Many of us have seen the shows “Intervention” and “Intervention Canada” and are surprised by what we see. The raw emotion of the family and the level of dysfunction can be shocking and traumatizing. What you see on television is not necessarily the entire picture. Because they only have one hour, the creators and editors are limited in the portions of the process they expose and let’s be real, they show the most dramatic and sensational aspects to keep their audience engaged.
The reality of a “Families Do Recover” Intervention is very different. The actual intervention is a very small part of the three day process. Much of the time is spent with the family deconstructing the family dynamics, educating family members about substance use disorder or addiction, and uncovering the role each family member plays in the family disease. It can be a challenging process for everyone because it is difficult to see how each person is affected by and contributes to the family system that encourages and feeds the addict, especially when they don’t see themselves as part of the addiction cycle. It has become a way of coping for everyone and as a family member, when you are “in it” it is difficult to find your way back to life and emotional health.
Where do we start? Day One of the intervention process is spent learning about substance use disorder and addiction. We cover topics like:
Families need to distinguish between being the cause and participating in the cycle. Participating means being part of the dynamic that helps the addiction thrive.
On Day Two, after digesting all the information from Day One, we take what we learned and relate it to the current family dynamic. We spend the day constructing family letters to the addicted loved one. We explore how each family member reacted and responded to the addicted loved one and decide what behaviours he or she will withdraw or change to entice the addicted loved one to go to treatment. We work together to write each letter in a clear and concise manner, being careful not to shame or degrade the addicted loved one. It is important the addicted loved one understands how much each individual family member love him or her and how painful and all-consuming his or her addiction is to everyone.
Being prepared is one of the keys to a successful intervention. The second part of Day Two is constructing Plan A and Plan B.
Plan A – When the addicted loved one says yes to treatment.
Families Do Recover will have a set treatment plan with a highly regarded treatment centre. This Recovery Plan is shared with the family so everyone understands where and for how long their loved one will be in treatment.
We will create a recovery plan for the family as well. It is critical that family members learn about their own patterns and work towards their own emotional recovery. This is the only way the addicted loved one can be supported and the whole family heal. It is challenging for an addicted loved one to enter recovery without the family members doing their work to change their behaviours. If the dynamic doesn’t change and the addicted loved one will get sucked back into the unhealthy family dynamics.
Plan B – When the addicted loved one says no.
This can be the hard reality for some families. It is heartbreaking, but all is not lost. We work together with each family member to support their own recovery while coming up with strategies to:
a) Stop enabling
b) Not react
c) Not get worn down by requests and wants
d) Set appropriate boundaries
e) Hold the appropriate boundaries
f) Take care of themselves
g) Change the dynamic from supporting addiction to supporting recovery for everyone
Day three is when the family delivers their letters. It is important the letters are read as written. The family member won’t get lost in the emotion of the addiction and their loved one’s predicament. Sometimes the loved one will agree to go to treatment immediately and sometimes everyone has to read their letters. It depends how ready the loved one is to give up. If the loved one accepts help, we move into action and get explain the treatment plan to him or her. Someone goes with the loved one to pack a bag if that hasn’t already been done. The Interventionist will take the loved one to treatment that day.
The family must be emotionally prepared for the loved one to decline help. It is heart breaking, and we have Plan B. The family must follow through with the consequences they shared in their letters and move forward. The Interventionist is available to help the family with After Care, education and support. It is important the family learns how to not enable the addicted loved one and allow them to find their bottom.
is a Vancouver-based Addictions Specialist and Family Therapist with training and experience in numerous areas related to healing and recovery from the devastation of addiction & alcoholism.