Al-Anon vs Intervention

Posted on January 18, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, AlAnon, Parent of an Addict, Treatment Centers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Here’s an interesting article by Benoit Denizet-Lewis in today’s The Daily Beast:  “How Alcoholics Anonymous Gets It Wrong” Most experts say you can’t change the people you love who are addicts, but Brad Lamm’s controversial book, How to Change Someone You Love: Four Steps to Help You Help Them, says intervention is the key. Denizet-Lewis takes a close look at the book and talks with the author.

You’re going to piss off a lot of people in 12-step circles with this book, says Lewis in an interview with the author.

“I know”, says Lamm.  “(But) if someone we care about is self-destructing, we are not acting with love if we don’t intervene. And I realize that the title of my book will be controversial. But if you boil down the work that I do with families, I help them change their loved ones.”

I encourage you to read this article, and then the comments that follow. The comments from readers are powerful and very convincing.  However, they made me very uncomfortable.

This article was very conflicting for me.  Ever since we learned that Hayley was smoking crack last June, living in a crack house, then ‘graduating’ to heroin, her younger brother, Brian, has been adamant about doing a family intervention.  However, the logistics of an intervention seemed impossible to me and overwhelming when she was living in the crack house.  How would we contact her, get her to reliably show up somewhere for an intervention, then get her to treatment?  She was suspicious of us – ashamed, and didn’t really want to be rescued. We barely had contact with her.  On top of all that, I was diligently following Al-Anon and my therapist’s advice, that Hayley had to be in charge of and initiate her own recovery if it were to be authentic.

I have learned that it can take up to two weeks to actually get an addict in to treatment, due to a variety of barriers.  It’s not necessarily a smooth, linear process, as shown on TV.  Once the intervention occurs, there are prerequisites before going to treatment:  the required TB testing/reading period (3 days), likely antibiotic treatment for abscesses, getting the addict in to a detox facility (3 – 7 days), then finding an available bed at a treatment center, transportation, admission interviews, etc.  And, the addict needs to be somewhere during this waiting period, out of their ‘using’ environment. All of these factors work against an addict’s desire or intention for recovery.  They chip away at their tenuous decision to seek treatment and capability to follow through with all that’s required.

Basically, I don’t know if I could have my daughter here with me, at home, while she was waiting to get in to treatment.  We tried it twice last summer, and it didn’t work.  Hayley just could not make it through the 3 – 5 days it took to get in to treatment.  She needed/wanted to use and left my house two times.  As she was leaving the second time, I told her that if she left, she couldn’t come back.  I had no control and felt totally powerless over her disease.  Since I’m the only family member in town, Hayley would have to come to my house after an intervention. What it boils down to is, I’m terrified of and intimidated by my own daughter.  If she were here with me, I’d feel I couldn’t leave her alone, couldn’t trust her, would be worried that I was saying/doing something that would trigger her – in essence, ruin the whole intervention attempt.   I’m just not sure I could do it – be strong enough to adequately monitor my addict daughter for a few days in order to get her in to treatment.  Yes, she should be a willing participant and want treatment badly enough to follow the “rules” – but, I’m not sure she could – or would.  She never has – not prior to being a heroin addict, let alone now, as an active addict.

And, it’s not as if Hayley is in denial about her addiction.  However, Brian’s point was that she needed to see us all come together and profess our love for her, and tell her what she means to us – so she would have a reason to want to get clean/sober.  And, we, as a broken family, may need to come together to unify, express our love and concern for not only Hayley, but for one another.

It is true – – – I don’t think Hayley thinks or feels she has anything or anybody to recover for.  So, the looming question is – – – should we try an intervention?  I’m not sure her father would participate, though if we insisted, he probably would.  It’s just so difficult to get everybody together.  Brad and Brian would have to get time off from work and fly several thousand miles from California.  Jake isn’t as far away, but is out of the country a lot on business, and has a young family.  All the planning would be up to me – – – and, then, what if we couldn’t actually get Hayley to show up for the intervention?  As you can tell, I get overwhelmed with the logistics and details of an intervention.  I’m a bit of a wreck just thinking about it.

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13 Responses to “Al-Anon vs Intervention”

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I got a lot out of reading the comments about the book, posted at the end of the article. They really ran the gamut. Some of them perpetuated a lot of misconceptions about AA and Alanon, but there were great responses, too. As my mom used to say “Leave me alone with my prejudices. Don’t confuse me with the facts!” Reading the literature, working the steps, and going to meetings reveal the truth. But, there are no answers that cover every situation and no magic. If it were easy or obvious, there would be no such thing as addiction. Maybe the only part that is universal is the heartbreaking part.

Hi Mom, I read the article and got half way through the comments. My opinion is there are lots of these kind of books out there. What is his success rate? I could write a book, but that doesn’t I know what I’m talking about. People pointed out in the comments that 7 years is not long as far as sobriety goes. Can you tell I think the book is another “fad” for the eager, desperate people who love an addict? 12 step programs don’t work for everyone, they don’t claim too (unlike the claims this guy makes) and I know people in recovery with all kinds of methods.
But from all my research, AA has proven results, results that can actually be tracked. Why? If someone really applies themselves to “working” the program, they change internally–and permanently.

Your post sounds more like you trying to convince yourself you have done “everything”. I’ve been there. The addict holds you hostage. You think they may die (and they might) and you left a stone unturned. These feelings you have to work out for yourself, no one else can tell you what to do. Our family is done with trying to change the addict (we tried everything but an intervention. Like the others, jail was our intervention). I don’t believe it is possible. Myself, Andrew’s dad, and Andrew’s sister decided we would no longer put our lives on hold for his choices. End of (our) story.

Good luck with your decision.

Hi Peg, I understand the concept of feeling intimidated and terrified by your addict child. we’ve not had to use intervention here. Our interventionists have always been the police! But seriously, talk to a professional about it. Crap…I have no answers today. But I’m here visiting you 🙂

I am reading that book after seeing him on a show (can’t remember which one) and being very impressed with all he had to say. I have always had conflicting views on the 12 Steps mainly because any group that is so adamant there there way is the only way or the best way scares me. I know its helped a lot of people but I personally know some ex-addicts that didn’t use NA that have been drug free for years. As for an intervention…in my case jail is the consequence if he uses again.

Thanks, Barbara. Guess I should get the book and read it myself. I just don’t seem to have the confidence to decide what is ‘best’ for Hayley. It may boil down what I need to do for myself – – – try everything before backing off completely and letting her find her own way.

An intervention is not just the couple hour meeting they show on television. It is a process.
Ours, unfortunately is taking LONG – b/c Heather has so much money. In all the years our interventionist (out of Chicago) has been in business only 2 didn’t go immediately into treatment (guess H makes 3). Of those 2 one eventually did, the other never did. It’s a choice you have to make. I recommend calling around and talking to some different interventionists before making a decision and getting as much info as you can from them. If you choose to go that route then, choose the one you felt most comfortable with.
In our case (with a Florida rehab) she would go IMMEDIATELY to rehab.
We were told you can’t wait at all – if you do the intervention at any point they want to go to rehab – you help them pack and go.
This is my experience.
Interesting, I just ordered that book last night!
Phone calls to interventionists are free to find out – it helps to talk to someone vs. just read on the internet etc.

Had trouble posting on your blog site – don’t know why. Thanks for your input. Let me know what you think of the book.

If you get an interventionist from a reputable treatment center he or she will help you speed up the process to avoid these days in your home. I have done this with Florida rehabs without an interventionist. The only trouble is you have to pay for both the rehab and the interventionist.

My daughter went many times but always relapsed right after treatment. I would heartily suggest at least one try at treatment if only for your own peace of mind. They have payment plans and loans.

Behaviorial Health of Palm Beach treated me the best. They always quoted Palm Beach Institute so I assume they are good as well. I can’t reccomend the other centers we have worked with.

Two of my rehab mother friends used interventionists that were successful at getting their kids into treatment. Their two kids actually stayed clean for I think 2 years now.

If you want me to I will contact them for the names of the interventionists.

You will always get conflicting information. At least, I have always recieved conflicting information.

Thanks for this info, Anna. It’s very helpful. I live in Washington State, so probably would try to find a good interventionist closer to home.

Anna – I’d like to visit your blog, but there’s some kind of error that keeps coming up when I try – that it’s not an authenticated site and could be a scam. Please let me know what your blog address is. Thanks.

OM Gosh! I think in some cases, perhaps the early on ones, intervention could be helpful to let the addict know that they are loved and the whole family is willing to do whatever necessary to assist in the addicts recovery.

That being said, I think that a long term addict is not interested in sobriety. I don’t know that means that they never WILL be interested, just that they usually aren’t interested. And, for them, I think intervention would be a complete and total waste of emotion, energy and resources.

Has anyone out there done intervention that actually WORKED? Let’s hear some success stories to help this decision out, or even lack of success stories?

My daughter has had two “interventions” through her sponsors when she was still in NA. Both times she went into rehab, both times she relapsed. I am still convinced, unless they want to go on their own, it’s not going to work. They are doing it for whomever, but not for themselves. Just my oinion after disappointing experiences.

Thanks for your input, Helga. I’m really ambivalent about a possible intervention. Am I just too anxious about it, selfish, and/or don’t want to manage all the details involved? Another part of me feels that I have to try everything before I can truly step back and let my daughter find her own way. My guilt also plays a huge factor – that I haven’t done enough, contributed in some way to my daughter’s drug addiction and ‘hole in her soul’, that it’s just easier not to intervene, and carry on with my own life. I don’t have a very reliable internal barometer regarding these things. It’s hard to sort out what is my stuff and what would truly ‘help’ vs enable my addict daughter. Again, thank you for your comments – I always appreciate your input.


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