Intervention: Somebody . . . Stop Me! ~by Joe Herzanek (with Judy Herzanek)
“Somebody please stop me! My alcohol and drug use is killing me and I don’t want to stop. In fact, although I know my days are numbered, quitting is nowhere on my radar at all.”
In the movie, The Mask you see Jim Carrey famously saying “Somebody . . . Stop Me!” It was time for someone to remove my Mask; in my case that “somebody” was my Mother.
This post excerpted from Chapter 12 (None of Your Business. Should you intervene or not?) of the book: Why Don’t They JUST QUIT? Hope for families struggling with addiction.
NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS
One of the myths I believed for a long time was that my substance use was my problem, and my problem alone. Leave me alone. If I wanted advice, I’d ask for it. But nothing was further from the truth. In the poker game “Texas Hold ’Em,” players will occasionally push their chips forward and say, “I’m all in.” Whether we like it or not, addiction affects the entire family. We’re “all in” and there is no option to not play. This is a problem that directly impacts everyone in the family. It affects some family members more than others, but no one gets to pass.
The scenario plays out differently depending on the relationships involved. Whether you are a spouse, mother, brother, uncle, or any other relation, there will be either a direct effect or some form of spillover to other members of the family. These problems are usually discussed among family members, and as a result, others start to share the stress and burdens.
This happens more with addiction than with many other problems. There are several reasons for this. One is obvious—we care about and love the people closest to us and we sometimes fear that our loved one will destroy himself. Another reason is the tremendous amount of shame and guilt that seems to be associated with alcoholism and addiction. Many people look at addiction as a mental health problem, which has its own stigma.
THE ROLE OF THE FAMILY
Because addiction never goes away, we often see a loved one with this problem relapse back to old behaviors. It is not unusual for this to happen several times before we see longer periods of abstinence and, ultimately, complete abstinence. When family and friends get their hopes up again and again, only to be repeatedly disappointed, it is extremely frustrating for them. Fortunately, there are ways to minimize the heartache.
First, do not try to fix the situation on your own. Often, family members will blame themselves and will try to solve the problem alone. But family members are too close to the problem and sometimes too emotional to see things objectively, so getting some wise counsel will pay real dividends.
“Do not try to fix the situation
on your own.”
Help doesn’t always have to be professional (meaning that one has to pay for the advice) or expensive. Many people know of others dealing with the same issues who can provide support and resources. Many churches now offer counseling for substance abuse and have staff who are trained for this ministry.
Al-Anon, (a support group just for family and friends of substance abusers and alcoholics) is a free resource and worth checking out. I also recommend attending a few “open AA” meetings. A friend or family member can learn a great deal about addictive thinking from listening to those in recovery tell their stories. Anyone can attend an open AA meeting. Just sit and listen.
“Plans fail for lack of counsel,
but with many advisers they succeed.”
~ Proverbs 15:22
There are also many private counselors who invoice on a sliding scale. In addition, city and county governments usually have programs that are available at no cost. Addiction is a problem that requires using various means to bring about lasting change. Having these issues sorted out by an objective third party is well worth the time and effort. Often, family members will wait a long time, thinking that things will work out on their own. There is too much at stake to take this approach.
Sometimes doing the right thing will make you feel horrible. You can know that the positive results and good feelings will come much later. It has been said that there are three ways to deal with a problem—to do the right thing, the wrong thing, or nothing. The worst choice is to do nothing.
We’ve all done interventions at various times in our lives, whether we realize it or not. An intervention can be anything from telling a child to be careful on their bike and be sure to watch for cars, to asking someone to clean up their desk or office at work. For the addict, intervention will make all the difference.
We now see PSAs (Public Service Announcements) on television that tell us, Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. If you’ve ever suggested to someone that they were too drunk to drive, you know how awkward it can be. One of the rules I try to use for myself is this: If it’s the right thing to do, then I want to be sure to do it, and if it’s the wrong thing to do, I want to be sure to avoid it. This is not always easy to put into practice. Nonetheless, it is important, especially concerning the life of someone who may have a substance-use problem. Most likely, you will make mistakes from time to time. Family members can expect to go through great pain and long days of frustration, feeling helpless at times. To this day, I don’t know all that I put my family through.
“Joe’s years with drug problems were very sad. It was hard watching him tear down his body. I was afraid he would have a wreck and hurt himself or others. I was afraid he would get arrested and end up in jail. “I had talked to Joe about getting help. He said he wasn’t interested. He said, ‘I don’t want to go somewhere and have people come and visit and look at me like some kind of freak.’ I should have talked to him and explained that it wouldn’t be that way, but I really didn’t know how it would be. His Dad wanted him to go somewhere for help long before he went. We didn’t agree . . . should I make him go? This went on for several years.”
When beginning the process of intervention, a conversation is a good place to start, but it may be perceived as confrontation, something most of us try to avoid. We may ask someone else to have that conversation with the person we’re concerned about. But there will be awkward moments no matter which option you choose. To start the process, you may choose to further analyze your family situation. Reading this book is a great start, and you may find the need to send it as a gift to someone in need. If these first, less-invasive attempts appear to have little or no effect, you then may want to consider seeking professional intervention help.
Professional intervention doesn’t necessarily have to look like what you may have seen on the A&E channel or other similar shows on TV, when a large group of family and friends confront and surprise the addict or alcoholic. There are times when this approach can be very effective, but there are other, lesser-known strategies that can work as well. Often professionals can do an intervention over the phone with the person that needs help. If you are considering an option like this, please do your homework. Get references, compare them, and compare costs. Prices can vary a great deal and so can effectiveness. The goal is to get the person to see the light and begin recovery.
My intervention was simple: I was given an ultimatum. One of the reasons it worked as well as it did was its timing. When my parents said to me that I either could “get treatment or get out,” it was a very low point in my life and my options were running out, as I had no other place to run but to family. I was living in my parents’ home at the time. Over the years, I would go from having plenty of money to no money at all. During the no money times, they would reluctantly let me move back in. My memory of this intervention/conversation is still vague to me today. I was so hung over, strung out, and worn out at the time.
“One evening Joe’s dad found some drugs, and he flushed them down the toilet. When Joe found out what his dad did, he was mad as hell. Joe confessed he was in big trouble now, and might even be killed, as he was supposed to deliver the drugs to someone. I think there was a lot of money involved. Joe was so high he fell off the stool he was sitting on.
“The next morning when Joe got up, I said I wanted to talk to him. I finally said, ‘Joe, I cannot watch you killing yourself anymore. I cannot give you any more money, and you can’t live here anymore. You have a daughter who I’m sure wants you to be there for her as she grows up . . . if you want help I’ll get help for you. It’s up to you. But if you choose to continue your life as it is, I don’t even want you to come around, ‘cause I don’t want to see you like you are.’ Looking back, I really didn’t know what would happen. I just prayed he’d make the right decision. . . . He did, thank God.”
KEEP HOPE ALIVE
Some of you who are reading this book are worn out. You’ve already done all of these things—maybe more than once. You’ve seen brief periods when things were going well, things appeared to be working and life seemed to have turned a corner—only to come to a screeching halt, causing hurt and disappointment again and again. So what now? When do you give up hope?
The time to completely give up hope should never come. There is always hope. Hope, faith and prayer are powerful forces to hold onto. Continuing to be optimistic, regardless of how things appear, is the best outlook to have. Instead of completely giving up, ask yourself, When doI stop my well-intentioned efforts? When do I step back and quit trying to control this person? In some situations, there may come a time when you must pull back, and I mean pull back completely. This is difficult; but when you know it’s the right thing to do, you have to do it.
“Do you love your child enough
to let him be mad at you?”
~Don Williams, Clearbrook Lodge, Shickshinny, PA
Over the years, I have seen families struggle to come to terms with this hands-off approach. Remember this: Just because you have to step away does not mean that you stop loving and showing empathy for the person. Empathy is better when it is mixed with a little tough love. The consequences that come down on someone who is abusing alcohol and drugs may be their best teacher. If you’ve confronted the person you are concerned about a few times to no avail, and professionals are saying you need to let go, then you should listen. Others can look at the situation with objectivity. Allowing your loved one’s utilities to be turned off, or forcing them to sleep in the car (or jail) for a few nights, can often work wonders. Let your loved one know that you care about them, but stand your ground.
Every situation calls for discernment and a good understanding of the circumstances. There is, however, a time when intervention is crucial. In the case of someone who is going to harm himself or others, you need to turn the whole thing over to the correct authority. In reality, there are times when even you or the professionals cannot stop a user from harming himself or others. But these situations are extremely rare. I’m not saying that we should take threats lightly, but once you’ve done all you can do, it’s out of your hands. A large number of addicts will eventually make changes. To hope means that you believe the user in need of help will be on the road to recovery, sooner or later.
“Let your loved one know that you care about them,
but stand your ground.”
When actively using, the addict needs to see that he is powerless to control his use. At some point, family and friends need to understand that they also are powerless to make someone think the right thoughts and do the right things. However, being aware of some helpful ways to intervene can bring about peace of mind. To simply pray and wait is difficult. It feels as if you are doing nothing when you should be doing something. But don’t give up hope, and know that when you are waiting, praying and being patient you are doing something.
Let me give you one last word on intervention. Intervention by a family member, friend, or employer is the way that most people get into treatment. When I use the word treatment, I do not always mean a 28-day program where a person is required to leave home. Treatment can be different for different people. What I am referring to is seeking help, getting counseling, going to groups, outpatient treatment or attending 12-step meetings. If an addict thinks he can use just willpower to stop, it is not going to work. Some people can quit for a time on their own, but no one can recover all alone. It’s very rare for someone to just decide on their own that they need to enter a recovery program, or even to admit to their substance-abuse problem.
As a friend or family member, you may be the one to initially make the calls to a few treatment centers. A good place to start is to go online to www.naatp.org (National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers). Once you find a resource you are interested in, you can speak with trained professionals who will suggest some strategies for you and provide you with names of people in your community who are equipped to help.
There are also a growing number of faith-based Christian treatment centers available. One of the objectives of experiencing rehab is to educate the client about the destructive behavior he is inflicting on himself. This is the start of both physical and spiritual recovery. If you keep “asking and seeking” you will find there are many resources and people who are happy to help.
If you found this article “Intervention: Somebody . . . Stop Me!” helpful please see our “Ask Joe” posts listed at the bottom and consider reading “Why Don’t they Just Quit? Hope for families struggling with addiction.”
Recent Amazon.com reviews:
Best book ever about addiction. Written by one whose done it and is recovering. Easy to read, not preachy, just honest. I recommend this book to anyone with an addict in their life! ~Lynda A
Got an addiction problem in your family? Read this book. Joe knows his stuff. This book helps you to better understand those who are dealing with friends and family that are addicted to drugs and alcohol. I have read several of these books but this one is the best. ~RJ
I, like many people, have some knowledge of what drugs and addiction are, but are clueless on what the process of recovery entails. This book does a great job in what it would take to help a loved one, who is an addict and is willing to get clean and stay clean. It also gives one hope that your loved one will survive the nightmare they are living through with their family. ~CG
MORE ASK JOE:
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> Should my husband “back off?”
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> How can I know if my addicted friend or loved one is telling the truth?