Having a specific goal is necessary before you can begin an intervention. For most families this means getting the person you love back to living a normal life and having a chance at happiness. For the addict, this means repairing the damage to himself and others, and fixing how he operates. Since most addicts and alcoholics cannot accomplish this on their own, a treatment program may offer the best solution.
An intervention is not a stand alone process. It is not a “wake-up call,” nor is it therapy. An intervention is a set of strategic steps designed to get an addict into treatment, ideally without force or humiliation. But an intervention is not a solution to addiction or a way of getting a person to see he has a problem. Families and therapists alike who misinterpret an intervention as a chance for the addict to reconcile with his life will be sorely disappointed, not because the person can’t do it, but because an intervention is not the time for it. Resolving the problems that led the addict into the condition he is now in will take time, and that’s what finding a good program is all about.
Finding a treatment program you feel comfortable with can be a daunting task considering how many options there are these days, to say nothing of the challenges of getting the person to go. But, first things first.
In today’s digital age the most common way a families search for treatment is to go online and start looking at websites. Most find this quickly becomes overwhelming. The sheer number of treatment centers can result in even more uncertainy about making the right choice.
I find the best way to boil things down is by the type of treatment philosophy. All of those programs out there vying for your attention represent only a few philosophies. They are packaged in different ways and offer different amenities but with very few differences when it comes to the program itself. Knowing these differences is critical since in 10 or 15 years it won’t matter whether horseback riding was part of the program. What will matter is whether or not to program worked, and people rarely look back on treatment that has been successful and credit horseback riding or morning yoga as the reason. Set ammenities, location and cost aside for now and look into the heart of each program. Once you’ve found a philosophy that makes sense its simply a matter of finding a program with the right location and trimmings.
Program philosophies can be categorized into just a few types, the most common of which is the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Many 30 day, 60 day, 90 day, six-month and even two-year programs base their treatment on the 12 steps of AA, developed its now legendary founders, Dr. Bob and Bill W. in Akron, Ohio way back in 1941. They discovered that by turning their life over to the care of God (they were both devout Roman Catholics), by being of service and following a series of specific steps involving taking an honest personal inventory and making amends, and combining this with a continuous schedule of group meetings, they were able to stay sober, “one day at a time.” This basic approach has been used by more programs than any other.
Today this program claims to be secular and makes every effort to be, although having attended numerous AA meetings myself I can say that it does still bend toward it’s religious roots, surrendering to a higher power being its centerpiece. This seems to be where people either find a meaningful connection, or do not.
I have worked with a number of families to get their loved ones into programs based on AA, and as long as the person can align himself with that kind of philosophy, he or she has a good chance of staying sober. There is a lot of benefit to ongoing group support, although AA groups themselves differ greatly. My observation is that AA meetings are more effective for a mature person, since maintaining a regular meeting schedule is more realistic for older people. Also, people who are devoutly religious tend to have a higher success rate since the program is God or, “higher power” based, not that one has to be religious to attend. Also, AA meetings are prolific, so the chances of being close to a meeting no matter where one is or what day of the week it is is pretty high.
The best way to evaluate whether or not a 12 step program is the right choice is to attend a few AA or NA meetings yourself. Buy a “Big Book” and read some of it. See if it strikes you as something that will work for the person you are trying to help. As with any program, try not to get caught up in someone else’s devotion to it for the simple reason that what works for one person may not work for another. This is true for any program. There may be a better fit elsewhere. Stay objective. Be your own counsel.
I eventually succeeded by going to a Narconon program. Narconon is not 12-step based. While I am not promoting Narconon, I might sound bias simply because I am. Since the program worked for me I do favor it, but again, the best way to evaluate any program is to visit it and decide for yourself. In the case of Narconon this might mean going to a program location (there are around forty worldwide) and taking a tour, looking through course materials and speaking with graduates.
The Narconon program is based on the work of L. Ron Hubbard, famous for his book Dianetics, his prolific work as a humanitarian and writer, and being the founder of the Church of Scientology. Narconon was founded by a man named William Benitez in the late sixties, based on some of Hubbard’s work. It is not Scientology. It is a secular program based on first repairing one’s body through the use of an involved sauna and vitamin detoxification process. This is followed by unloading and releasing one’s transgressions, getting all that stuff out so it’s no longer weighing the person down. This is followed by an objective, across the board look at the person’s life, which is separated into different sections. His condition in each section is identified andhe then works with a counselor to repair each area and get himself back into a normal state again.
I attended Narconon after having graduated from six other residential treatment programs. It worked for me for a number of reasons. First, it is not based on the idea that addiction is a disease. While I don’t argue the right of others to believe this, I personally found it more logical. Second, it is not a religious program. If the student himself is religious and needs to make repairs along those lines, the counselors at Narconon will assist with that, but Narconon itself does not promote any type of religion (they do offer to take students to church each Sunday for those who wish to attend, and will accommodate students who need to attend their own church). Also, Narconon does not use any type of psychoactive medications like anti-depressants or anti-psychotics. Having had some experience with these myself I was relieved when I found this out. I have never been able to find happiness by drugging my depression. Only by handling the behavior and events that caused it have I been able to become truly free of it, and after literally decades of struggling with manic depression, Narconon was the program that helped me accomplish that.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT is another popular treatment modality; “It is different from the more traditional, psychoanalytical approach, where therapists look for the unconscious meaning behind the behaviors and then diagnose the patient. Instead, behaviorists believe that disorders, such as depression, have to do with the relationship between a feared stimulus and an avoidance response, resulting in a conditioned fear, much like Ivan Pavlov. Cognitive therapists believed that conscious thoughts could influence a person’s behavior all on its own. Ultimately, the two theories were combined to create what is now known as cognitive behavioral therapy.” – Wikipedia
I don’t know a tremendous amount about CBT from personal experience but it does have a devout following. Both residential and out-patient programs use CBT with reportedly great success. Again, my suggestion is to actually go to one of these programs and see for yourself. Unlike AA or Narconon, CBT is not a standardized philosophy, so you may find the treatment programs using CBT to be widely varied. This could work for you or against you depending on the way each program is structured.
I always advise to take the time to thoroughly examine the program you are considering as opposed to rushing into something in a panicked state. You may find out later that you took the wrong advice or didn’t do enough homework. Working in a panic and rushing into something without researching it is not good strategy. It is irresponsible. While I understand that doing an intervention is hard and circumstances may call for urgency, no one benefits if you ignore reason and go along with the first program that has a good website. You may regret your decision later so take the time you need to do it right.
More on what this means in my next post.
…to be continued