The Family Intervention Debate

Posted on January 26, 2010. Filed under: Intervention, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , |

Here’s some feedback from family members on the option of an intervention with Hayley.  (see my previous post, “Intervention vs AlAnon”)  My thoughts regarding an intervention were that the goal would be to come together as a family, express our love and concern for Hayley, and ‘break the ice’ in terms of diffusing her shame and reticence in communicating with us.  We just want to hear from her once in a while to know she’s alive and relatively ‘OK’.  And, if we can somehow give Hayley a reason to want to point herself towards recovery, then great.  At this stage in our family’s story, we would most likely not present Hayley with an ultimatum for treatment.  The general consensus is that she needs to initiate this step herself.

The logistics and reality of planning an intervention still seem impossible.  Two key family members would be flying in from California, and one from Seattle.  Scheduling this in terms of work and family is a major commitment.  Yet, Hayley doesn’t have a phone, and any communication with her is dependent on messages being transmitted via third party.  And then, if we actually do make contact with her, there is no guarantee that she would reliably show up for any kind of meeting.  In fact, past history has shown that she is paranoid and frequently changes meeting times/places at the last minute.  It’s all dependent on her ‘drug’ schedule and transportation arrangements, which are often ‘iffy’.

This from Brian, Hayley’s younger brother:

I don’t think any of us really know exactly what it will take for Hayley to seek treatment.  But I believe strongly that we must be willing to do all that we can to support her.

I think we should move forward with an intervention.  There are only a handful of things we haven’t tried which I feel may have some chance (however slight) of success, and I want to make sure we try them all.

The final decision needs to be Hayley’s, but there’s no chance for her success without all of our continued love and support.  In my mind, an intervention is the strongest articulation of this support.

I don’t think that Hayley can tolerate phone contact because of the shame associated with her addiction.  The less contact she has with us, the more her addiction / current state festers as this sort of shameful secret that she’s uncomfortable sharing.  My sense is that an intervention may help open the lines of communication by putting everything on the table.

We would all need to make sacrifices to make this happen (making phone calls, getting time off, plane tickets, the discomfort of the actual intervention) but what if it did make a difference for Hayley?  What if she did decide to go into treatment immediately, or a year later, or five due in part to the exchange?

Ultimately, I don’t think we have a lot to lose.

So, in my mind, the only real question is timing, as Jaclyn mentioned.  I don’t think there will be a “good” time.  So my general preference is the sooner the better.

It seems like next steps would be:
1) Dad to decide whether he would participate in the intervention and send out possible dates that work with his schedule
2) Mom to continue investigating what it would mean to actually execute the intervention and identify what preparations would be necessary

I love you all very much and feel blessed you have you in my life.  Talk soon.

This from Brad, Hayley’s dad:

Peggy, I think that the logistics of doing an intervention, whether it is to tell her how much we care about her or to try to coerce her into treatment, are daunting. If you add the possibility that she wouldn’t show up or that she would feel threatened by the whole thing causes me to reject this idea. I think that part of what we would try to accomplish by the intervention could be done by letters and pictures from each of us that could be delivered by Jill (Brad’s wife). If Hayely doesn’t show up for the meeting we could figure out another way to get her the letters. The letters would remind her how much we care about her and how this is affecting us all, and I don’t think that it would be too difficult to do. Having had Hayley leave the detox. program one day before she was to go into rehab on our last try at this makes me unwilling to support anything that is not initiated by Hayley on her own accord.

This from Judy, Brad’s sister, Hayley’s aunt, and a professional family therapist in California:
Hello all, I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to imagining what it would look like and feel like for Hayley to be forced into a meeting with her family to hear how much we love her and care about her when she can hardly tolerate the most minimal phone contact periodically. My image might be completely wrong but what I picture is her bolting almost immediately and running out of the room. I think it would be extremely overwhelming for her. If the intention of the intervention is not to get her into treatment but to share our ,concern then I fear that this large group setting, even if it is her family would not sit well with her. There may or may not be a desire for the family to share feelings together but I think it would increase H’s defensiveness…..fight or flight! Although I understand the feelings behind trying to ” give her some ideas of how/where to start” unfortunately, I don’t see any alternative to detoxing and then directly into treatment. So I don’t see the point of the intervention if it is not to have all that set for her to proceed. Having said that, I realize that she has given no indication of interest in treatment at this time, in fact, she is feeling particularly stable ….”new puppy, people she lives with care about her, using less heroin, clean house:, etc She also seems to have access to her drugs. I don’t think the timing is right. From things she has said at different times on the phone it seems she knows the family cares about her but she can’t imagine getting through her eating disorder and addiction and all the other problems she would have to face…a kind of lack of courage and faith that she has the strength to face all those obstacles. I guess the simple response is that I don’t think an intervention is indicated at this time. I am interested to see whether Hayley sees Jill when she is in Y***** as she had mentioned on the phone……. That would be a very good sign that she is wanting more contact and see where that takes us in thinking.
I’m reminded once again of how painful it is to accept that we have so little leverage (as Peggy said) to motivate Hayely right now.
Take care all. With much love,  Judy

To blog viewers, thanks for slogging through all of this.  I welcome your input regarding a potential intervention with Hayley and urge you to read the great comments from readers in response to my post, “Intervention vs AlAnon”.

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3 Responses to “The Family Intervention Debate”

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You need to do what’s right for you & your family, and only you can decide that.
Heather DID bolt when we did the intervention, AND called the police on us! I still feel we did the right thing FOR US.
And that’s just it, while many of us have similarities and the commonality of addiction, no two situations are the same.
If I were you, if I couldn’t decide, then I’d think that means I need more time to figure it out. Don’t let fear rush the decisions.
Keeping you & Hayley in my prayers.

We have never done a formal intervention with our son. We had an immediate, informal intervention on Christmas Day, 2008, when my brother announced that Bryan stole money from him the night before. It led to Bryan going into formal detox that afternoon and almost 6 months of on-again, off-again, clean and sober. I’m glad we did it when we did, but our situation was different, as he was still living with us. I think if your reason for the intervention is simply to tell her how much you all love her, it might not be the best approach (Dad’s comments and Judy’s comments ring of some truth for me). I so understand the feeling of helplessness and setting up a complicated intervention really makes you feel that you are doing something to help her. The truth is, she has to help herself; and in the meantime, you will all continue to love her. This is just my uneducated thoughts, as someone whose been dealing with their son’s addictive behavior and actions for two years. You and your family remain in my thoughts and prayers.

As I read this, I wanted to agree with your son and say “go for it”, but then read where someone else said they could imagine Hayley bolting out the door. I believe that’s exactly what my son would do in the same situation. He would get angry, feel ganged up on, and run.

I think what I like about the idea of intervention is letting the person know they are loved….not just by the immediate family but aunts, cousins, friends, etc. And a letter is sometimes the best way to communicate because it can be done in private and read over and over.

I wrote my son often while he was in jail and I’d guess that 90% of what I said went in one ear and out the other – but the other 10% he admitted made an impact on him.

I think all of us agree that the addict has to WANT recovery. But I still believe we can help them want it by reminding them that they are loved and valuable and that they can do it. But of course all this is easy for me to say because my son hasn’t had much of a chance to relapse yet. Time will tell.


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