“The solution for addiction cannot come from a mind-controlled by alcohol or other drugs. It must come from an outside source. Because we are the people who clearly see the problem, it is our job to bring a moment of enlightenment to the alcoholic. But first, we need to learn a language the alcoholic will understand.” ~ Jeff Jay, Love First: a Family Guide to Intervention If you would’ve asked anyone, my wife and I had the perfect marriage. From the outside, we appeared to have it all – I had a good job, my wife was a happy stay-at-home mom to our daughter, and any visitor to our home enjoyed wonderful hospitality. But behind the façade was an uglier truth. My wife was an alcoholic, and I didn’t know what to do.
Loving an Alcoholic Is Painful
As I would learn much later, alcoholism, like any addiction, is a disease of the brain. Well…her disease was driving me crazy. Due to the embarrassment, shame, and fear that I felt, I was constantly distracted and on edge:
- I tried to account for every penny that we spent, so she couldn’t “sneak” bottles.
- I would come home at lunch to see if she’d been drinking.
- I turned down extra money on bonus projects so I could be at home, keeping an eye on her.
- I would search the house while she was asleep.
- There were endless fights, broken promises, ignored ultimatums, and empty threats.
I was so preoccupied with her drinking that it was affecting my job and my everyday sanity. But still, I held on, hoping for something to change, even though there was no reason that it should.
What Motivated Me to Act
Then one day, I came home early. She was passed out drunk, our daughter was in her crib, and there was food scorching on the stove. It hadn’t caught fire yet, but it would have, within a very short time. Our house could have burned down, and my wife and daughter could have died. I had to do something, so I called my company’s healthcare provider to find out about rehab options. I know that I should have done it sooner, but I was too embarrassed. I thought I could handle it myself. When I found out that we were covered, I started making phone calls to recovery facilities in my area. I was astonished to learn how overwhelming the problem with addiction must be in our area. Most facilities were completely full, with a waiting list that was weeks, if not months, long. When I was finally able to locate one with an opening, they told me that they could hold a slot for 72 hours, but she would have to be the one who checked herself in. I couldn’t do that for her. When I told them that I thought that might be a problem, the intake specialist suggested that perhaps the family needed to hold an intervention to convince her.
What Are Addiction Recovery Interventions?
At the time, I only understood the term “intervention” in very vague terms. I was put in touch with a local professional interventionist who agreed to see me that morning. It was explained to me that an intervention is a loving but firm meeting between the alcoholic/addict and your loved ones where new boundaries and standards are established. An intervention has two main goals –
- To compel the substance abuser to immediately begin professional structured addiction recovery treatment
- To “detach with love”, focusing on the health and welfare of the family as a whole, instead of on the substance abuser. In this way, the addict/alcoholic is no longer protected from the natural consequences of their own actions. The family is no longer “enabling” their addiction.
I was told that interventions are one of the most effective techniques that a family can use when they have a loved one abusing drugs or alcohol. It is also one of the most ignored, usually due to shame, embarrassment, or simple ignorance about the disease of addiction. I was told to look at how an intervention helps alcoholism like I would with other diseases. For example, if I had a loved one with heart disease, and their life was in danger – if they had a heart attack – I would immediately start CPR until I could get them to a hospital. An intervention is CPR for sobriety. It is a life-saving step that gets them to the next step – recovery. We started making phone calls.
Getting the Family Together
I thought that this was going to be difficult. Her mother and her father had been divorced for years, and usually had no reason to be in the same room together. Her father was even more of an issue because he was an alcoholic himself. He was in complete denial about his problem, and because he lived alone, there was no one to tell him any different. To my complete surprise, they both agreed to drop everything and come over that evening. You see, I thought that I was dealing with my wife’s alcoholism alone, but in reality, it was a family disease that had everyone worried. We all put our differences aside to come together for her.
Holding the Intervention
That evening, we all had a meeting with my wife – me, her parents, and the interventionist. It’s strange, even though we had never talked about it when my wife saw the four of us there, she knew what was up. She instantly became defensive, but after the interventionist spoke to her and told her why we were there, she sat down and listened. The presence of the professional made all the difference. I don’t think she would have acquiesced so easily if only the family have been present. We all read the short letters that the interventionist has made us write –
- Her father talked about how he loved his little girl and how sad he was that the only thing they seem to have in common anymore was drinking. He said that he had better hopes for her and that if she wouldn’t get help, he believed that she was going to die.
- Her mother talked about loving the person that she knew my wife could be. She said it was heartbreaking to watch her destroy herself with alcohol. She told her that she hoped that my wife would accept the gift of treatment, or else she would have to stop accepting phone calls and visits, for her own peace of mind.
- When it was my turn, I reassured my wife that I loved her with all my heart. I told her that she was an excellent mother, but that alcohol was destroying our marriage and putting our daughter at risk. I told her that I had arranged a rehab program, but she would have to go voluntarily. I said if she didn’t, I was going to have to take steps to protect myself and our daughter.
There were a lot of tears. It was a cathartic experience because we got to say all of the things that we had been feeling. They needed to be said. Even more, my wife needed to hear them. At the end of it all, the interventionist ass my wife if she were accept help. She said yes. She left for inpatient treatment that very night.
How Is Life Today?
It’s hard to believe that was 15 years ago. Today, our daughter is a teenager, and she has three younger sisters. The life that we live in today was unimaginable to me when she was drinking every day and I was responding with insanity. There have been many bumps and bruises along the way, but my wife has been sober for years, and we are all the better for it. We live a “normal” life, which is all anyone can ever ask for. Without exaggeration, I can say that the intervention and the subsequent alcohol rehabilitation treatment saved my wife’s life and kept my family intact. Northpoint Recovery can also help you when you feel your situation is hopeless, because of someone’s addiction to drugs and alcohol. As Idaho’s premier drug and alcohol inpatient rehabilitation facility, there are personalized programs of recovery that can help, no matter what you are going through.