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
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
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
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.