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The Intervention

The Intervention

REHAB ADDICTION INTERVENTION is a procedure by which an addict is guided into a treatment facility or counselling session in an objective, caring and non-judgmental way; the interventionist being diplomatic yet assertive.

Family members or loved ones will find no easy way to guide the addict into care as the addict is more often than not caught up in a cycle of denial and fear, fuelled by shame and resentment.

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The addict suffers deep inner pain and is usually too proud to admit this or ask for help. For addicts, taking drugs is a means of coping with all the emotional, physical and mental anguish experienced and this keeps them trapped in the vicious cycle of addiction. The family has reached their wits end and no longer know what to do; their lives have been turned upside down. They’re worried sick, fearing what news the next phone-call or knock on the door will bring. Their every waking moment becomes weighed down with serious concerns, fears, frustrations, emotional trauma and a desperate need to resolve the drug situation. By this time, the family or loved one believes that the drug addict has been lying to them, deceiving them, manipulating them and mouthing empty promises. The family may have tried to sit the drug addict down in the past, in an attempt to confront the drug problem but were only met with anger, hostility, lies and the addict minimising the problem. Thus, the family has become apprehensive about confronting the addict, fearing that s/he might leave home, and that anxiety would be more difficult to deal with than the psychodrama caused by the drug problem.

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Where to from here? The family or loved ones’ patience has expired, the emotional trauma has become unbearable and they start questioning their own sanity. This is when an intervention is necessary. A professional interventionist could be a social worker, counsellor, psychologist, or psychotherapist; the objective being to encourage the drug addict to accept help. Although the family is definitely involved, a professional interventionist is necessary to guide the process. The following is a real-life scenario of an intervention process with me, the drug addict and his family. The names of the persons in this intervention example have been changed to protect their identities. The Smith family has been going through turmoil for the past four years and they had reached a point where they did not know what to do next in order to help their son, Bobby, recover from his heroin addiction. They had confronted him before about his weight loss, irregular sleeping patterns, job losses, items going missing from the household, alienating himself from family functions and secluding himself in his bedroom.

The family had found drug paraphernalia, like burnt, folded up square strips of foil, rizla paper and broken lighters. But Bobby had continued to deny knowledge of how it had got into his room or in his pockets. The family could see how Bobby’s life was falling apart but he had an excuse for everything and would say anything to take the pressure off himself under the circumstances. Bobby had not been to a rehabilitation facility before nor had he had any form of formal counselling for his drug addiction as he had, to that point, played down the extent of his drug addiction. He had told his family that he uses dagga occasionally but that’s as far as he went. His family had never caught him using drugs but all the signs and symptoms of his heroin abuse were quite evident. But his denial was so deep-seated that he couldn’t see his self-destruction.

When the Smith family contacted me, we arranged a meeting where they gave me a brief insight into his personality type and described the road that had led to his drug addiction. I was told that Bobby is aggressive and rebellious in his behaviour and any form of confrontation would make him react aggressively. The family had been through this before without success. It was evident that I needed to approach the situation with kid gloves as anything I might say could make him block himself off and become defensive. If Bobby had had a passive personality type and yet in complete denial, the entire family and I could have had a confrontational session putting him figuratively against the wall and forcing him to shed his mask of denial. But this situation called for a diplomatic approach, bearing in mind that our goal was to get him into rehab by his own free will and not under duress. I had asked Bobby’s family to write short messages to him, outlining their concern for him as parents and siblings without expressing anger or accusations because of what he had done in the past. I also asked them to use ‘I’ statements rather than ‘you’ statements, for example: ‘I feel sad to see your life disintegrate’, ‘I feel you have so much potential as a human being minus the drugs’ etc. Patronising, ‘you’ statements would anger him and make him rebellious – for example, ‘You make me feel sad with your actions and behaviours’. Once those family notes had been collected we arranged for a meeting at the Smith family home. Bobby was not aware that this meeting had been arranged as the chances were that he would either have ducked the appointment or could have prepared answers to avoid the intervention process.

We wanted to catch him completely off-guard. It was risky but the goal was to break his denial and get him to admit himself into rehab. When I got to the Smith home, Bobby was the one who opened the door. I introduced myself but did not tell him the full intent of my visit. I asked if we could sit somewhere private. There I spoke about my past and how I got to do the work I am doing without for one moment putting any pressure on him to admit anything. I had to come across as his equal and not in any way make him feel inferior until he opened up and confessed his heroin addiction. I then asked him what the drugs were really doing for him. He said, “It’s doing nothing for me.” I then asked, “Are drugs giving you more pain or pleasure?” He first said it gave him pleasure then he stopped and corrected himself and said that it was giving him more pain. I then asked him what he had achieved in life thus far by being a drug addict. He replied that he had achieved nothing – “I am only going down”. I then asked him: “Have you become a slave to the drug?” He admitted that he had become a slave. This conversation was breaking his denial and the final punch line question was: “Do you love yourself more or the drugs more?” He responded: “I love myself more; I hate drugs.” I then took out the notes each of his family members had written and read them to him. This broke down his resistance even further as the drugs had deluded him into believing that his family did not care for him. I then posed the big question of what he thought was the best way to resolve his drug addiction. He said that rehabilitation seemed like the most viable answer.

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The intervention went well and his whole attitude towards life changed at that point; the future seemed promising as he could see that a path going forward had been opened. It is necessary for us, as concerned family members or loved ones, to take the initiative that will bring about a turn-around in the life of the drug addict as s/he is too firmly trapped by the addiction to start the process. The addict is the one doing the wrong and hurting him- or herself but, under the circumstances, it is still necessary that we make the first move. The levels of anger and frustration sometimes become unbearable and giving up is the easiest thing to do but we should persevere for the sake of the addict. The family and loved ones will, in most cases, have to bend over backwards to finally achieve the longed-for breakthrough that is so crux longed-fore drug addict’s recovery process. Unfortunately, the family and loved ones need to weather the hardship, pain, emotional trauma, material losses and abuse in order to eventually achieve stability. There are many families out there that will find themselves in the scenario depicted above. Giving up is not a solution. Remember, with perseverance and commitment a successful recovery can be achieved.