Myth #1: Your Loved One Must Hit Rock Bottom Before They Will Start Accepting Help
This is the most often repeated myth that stops folks from acting, and helping someone they love change. You watch and wait and pray and hope and you end up with a locked-up spouse, or kids with asthma because someone is smoking in the house, or a family that’s bankrupt because Mom gambled away the life savings. Or worse.
Open up the idea of change starting with simple definition. “Intervention” means: action taken to improve a situation, especially a medical disorder. Nothing wrong with that. Through intervention you will “raise the bottom” and help your loved one stop digging the hole any deeper. You help them put down the shovel.
Here’s an example of how my strategy can speak clarity and truth into the destructive cycles of addiction and denial. After reading the story, spend a few minutes considering how or where you see yourself, your family member or friend, in it.
Picture this: your best friend has been walking around on crutches since he says he was “grazed by a bus.” Apparently, after the accident, he bandaged his own leg up, but now he’s having a tough time getting around. Each time you see him, it’s clear there is more and more pain. You suggest a doctor take a look. “It’s nothing,” he insists. “Just a sprain.”
After weeks of watching your friend hobble around in pain, you finally take a look under the bandage and it’s awful! The bone looks broken; it’s out of place. The skin is deeply discolored, purple and black even, and looks infected.
“I know it looks bad,” he says. “But honestly, it’s getting better!”
When you’re alone, and thinking about his situation, you say to yourself, “Maybe he had a rotten experience with doctors in the past. I guess he’ll get it taken care of when it hurts enough.” Or, “Maybe he’s going a little crazy? He seems disconnected from how bad it is.”
As you wake up to the reality of the problem, and become more clearly aware that his denial is making things worse, you decide to get more involved. Through conversation (listening and then action) you help him see and accept that he needs medical attention NOW. You help him to the car, and you drive him to the place where he can receive the help that is waiting for him.
And just like that – you have intervened!
We understand that the mental, physical and spiritual disease of addiction creates cycles saturated in denial. Yet the truth is strong and right – the family and friends (YOU!) have tremendous power in taking action in the life of your loved one who is struggling with dangerous behavior. Do not give up or back down – gather together and plan to act now!
Myth #2: We’re Too Fractured and Unfocussed to Help!
Go? Stop? Pause...
Don’t be ashamed or paralyzed by the circumstances surrounding your situation. I know – through experience and through psychological research – that family and friends are uniquely qualified and positioned to engage the heart and mind of an addicted person in change.
In a given year, the vast majority (90 to 95 percent) of those addicted do not get help, do not enter treatment or begin in self-help groups, period. Consider too, that the addicted have frequent contact with their families: 60 to 80 percent either live with a parent or are in daily contact with a parent. It takes only one person to start meaningful change; you can stop the destructive impact of untreated addiction and other family problems and it begins through this invitation to change.
The time between pause, stop and go can be in a blink of an eye, or more often thought the purposeful planning that a group of folks who love someone in crisis, can put together and then act upon.
Myth #3: Our Particular Situation is Uniquely Helpless
As isolated as you may feel, and as hopeless as it may seem, the facts that you
are not alone. Millions of families are at this very moment suffering from problems just like yours. Although knowing that others suffer certainly doesn’t lessen your pain or anxiety, you can draw hope from knowing that many have solved their problems, experienced change, and learned to live more satisfying lives.
You can too.
A classic illustration is from a family we worked with, who called us while we were on the road headed to a family meeting, asking us to turn around and go home. “It’s too terrible here...you’ve never seen anyone this bad...she is outside, naked in the snowbank...please don’t come...”
AT THE END OF YOUR ROPE IS HOPE!
Fear and hope occupy the same space. If fear is front and center it will be next to impossible to access the hope that is present too.
I understand the crisis you are in with the person you love. I recognize your hope is hanging on by a thread. And yet, in the midst of this pain and brokenness, I know you are uniquely equipped to make a recovery message a reality to your family member or friend. It’s just that until now, you’ve not known what to do. Let me emphasize this point – that no matter how you feel: You are not alone.
Myth #4: When They Are Ready, They Will Quit On Their Own
Your loved one is lost in the behavior, and not thinking clearly about beginning lasting change. If they could quit on their own, they would. Research proves this: People are more apt to make significant changes in their lives with support, or with the influence of significant others. If you want someone to stop and stay stopped, you’ve got to brush aside fear and help point the way. True, easier said than done, but consider the following:
There are generally three very different things that can happen to someone with an active addiction:
- They will get help, get cleaned up, and get better.
- They will end up in a hospital ward or behind bars.
- The addiction will deepen without help – and many will, and do die.
Which outcome do you want? You know the answer. You hold the power to help someone quit, get clean, and get better. Let me add: Addiction is a disease of the mind, body and spirit. All three must be addressed, I believe, for someone to stop, and stay stopped. Ways to address this include a Twelve Step-based program of treatment, through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and through Medical Intervention. There is not one way, and when one
approach fails, try another option.
Again, this is very important: there is no perfect way, and there are more ways than my way. Out of the gate, stay close to the tried and true, the time-tested. Staying stopped is not about willpower alone. It’s most often, accepting on some level that he or she is powerless over their addicted behavior. It is said in relation to one’s drug of choice “One is too many, and more is never enough.”
One’s motivation upon saying “Yes” to help varies. I rarely see a white flag – the person saying “I’m done, I’m ready!” Usually they say “Yes” to help for a variety of reasons – based on the leverage of relationships brought about as we intervene. So set this fear aside. Fling it from the room!
Begin with this question: “How can we help you make healthier choices?”
Myth #5: Your Attempt at Help is a Failure When They Say "No."
Accept that they will say no because addiction is a disease of “no.” Your loved
one will say there’s no problem, try to hide it, rationalize it, minimize it, and so forth.
Look at “no” as a positive, or as I like to say, a conversation starter. It’s part of the process, not the end of the effort! Science tells us most addicts say “no” to getting help 6 times before they say “yes.”
If you don’t give up or back down, you will jump-start the change you want
to see. Whether or not your loved one agrees to accept help at that moment,
you’ve mobilized the family to act with love, courage and authenticity.
“NO” FROM YOUR LOVED ONE IS A CONVERSATION STARTER.
Change begins with the loving action of stepping in and confronting with love,
speaking your truth and pointing to a plan of action that can save a life.
I hope I have been able to show you the positive outcome of an Intervention that is effectively prepared for and properly conducted. We offer you numerous options to help you help your loved one, but the only way I can evaluate the best process for your situation, is if you contact me and let us better understand your situation.
Help is just around around the corner!
Brad Lamm, Interventionist
Long after the HELP NEEDED sign begins blinking, family and friends
struggle mightily to agree there is even a problem.
Different roadblocks pop up to keep consensus from forming. They include these questions:
- What can we do about the problem?
An oft-cited study puts the time it takes to identify there IS a problem at seven years. SEVEN YEARS! That is the average. Then after the group has identified that there is a problem, it takes an additional twenty-four months to step in and act.
They feel they lack the knowledge, confidence, financial resources and strenth of relationships that allow such intrusion to act with purpose & effect. The time it takes to identify, agree on, build courage and then act is NINE YEARS.
Many of those with destructive behavior running their lives, will get much sicker or even die while family and friends decide what to do.
The secret to beginning lifesaving change is really no secret at all.
You can act with love and purpose.You can make hope happen. You can make change begin and step in to the shoes of that person you have been waiting for.
THE MIRACLE YOU HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR IS YOU.
If someone you love is in the throes of an addiction, you don’t know where to go...should you go this way, or that ... will it lead to a dead end or wrong turn ...or should you just stop and do nothing.
These are all common questions and common fears. And speaking of fears, that’s the biggest detour of all, one that can stop you in your tracks. I know, because I see it in the families with whom I work day in, day out.
Fear bumps up against the drive to step in, and help. You see signs that move you in one direction, and fear swoops in and dictates a u-turn, then yet another pause! It makes you feel lost.
You, as a group, have more power to change a friend or loved one than anyone else because you have the relationships that count, hands down. More than anyone else.
YOU’VE GOT THE POWER!
So often we’re looking for the expert or the know-it-all to come in, sweep the problem away, and save the day.
But it’s you who has the power and the influence. In other words:
NO ONE CAN TAKE YOUR PLACE OR FILL YOUR SHOES FOR CHANGE TO BEGIN!
In spite of the fear that stops you cold, a powerful way to overcome this fear and confusion is to understand the myths that hold you back from stepping in. It goes against much of what you have been told for years.
You have the power to change another human being – to help you change someone you love right now, right here; here’s how!