By: Drew Horowitz, MA, LADC, LPCC, CIP
I’m frequently asked, “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen at an intervention?” or “Have you ever had a person hit you during an intervention?” These questions baffle me, yet they reveal how the general public views intervention.
Let me answer the second question first: Nobody’s ever hit me, and I don’t believe that would happen. Interventions aren’t rageful battlefields; the ones I facilitate are quite the opposite. Generally, there are emotions, tears and families coming together to focus on the solution. Families unite, driven as they are for change and willing to make sacrifices so their loved one can get professional, lifesaving care. Interventions are constructive and hopeful: a relief.
As for the worst thing I’ve ever seen, hardest by far is watching a family decide against doing an intervention. Having conducted hundreds around the US, I’ve personally watched the process work for so many. I’ve seen lives saved and families restored to happiness.
Which is why it floors me that only about 20 percent of families will learn about intervention and decide to proceed with the service. Why do nearly 80 percent decline. Well, they’re conflicted. They feel they’re betraying their loved one. They believe intervention is the very last option and they have not arrived at that point yet. They fear it won’t work and could cause a backlash. They’re overwhelmed and exhausted and lack the energy or will. These families stay on addiction’s disastrous rollercoaster for months and sometimes years, progressively falling apart as their fatigue, despair and mental health worsen. Meanwhile, their addicted loved ones suffer medical or legal consequences because they didn’t receive treatment. Any hope for change gets lost in a stew of family passivity, handwringing, and denial.
And for what? Fear of how their loved one might respond to a professional talking with them about getting help? Concern that the backlash would be worse than the individual continuing to use to the point of incarceration or death? Fatigue? Such justifications are similar to what substance users use to avoid getting the help they need, and families use them, too. Fear and rationalization keep everyone sick.
Families must find the strength to act. In 2020 alone, nearly 100,000 Americans died from an opioid related drug overdose. That is just opioid death, add on alcohol and other illicit drugs and the numbers increase dramatically! They don’t need to. Clinical intervention works. I see the beauty of it time and again. As interventionists we ask substance users to find the courage to seek help, the bravery to work through their illness. First, however, families need to find the backbone to invite us in the door.
If you work in the addiction field or know a family who has a loved one using substances, please encourage intervention. It is a highly effective process that saves lives!