Author: Ken Seeley
When is it too late for an intervention? I believe as long as an addict is breathing it is never too late, you never give up. There is still time to save a life.
I believe this because I am a product of an intervention. I have the gift of being able to help people break the cycle, and that gift was given to me when an intervention was performed on me in 1989. I was addicted to crystal meth, alcohol and anything I could get my hands on. I believed I could stop on my own, but I was wrong. My employers sat me down with a professional interventionist and, in a loving way, told me I needed some help. Because of the intervention, I agreed to go into a treatment facility and have been clean since July 14, 1989.
I’m now an addiction interventionist and have been working in the field for most of my sobriety. I ended up in this line of work because of my own personal experience with addiction and because of my passion for helping others. Being able to help people break through the walls of addiction and denial is a gift that I will cherish until the day I die.
With addiction, there’s a wall of denial that needs to be broken through before the healing can begin. Like many other medical conditions, addiction can run in the family. Ten percent of the people in the world are born with a gene that makes them vulnerable to addiction. I had an incredible upbringing and I’m an addict while my sister is not. It’s the luck of the draw, so to speak.
Sometimes people blame the parents or the family. I work with hundreds of families all over the world. While some of them are difficult, just as many are loving parents, yet their child suffers with addiction. Sometimes parents are addicts, but the children are not.
It’s important that people who blame get more education. Certainly family behaviors and trauma can do damage and can magnify the addiction but that’s not the root cause of addiction.
Addicts can be the most selfish people in the world – when using – and people who love addicts often experience a lot of anger. That can be a healthy anger if they’re angry about the addiction. They have to separate the addiction and their loved one. Addicts aren’t bad people, they’re sick people. Instead of being angry with the addict, stand up in front of the addiction and say, “I love you, but I’m not going to love you to death.”
Many families and loved ones can be helped by participating in Al-Anon or counseling before, during and after the addict finds recovery. In order for lasting sobriety, the environment around the addict must change. When the family gets help for themselves, they can learn to support recovery and not the addiction.
Standing up to addiction isn’t easy. Between addiction and the human spirit, addiction is stronger, but families become unified, they can become stronger than the addiction. The individual cannot fight the addiction alone once it has gone to a certain level. That’s why there are treatment centers all over the world.
In America there are 23 million Americans suffering from addiction, and only one per cent of them get treatment on their own. The denial is so strong that it requires a combined effort.
Environment plays a huge part in people’s addiction. One has to create an environment that stops the addiction. To stop the addiction, the addict has to hit bottom and realize that he/she doesn’t want to live that way. That is when we come in to intervene and help raise the rock bottom of the addict so it does not result in jail or death.
We facilitate the healing process by getting as many family members, friends, co-workers or loved ones as we can, together in one room to confront the addict.
Most of the addict’s prayers are, “Please don’t let me wake up tomorrow. I don’t want to live this way.”
For some reason, when you have all these people in a room talking about how much they love the addict, it gives the addict a bit of hope and the will to want to stay alive.
There’s no cookie cutter formula for an intervention.
Doing an intervention on a prescription medication addict is completely different than on someone who is getting their drugs off the street. What addicts have in common is that they all need to hit some form of bottom in order to break through. Every addict hits bottom where using is not as fun as it used to be . When drug use is more devastating than wanting to seek help.
Professional interventionists help to create the type of rock bottom appropriate for a particular addict.
Every single addict who finally puts an end to their addiction – hits what the general public knows as “rock bottom”. But what exactly is “rock bottom”? And how many different ways are there to get to that painful, yet powerfully healing place? Here is what I have come up with:
HELPS: The five “rock bottoms” (Health, Emotional, Legal, Personal Finances and Spiritual) and why each of them works.
Health bottom: This is usually very effective at stopping the addiction, since it usually means the addict is confronted with failing health and left with no choice but to either quit or die.
Emotional bottom: This can be a variety of things, but it’s usually when addicts have pushed so many people from their lives that the emotional strain becomes too great for them to bear.
Legal bottom: This happens when the law intervenes. It’s when their addiction has caused them to break the law and they have some form of legal action being taken against them. This leaves the addict with no choice but to end the addiction or face criminal charges.
Personal finances bottom: This takes place when addicts have used up all their resources—money, possessions and everything they own—leaving them with nothing but their own addiction.
Spiritual bottom: This is something very personal between the addict and his or her God. It can be incredibly powerful, but also very difficult to predict.
All of these bottoms are equally powerful and each has the potential to stop an addiction in its tracks, so that the loved one can once again reclaim his or her life. Best of all, the five “rock bottoms” are easy to remember since they spell out the word “HELPS”—something that each rock bottom does either individually or collectively to cure the disease of addiction.
In an intervention, we teach the family how to determine what the rock bottom will be for an addict, and how to take steps to bring about his or her rock bottom on as many levels as possible on the day of the intervention
There is an emotional bottom which is what we deal with in a professional intervention. We see people quit drinking because they ended up driving drunk with their kids in the car and they don’t remember how they got home. For some, that’s enough of an incentive. We try to pull at an addict’s heart strings in order to beat the addiction.
If that’s not enough, then there’s the financial bottom. That’s what ultimately worked for me – I got fired from my job and had no way to support myself. A lot of families give the addict money. We get them to agree to stop doing that. We may go to the employer and ask him or her to support the intervention by cutting off the money. However, there are times when we have no control over this bottom, like when an executive or business owner has plenty of money to live on even if they stop working.
With the legal bottom, many people go to treatment because the courts say, “You either go to jail or you go into treatment.”
Every human being has a living nightmare, meaning a bottom, and we have to figure out how to make that nightmare a reality in a respectful and loving manner.
We only do this if they choose not to go into treatment after the letters are read and they did not hit that emotional bottom. The more bottoms that can be hit the better the chances are of success.
Often family members turn away because they simply feel they’ve done all they can. I believe the only time to close that door is when the addict stops breathing. Do whatever you can to pull your loved one back. Closing the door while your loved one is still alive is a lose-lose situation. The addict goes further into addiction, and the family members’ hearts still ache. Love doesn’t stop.
Interventions work. It worked on me and I have seen it work for countless families. But an intervention is only the beginning of the road to recovery for the addict and the family. There is a lot of work ahead for everyone.
But, the intervention alone is not the answer. My goal is to build a barrier between the addict and his disease. One way to do that is to have the addict agree to longer term treatment and to participate in a yearlong monitoring program upon release from treatment. We could greatly increase the length of sobriety for addicts through monitoring. We have evidence from other monitoring programs such as Drug Court and Doctor’s Diversion programs. For the high licensed professional and for those in trouble with the law, a forced participation in monitoring increases the odds of longer term sobriety. Why then is it ok for addicts who exit treatment to not be given the same opportunity for success?
As a provider of one aspect of the treatment continuum, I feel it is imperative that we do everything we can to increase the chances of addict’s success in recovery. Long term monitoring (one year minimum after treatment) is a positive step in that direction.
Interventions work, but an intervention is only the beginning of the road to recovery.
The payoff for me is seeing families heal and find the love and happiness they thought was gone forever. If you have someone you love that needs help, please contact a professional.