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Seven Ways an Intervention Can Help an Alcoholic/Addict and the Family

Posted on February 12, 2011 at 12:40 PM

Recently, I facilitated a family intervention and I’d like to share some thoughts on it. When the family called me for help, they were deeply concerned and frustrated with the alcoholic’s behavior. I was able to comfort them with the reassurance that treatment works and recovery is possible. They decided they wanted to be part of an intervention because they believed they needed to do something to help their loved one get into treatment.



I began the intervention process by getting to know each family member. Throughout the initial process, I helped the family gain more clarity on their feelings, thoughts and the goals of the intervention. Soon they began to work as a team with a well thought out professional plan to address the alcoholic’s disease. They learned how to express their concerns for the alcoholic in an honest, direct and non-judgmental way. As a result of this joined effort, we succeeded in getting the person into a thirty day residential treatment program and changing the family dynamics in a positive way.



As a substance abuse therapist and family interventionist, I've been able to witness how a family intervention can be a powerful tool in helping a person get into treatment. Most addicts and alcoholics are unable to stop on their own. It usually takes a crisis such as an arrest or a hospitalization to break an addiction cycle. We know that alcoholism is a disease which is chronic, progressive and fatal and like any disease it needs to be treated.



Alcoholism is a family disease and the family is often uncertain as to how they can help their loved one whose drinking has become out of control. This often leads to frustration, enabling, constant worry and many unsuccessful attempts to control the alcoholic’s drinking. With the expertise and objectivity of a professional, a family intervention can be highly beneficial to the alcoholic as well as the family. The purpose of an intervention is to get the alcoholic into treatment where he/she can be safe and begin their recovery.


An intervention also…



1. Provides Substance Abuse Education- During the intervention process, the family receives useful information and begins to learn about alcoholism/addiction, codependency, treatment and the recovery process. Al-Anon’s three C’s-You didn’t cause it. You can’t control it. You can’t cure it.



2. Promotes Healing for the Family- Alcoholism is a disease of denial. The family finally has the opportunity to overcome their own denial. “He/she’s not that bad.” “He/she doesn’t drink every day.” “He/she has a good job.” The power of the individual is transformed into the power of the group which allows the family to honestly express their love and concern for the alcoholic in a group setting with the increased possibility that the alcoholic will listen to them.



3. Empowers the Family- Often the family feels powerless and uncertain as to what action to take which often adds to their despair as they witness the destructive behavior of the alcoholic. An intervention allows the family to know they did something positive and healthy for the alcoholic whether he/she chooses to go into treatment or not. They have at least planted the seed.



4. Raises the Bottom- Many people think an alcoholic must hit bottom. The truth is alcoholics can hit many bottoms and still continue to drink. Sometimes this is due to the fact that he/she still has enablers who unknowingly support his disease. The alcoholic can often dismiss, manipulate or justify their drinking to one person. During the intervention, when he/she is faced by family and friends who are prepared to tell the truth in a kind and loving way, the alcoholic is positioned to take a more honest look at their destructive disease.




5. Teaches Healthy Boundaries- Although you are unable to change the alcoholic, you can change the way you relate to them. Setting boundaries is all about telling the alcoholic what you will do if they continue with their unhealthy behavior which is exactly what takes place in the intervention.



6. Express the Love of the Family- It’s easy to confuse the person you love with the disease of alcoholism. Many times family members can become critical, judgmental, angry, and resentful toward the alcoholic and the love for that person seems to be lost. An intervention helps each family find that love again and use this love as a transformational tool toward recovery.



7. Changes the Family Dynamics Forever- The intervention usually helps the alcoholic get into treatment. However, even when the alcoholic refuses to accept help, the family has benefited greatly. The dynamics of the family have changed. The family is now educated about this disease. They are now more honest and willing to seek their own treatment. They told the truth and reached out to their loved one. They followed through on their plan and offered the alcoholic help.


by Maria Buttino Sorensen on Saturday, February 12, 2011

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