The best time to start handling objections is before the addict starts making them.
In other words, you and your core team need to think through all of the objections you believe the addict will have during the intervention.
Example #1: The addict has a dog who is his long time and close companion. Who’s going to take care of it while he’s away? Will he be able to visit his owner in treatment? Is he on a special diet or medications? I can tell you as someone who has owned and loved a dog who was in fact on a special diet and who did need special medications, that any situation involving separating him from me would to address those questions with care.
Example #2: The addict has a girlfriend. You’re not sure if she also uses or drinks, but you have your suspicions. She’s nice enough when she visits but when they are alone together there is a lot of drama. He insists that he can’t leave her. On the other hand, from what you’ve observed, his drinking or drug use, the lying and deception are what make the relationship a rocky place and conversely causes him to use and drink. The best long term solution might be that they break up, but this idea won’t motivate the addict at the time of the intervention. I might actually
Example #3: The addict has an apartment full of his belongings. What’s going to happen all of his stuff? Think of possible solutions, such as maintaining rent on the place while he’s in treatment. Another, possibly better solution, might be to have a moving truck and a storage unit ready to go before the intervention takes place. In any event, this question cannot be left unanswered before the offer is made. Otherwise, it will simply degrade into a fight with the family calling these objections an excuse when they aren’t, invalidating real concerns on the part of the addict about his living space, pets and his belongings.
While we’re on the subject of apartments or living arrangements, typically, what I do is to handle these kinds of concerns in stages. Stage one does not necessarily mean insisting that the addict has to move out of the apartment, sell all his belongings and live in a different area of the world, even though that may be your end goal. For someone who has been losing bits and pieces of his life and is hanging on to little more than a few shreds of pride, insisting that he has to get rid of his last few possessions in order to do something he doesn’t want to do in the first place may not be the best way to sell a ticket to treatment. You’d sell tickets by giving the addict something he’s willing to have, like offering to pay the rent while he goes away to rehab. Then once he’s been there for a few weeks or a month, you can revisit the whole issue with this new person who is not using drugs or drinking and knows he is in a safe environment with people who will be willing to help him get through it. By handling the issue in stages and not asking too much right up front you’re more likely to get agreement from the addict to go to the treatment program then you would trying to sell the farm all at once.
When I run into a situation like this with a girlfriend or boyfriend I often try to get the family and to directly communicate with that person and to essentially put them on the spot. The family is trying to help their loved one. Therefore, if the girlfriend truly loves the person, then why would she want to get in the way? I like to have the family offer to support the relationship while the boyfriend is in treatment, promising to help with visits or communication between the two. By doing this you’re beginning to close that door as a way out for the addict.
Ideally you want to place the girlfriend into a hero’s role for supporting her boyfriend in getting help. You want to stress that by his going to treatment, she will benefit as well. He’ll get his health back; she’ll be able to trust him again. He’ll be a boyfriend she can be proud of and so on. Of course this isn’t going to work in every scenario, and it takes courage to do this. It means being nervous and getting into conversations you may not have at the top of your to do list. But being uncomfortable is part of the equation. If you want things to be different you have to do different things than you’re used to.
It’s impossible to list every possible objection an addict is going to have, but I’ll bet that if you think about it, you can list 90% of what they are going to be right off the top of your head. Instead of being afraid of what to say and being placed on the spot, plan what to say beforehand. This means getting together with your core team and hashing it out.
Ask yourselves, “What objections is our loved one going to have?” Look at his circumstances very carefully. If those were your circumstances what would your considerations be? What would your objections be? By doing this you will end up with a list of real circumstances that need real solutions. In some situations there won’t be much, in others you might have quite a workload. But in any case it’s important to take time to consider what the objections are going to be, because you can bet your bottom dollar that in the middle of the intervention, the addict is going to start listing them. There are also objections that are not legitimate but which the addict will bring up in order to buy time, get money before he goes, get drugs before he goes or all of the above.
The addict might say, for example, that he can’t go to treatment because he owes his dealer money. He has to pay it off before he leaves. He can’t betray his dealer, or his dealer will come after him, or the family will be in danger. The family can’t pay it off directly because there’s no way the dealer will go for that. I used this myself in order to get money, get a ride to my dealer, and have my family buy drugs for me.
This may surprise you but as an interventionist I’ve actually gone along with this scenario more than a few times. My policy is to give the addicts the benefit of the doubt one time.
I’m also going to reiterate that having a professional interventionist walk a family and the addict through all of this is a much safer route to take. I would almost never suggest a family try this on its own. This is one of the reasons families hire me. I know this territory because I’ve walked it as an addict many, many times. It’s a game. Getting through each play and coming out winning is difficult at best. This is not an experiment you want to try on yourselves and your loved ones if you can hire a professional interventionist.
Another kind of objection that isn’t real but which may come up, is for the addict suddenly to have job interviews. I’ve seen it dozens of times. You’re in the middle of intervention, making the offer of help to the addict. Suddenly he announces that he has an important job interview the next day or the next week and there’s no way he can go to treatment. You can practically see the wheels whizzing around and around in his head. As an ex addict, it never ceases to amaze me how well this tactic works. I watch mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers fold up like yesterday’s newspaper. The addict is sitting there with sunken eyes, not having slept for four days and with one or two statements has his mother on the edge of her seat wanting to hear all about this job interview he has.