to alleviate stress which in fact is probably caused by his excessive chemical usage.
So we are faced with a decision, to act or not. We also need to ask ourselves: “What will happen to our loved one if we don’t tell him what we see?” Our chemically dependent person is delusional. A delusional person is one who does not know he is deluded. How is he going to get any insight into his condition if we don’t tell him? His reality is distorted; he is not of this world. We need to overwhelm his denial with reality, to present reality in a way that he can receive it.
A skillful intervention requires knowledge of the condition and some emotional stability on the part of the interveners. It also requires a presentation of concrete and specific facts about the person’s chemically dependent usage and his resultant behavior. Generalizations, moralizing, and judgments have no place in an intervention. Our chemically dependent person will become defensive and even less receptive to what is being said.
A person skilled in facilitating interventions, in my opinion, is a must. Interventions, while highly successful, are also potentially volatile. Interventions must be well planned and a trained facilitator can offer the objectivity you lack simply because you are emotionally hooked. The facilitator will be able to keep the intervention from dissolving into a screaming match with the chemically dependent person taking control.
Chemically dependent people make choices that are destructive to relationships. Partners of these people also make destructive choices in their attempts to restore the physical, emotional and spiritual norms of the relationship. In so doing they become as much a part of the maladjustment of chemical dependency as the chemically dependent person. It’s important to note that intervention is not a happening but rather a process during which time the family members learn about the disease and their unwitting complicity in this disease; the ways they have aided and abetted the chemically dependent person, believing their actions helpful or necessary. During the process they learn that one of the ways their loved one will recover is to have an opportunity to experience the consequences of his behavior. Family members and friends must learn to stop bailing their loved one out of trouble and to stop covering up for him. What they may have forgotten is that they too have rights.
In order to give the chemically dependent the insight that he is lacking and the kind of love he truly needs, those close to him must first heal themselves. This they cannot do without help, for they have, without realizing it, lost perspective. A call to an intervention professional is the first step to freedom.