by Jeff Jay
One of the most pervasive myths in our culture is that an alcoholic must hit bottom before he or she can be helped.
One of the most pervasive myths in our culture is that an alcoholic must hit bottom before he or she can be helped. But what is hitting bottom? You might hear an old hand say, "I didn't sober up until I lost everything: the job, the home, the wife, everything. Then they threw me in jail, and I knew I was at the end. I finally surrendered."
There can be many things that intervene on an alcoholic, that will break their denial and help them to accept help. It may be the loss of a job, a relationship, or health. It may be a legal or financial problem. In the example above, a series of unconnected and disorganized interventions took place to finally break the alcoholic's denial. This is commonly called "hitting bottom," but it is not the only way to start the recovery process.
Intervention is a way of raising an alcoholic's bottom, so that they can get help now, before there are any more negative consequences.
The alternative is a structured family intervention. Intervention is a way of raising an alcoholic's bottom, so that they can get help now, before there are any more negative consequences.
My wife Debra and I are the authors of the new Hazelden guidebook on this subject. It is titled, Love First: A New Approach to Intervention for Alcoholism and Drug Addiction. In it we ask a simple question: "If alcoholics and addicts won't accept help until they're ready, what will it take to get them ready?"
Waiting for an alcoholic to hit bottom can be dangerous, or fatal. In the forward to our book, former senator George McGovern talks about the tragic death of his daughter Terry as a result of her alcoholism. He writes: "We were repeatedly told by well-meaning, supposedly informed friends that we would have to wait until Terry really hit bottom.' The trouble is that when she hit bottom,' she died."
If someone you love is suffering from addiction, whether this means alcohol, prescription medication, street drugs, or destructive behaviors; there is something that you can do about it.
If someone you love is suffering from addiction, whether this means alcohol, prescription medication, street drugs, or destructive behaviors; there is something that you can do about it. You may not be able to control another person's actions, but you can have a tremendous influence.
First, you can learn about the illness. Knowledge is power when dealing with this disease. Next, you can identify and stop your own enabling behaviors. These are often subtle and unconscious. Most families, operating out of simple love and concern, will do all the wrong things when trying to grapple with this illness.
The next step is to put together an intervention team. This means contacting the most significant people in the addict's life, and getting them all on the same page. Most family interventions fail because everyone has a different theory of addiction and a different approach to the problem. This is a recipe for disaster.
When the intervention team is organized and committed to action, detailed preparations must begin. I like to say that there are three keys to a successful intervention: Plan, Plan, Plan. We'll describe these plans, and provide a checklist that you can consult.
One of the primary goals of an intervention is to preserve the dignity of the alcoholic. Ultimately, they must agree to accept help. Our role is to help to help break their denial, so that they can make the best choice.
Everyone has heard of "tough love," but with a "love first" approach, you may never have to resort to a tough bottom line.
In "Love First," we have developed a powerful new technique for using love to disarm the addict's defense system, and to break denial. Everyone has heard of "tough love," but with a "love first" approach, you may never have to resort to a tough bottom line.
I have helped to facilitate interventions for many years now. It is a beautiful process, and one in which you, the friend or family member, can be a powerful instrument of God's love in the world. People suffering from addiction are not able to stop permanently on their own. And God doesn't usually work by lightning bolt. He works through people. People just like you.
Let me leave you now with this thought. When facing alcoholism and drug addiction, we need a miracle. And God sent you.
This article copyright ©2000 by Jeff Jay. Excerpts from "Love First," copyright ©2000 Hazelden. Used by permission.
Jeff Jay and Debra Jay are professional interventionists and authors. They will answer your brief questions about alcoholism and chemical dependency personally via e-mail. You may also arrange for a professional consultation by telephone. For more on Love First, visit their website.
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