Addiction is a Response to Trauma: My Halloween Story

Addiction is a Response to Trauma

I don’t know how a trauma in my family a few generations back might show up in my life, that is until I recently passed up buying a pumpkin. I stood in front of a beautiful pumpkin at a farm stand. It was marked half price and I stood in front of it, frozen, unable to decide if I wanted to buy it. I walked away from that pumpkin feeling sick to my stomach.

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Going to Recovery Meetings Isn’t Optional

I don’t like to do a lot of things in my adult life, and yet every day I do them.  From courses in college I hated, to going to the grocery store and unloading the dishwasher, adulthood is filled with tasks that range from mundane to miserable. Everyday I do things that I don’t like or want to do and I still get them  done and the same goes for attending 12-step meetings.  I have to do it. Still, people entering into recovery have a lot to say about why they don’t like 12-step meetings, why they don’t want to go, and why it won’t work for them.

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New Boundaries After Battling Addiction

Families know in their guts that something isn’t right. When they address the concerned person, a process of gaslighting, or turning the warranted concern around on the person that voiced it.  As a result, loved ones start to question their premonition and offer the person the benefit of the doubt all the while, the addiction is unknowingly in control of everyone affected.

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Time-Line and Syllabus for an Intervention Agreement

Changing the behavior of an addicted person depends on a well-constructed plan.  Intervention is not a one-off as seen on TV confrontation.  Think of three significant marks of time: before, during, and after rehab.

Before a treatment center placement, pre-intervention planning takes place.  This planning includes: education on addiction and recovery, assessing the entire situation, identifying all crises, goal setting for treatment, identifying and budgeting a treatment program.

While the entire process is an intervention, colloquially the “intervention”, is the summary of time that direct engagement with the addicted person (AP).   There are escalating levels of confrontation:

Level 1: Family preparation, some AP’s join this process

Level 2: Soft confrontations from family and friends

Level 3: Hard confrontation – an “intervention”

Level 4: Emergency services, hospital placement

It is always preferable to operate at the lowest level of confrontation, if there is an escalation to a higher level, the goal is to return to a lower level as fast as possible.  In cases of immediate danger entry to the process might be at Level 3 or 4.  Friends and employers doing interventions often enter at Level 3.

It is typical that pre-intervention preparation and getting to a treatment center placement takes a week or two.  In urgent cases that start at Level 3 or 4, preparation may by truncated and educational content returned to after placement in a facility.

During Treatment Placement

Admission to treatment is the primary goal, but a lot will come up during a treatment center stay.  Most commonly the AP has a strong desire to leave treatment after detox and they make no significant plans for what to do after rehab.

While your family member is in a facility, we will schedule one or two weekly sessions to deal with common objections that the AP will present as reasons that they should leave.  In the second week of rehab, the family needs to start preparing for after-care: considering the living situation that the AP will return to and additional recommended treatment.

Typically, rehab is 4 weeks long.  During the preparation for discharge the intensity of our work will be high, most likely daily conversations.

After Treatment

In most situations, we don’t want an AP to return directly home after treatment.   Considerations need to be made as to a safe living situation for them and for continued treatment.  We will discuss options for sober living and intensive out-patient treatment.

At this point, some families continue to work with us on a weekly basis.

The below timeline is an estimation of the schedule of calls, accompanying reading and video resources, and time-line of treatment.

Resources for family eduction are:
“Navigating Recovery Ground School: 12 Lessons to Help Families Navigate Recovery”, Adam Banks Recovery blog posts, and Youtube videos.

Intervention Syllabus


Day 1

Day 2

Agreement Stage

Day 3 Preparation

  • Topic:  Pre-Intervention
  • Actions: Preparation for Intervention with all concerned individuals.
  • Read: Myth: They need to Hit Rock BottomZoom Intervention
  • Navigating Recovery Book: Lesson Eight: Understanding Intervention
  • Video: Stages of Change
  • Objective: Solid plan in place for invitational Level 1 Intervention, and course of treatment, insurance coverage and financial plan for treatment complete.

Day 4 Level 1 Intervention

Day 5 Level 1 Intervention, Part 2

If AP is not engaged, evaluation for Level 2 or Level 3 intervention

Level 2: Soft Confrontation: When an individual shows little interest in pursuing recovery, we continue to work ahead of them.  Meetings take place in-person or over Zoom and are focused on creating immediate plans for recovery. Level II includes the presence of an expanded network – such as grandparents, old friends, former teachers, and work colleagues – to strengthen the collective voice.

Level 3: Hard Confrontation: The person of concern is confronted by an intervention network composed of the interventionist, family, and friends. This stage is a bit closer to the televised interventions where loved ones gather to express their concern and exert pressure.

Treatment center placement

Shift to weekly family recovery calls

Week 2

It is likely that AP will want to leave treatment early, prepare family for second intervention

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

It is likely that AP will not want to engage in after-care, prepare family for third intervention

Increased in intensity of family involvement around safe discharge and aftercare plans


Week 6

  • Topic:  Opposite of Addiction is Connection
  • Objective: As the AP becomes healthy, the family shifts from caregivers to partners in recovery.
    Opposite of Addiction is Connection

AP is engaged with an aftercare plan, coaching, Breathalyzer and or drug testing, IOP, Mutual Aid meetings

Dynamic shifts from direct concern of AP to supportive role

Week 7

Week 8

Week 9

Week 10

  • Topic:  Relapse Prevention / Triggers
  • Objective: Family and AP discuss warning signs of relapse and relapse prevention techniques, as well as make a plan for potential return to use.
  • Read: Thoughts and Triggers, Family Recovery Agreement

Week 11

  • Topic:  Family Systems and the Roles we Play
  • Objective: Identify where support was given to addiction (“enabling”), and damage caused to family.
  • Read: The Roles we Play

Week 12

Week 13

  • Topic:  Steps 8, 9, 10
  • Objective: Family often wants “my apology”, how will the AP repair damage of the past to the family.
  • Read: Steps 8, 9 10

Week 14

  • Topic:  The Promises
  • Objective: “Sometimes quickly sometime slowly” change will materialize.
  • Read: The Promises from the Big Book

Week 15

  • Topic:  Family Successes and Strengths
  • Objective: Highlight what the family strengths are; build on long-term recovery plan.
  • Read: Qualities of a Strong Family

Families that look at recovery as a process and dedicated time to adhere to a defined plan have high success rates.

About Adam Banks

Adam Banks is a certified interventionist and the owner of Adam Banks Recovery. After receiving an MBA from the University of Chicago, Adam built a company that was later acquired by United Health Care. His discipline and attention to detail comes from his former career as an airline pilot, holding an ATP, the FAA’s highest license.

Today, Adam is dedicated to helping others achieve long-term sobriety. His work has guided executives, pilots, and physicians on paths to recovery. Adam brings families together through a loving and inclusive approach.

Adam has authored four books on addiction. His recent work, Navigating Recovery Ground School: 12 Lessons to Help Families Navigate Recovery, educates families on the entire intervention process. He also offers a free video course for families considering an intervention for a loved one. 

Adam is available for alcohol and drug intervention services in New York, Long Island, the Hamptons as well as nationally and internationally. 

ROI on Addiction Recovery

ROI on Addiction Recovery

When putting a dollar value on recovery, consider how much money you would pay to change everything in your life. How much would you pay to keep your children? How much would you pay to keep your job? How much would you pay on your child’s behalf to totally change their life? How much would you pay to have four more hours in a day?

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