Addiction creeps up on family members and alter their lives until someone volunteers to tell it like it is. The family of a person with addiction never decides to manage their addictions intentionally.
However, they start compensating in ways that they themselves don’t see. An addiction intervention for family member set the tone for a successful recovery process.
We see a prime example of this when a family financially takes care of an adult child. A natural transition to financial independence doesn’t have to come after college. A job change or a pandemic caused the person addicted to become financially dependent on their parents.
The family never intended to support their adult child this way. However, a chain of decisions over time set that dynamic in place. It starts small with parents paying for a cell phone bill and covering the cost of groceries. It then graduates to paying for an apartment while the adult child “gets on their own two feet.”
When the person addicted never gets to the point of financial independence, the family continues to support them.
Changing the Dynamics of the Family
This goes the other way with children who compensate for their parents’ addictions. Adult children of addicts pull away. They relocate to the other side of the country. After a few messy holidays, they don’t return home. The children have pulled away from their family unit due to their parent’s addiction.
The “line-in-the-sand” for families dealing with addiction moves time and again. Where drinking in the house was once not acceptable, the boundaries changes. No heroin in the house, or no drug dealers on the property. Thus, parents get backed into corners they never imagined.
Managing the addiction has taken the parents to a place where boundaries are consistently broken. This is not benefiting anyone.
But, an intervention is an inflection point. It is the opportunity for the family to tell the person what effect their addiction is having on them. This conversation is not the same as yelling ultimatums. No, it’s simply clarifying a new line in the sand or restoring old ones that had been crossed.
Interventions Reset Boundaries
An intervention resets boundaries such as restricting use in the house. Ultimately, the consequences of breaking these boundaries are redrawn. Everyone in the family recalibrates. So an understanding is reached as to what’s acceptable.
In an intervention, we draw these boundaries to motivate someone to change. The decision to reduce or cut off money to the person suffering will be evaluated. At this point, the family knows that they are funding a drug addiction which is counterproductive.
We frame the discussion during the intervention but not without one thing. We assure the person that the family’s support will always be there if they choose treatment. By choosing to continue to use, the reliance on mom and dad’s money is going to change. The change starts with immediate effect.
As the intervention process continues, more of these conversations will follow. But, when the level of recovery that someone achieves is not a level that the family supports, they need to have another conversation. This time, the family expresses what they’re comfortable giving at the current level of recovery the person is achieving.
When They Choose The Seemingly Easy Part
A common situation we see is that the person suffering doesn’t choose to go to treatment. They opt for what they believe is an easier path. So, they try a few 12-step meetings and see a therapist occasionally. At this minimum level of recovery, they hope for full support from the family.
However, the family sees the writing on the wall. Thus, it creates an opportunity where another intervention conversation can be helpful.
I encourage family members to support and celebrate any level of recovery. However, I also urge them to verbalize how this level of recovery affects them. Family members are not ready to fully repair relationships at this level. The person suffering needs to hear the truth.
When preparing a family for an intervention, I encourage the use of the following framework for stating their position:
What have you seen?
How do you feel?
What do you hope?
These are the first questions that we review in an intervention. However, we revisit them later on.
For example, a father continues to drink after going to a few AA meetings. His daughter can say “Dad, it’s great that you have been to a few meetings, but I see that you continue to drink. I can’t bring the kids over to the house if this behavior continues. I hope that you’ll begin a more intensive program.”
When someone is actively using, they hope no one notices. They don’t see the consequences of their actions and the way if affect others. In fact, many people with addiction believe they’re only hurting themselves. They don’t see the effect of their full dependence on their parents. They are blind to the pain it creates in the house every day or how they’ve driven their family away.
Intervention is a fair and formal process for a family to re-draw lines in the sand. The goal is for the family to support recovery and protect themselves if recovery is not achieved.
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.