“You can’t help anyone if they don’t want help.” I can’t count the number of times I have heard that statement from family, friends and or coworkers who would rather tolerate the inappropriate behavior of an individual under the influence of alcohol or other drugs than confront them and get them to consider getting them help.
Getting a person who is addicted is not about telling them they have to go to meetings of A.A. or N.A. but rather it is a process of taking time with them to talk about their behavior as it relates to their use and abuse of mood-altering chemicals.
Often, clergy are called upon to “talk sense to him(her)” and get him/her to go to treatment. The sad part of this is that the majority of clergy are insufficiently educated about the disease of addiction [and, once again, a number of professionals are beginning to treat it as a medical or behavior issue].
There are a number of ways to intervene on a person who is addicted. One way might be to tell them, ‘I’m concerned about your use of _ and I’m praying you get yourself some help.” Another way is to tell the individual is “Your behavior when you are using is embarrassing, it is unacceptable, and you need to either go to treatment or you will face the consequences.”
And then there is the intervention which is a well-planned event. The family (boss, coworkers) are taught about addiction as a disease and in so doing prevents the pointing of the finger at a person and telling them to get “will power.” [If will-power worked then anyone could control vomiting or diarrhea]
Once they have been made aware of the disease, then they need to make a list of behaviors about which they plan on confronting the individual. E.g. “Tom, you come to work late on Monday mornings, sometimes very late, and you reek of alcohol.” “Joe, there has been a series of problems on the floor and people around you know that you are getting High.” “Daddy, you have promised to come to my game and each time you had excuses and I know you stayed at home and got drunk.” “Father, you preached about Christmas at all three Masses and it was Easter.” It is best if each person writes down what it is they want to say so that they cannot be sidetracked by the individual.
“I can’t tell him/her that. If I did, he’d scream at me.” Fear of what the person might or might not do should be addressed prior to the actual intervention. It might take a couple of ‘dry runs” to get those planning the intervention to become reasonably comfortable. The intervention has to be in the hands of a person who is respected by the person who is being intervened upon or a professional. This person has to be able to tell the person to be quiet, to listen, to know that what is being told is because the person is loved and cared for. Most interventions in which I have been involved took place before 9a.m.
Once the person something has heard from everyone, then the “M.C.” states something to the effect: “Thank you for listening to everyone. I know this was not easy for you. It was not easy for them either. I hope you now realize how concerned we are about your welfare and we want you to get well. We have talked among ourselves and this is what we want you to do. We have arranged for you to go into rehab today for four weeks. After that we want you to go to a 12step program. You are not in this alone. While you are doing this, we will also attend the 12Step program that is best for us.”
Not all interventions end with the person going off to treatment, or committing to go to A.A. It can happen that the person says something to the effect “And if I don’t do this what are you going to do about it.” The group need to be ready with their answer. “If you don’t then you no longer work for us.” “If you don’t then you can take your suitcase which is packed and leave.” “If you don’t then you will be picked up by the police and you will go to jail.” “I will press charges and you will go to prison.”
An intervention can also end with the person saying something to the effect; “You people have no idea what you are talking about. I’m leaving.” And, he may very well get up and leave but not before he is told the consequences will follow.
Consequences have to be such that they can be implemented almost immediately. The person being intervened upon has to realize that his behavior under the influence of alcohol or drugs is such that these consequences will be implemented, that his behavior will no longer be tolerated.
An intervention is not for the faint of heart. It has to be conducted with tough love and good planning.