The following is an excerpt from my book, More Than Hope – Intervention Guidebook.
Hopelessness: 1. Without hope [a hopeless prisoner] 2. Causing one to lose hope; discouraging [a hopeless situation].
Using addicts and alcoholics often attempt to destroy interventions by creating feelings of hopelessness in those around them, especially in their parents, spouses, children – those closest to them. It is a simple yet powerful mechanism and not difficult to observe.
If you can observe it, you can plan for it. If you can plan for it, you can stay ahead of it. If you’re ahead of it then you will have a much greater level of control over the outcome if and when it rears it’s ugly head.
Here are some examples of how an addict creates hopelessness:
“I’ll NEVER go to treatment no matter what you do!”
“I’m going to KILL myself if you make me go!!” (Making you believe it’s more dangerous to continue intervening than it would be to give up).
“I can do it on my own.” (Making you feel as though you’re invalidating his own ability by offering him help).
“I have THINGS TO DO!!” (The case of the sudden agenda).
“I would have considered going to treatment but this intervention has messed that up now!! (Positions himself as a victim of the intervention).
“If you make me go I’ll just leave once I get there!!” (Making you think, “Why even try?”).
Every single one of these statements and the way they are delivered has one clear motive; creating hopelessness and fear in those who are trying to help him and to get them to give up. And while none of these specific statements may apply to you, my guess is that some form of encouragement for you to be hopeless on the part of the addict is taking its toll.
The entrenched addict makes his family wrong for trying to help, word by word, crisis by crisis, explosion by explosion, the using addict makes his loved one’s WRONG, WRONG, WRONG for having the nerve to offer him help.
The ideal solution is to have a professional interventionist guide the family through the chaos. Next best is to see it for what it is, as a mechanism of control.
Mind you it is NOT malicious. In other words, the addict is not thinking to himself, “I’m going to make my family hopeless.” It’s an automatic response to a perceived threat. I say this in case you have the idea of confronting the addict on what he’s doing with the notion that you’ll “bust” him on it. You won’t. Don’t ever try to. Making the addict wrong will work against you in a big way. In fact, if you do you’ll just pay the price of vehement resistance amplified exponentially.
By being able to identify it you won’t be effected by it nearly as much. Hopefully, by being able to see the addict’s reactions for what they are, you can work even with the addict blaring in your face without letting his reactions drive you into a state of apathy, or control you. If you can do this, you will have an enormous advantage.
The most fundamental part of the solution is to recognize it for what it is; an automatic, non-malicious response to a perceived threat. Of course you’re thinking, “How is an offer of help a threat?” The fact is it isn’t, that is, unless of course you are the addict. The absence of logic is irrelevant.
A lot of families will tell me that they gave up because the situation was hopeless. I find it’s more often the case that they became hopeless and then gave up. In other words, the addict made his family hopeless, intentionally. Or, he made one key person hopeless, and that key person’s feelings and conclusions easily infected everyone else. Instead of persevering, the family gave in to the addiction without even realizing it, and the addiction went on surviving just as it wanted to, destroying the addict and his life. The irony is that the addict may actually want the help, and if you’re doing an intervention he definitely needs it.
So how do I succeed in the face of vehement resistance? It’s actually quite simple, albeit difficult to do; first, I expect it. I plan for it beforehand. Probably 30% of my time spent with a family before making an offer of help to the addict is prepping them for the addict’s reactions, for explosions, for the addict to attempt to go after family members emotionally in order to make them feel hopeless and drive them into a state of apathy.
Let me reiterate that these efforts on the part of the addict are not malicious. They are an effort at control, nothing more. Accusations of betrayal, threats of suicide, of violence, threats to leave and never come back, threats to leave treatment, are all geared toward doing one single thing; to make you hopeless and to make you give up. My advice? Don’t give up. There are a few very simple reasons I have such a high success rate in getting people into treatment and one is that I persevere.
I’ve gotten plenty of addicts into treatment who fought violently against the idea before they went but were fine once they got there. In fact, this happens much more often than people realize. Families make the mistake of thinking that the addict needs to be willing to go and admit he has a problem in order for treatment to be effective. This is categorically false. I cover this subject in other places in my blog and I’ll cover it again and again; an addict who goes into treatment in complete denial has an equal if not better chance of success than a person who goes on with bells on his feet and who can’t wait for the first morning meditation.
I speak from personal experience, not only my observations from doing hundreds of interventions. I went into treatment six times perfectly willingly, I even begged for it a couple of times. All six times I relapsed shortly after the program. My seventh program was the result of a two-week intervention on the part of my family who had also hired a professional. I was barely willing to be at the program when I arrived, but in spite of all of that I completed the program successfully and stayed clean for 15 years.
The best advice I can give you is not to give in to “conventional wisdom,” that an addict has to admit he has a problem and be willing to go to a program if that program is to be effective. I’m not saying you can handcuff the guy and put a black hood over his head and get him in at gunpoint (a suggestion I actually had a client make to me one time), but everything short of that. Do what you need to do to get the person to go, whatever that may be, and in whatever state of mind he may arrive in.
Don’t make him wrong. Sell treatment as an island in the sun as much as possible. Focus on the amenities, not on the therapy. And when you find yourself or others around you becoming hopeless, regroup and remind yourself of why you’re there.
In closing, if all of this is overwhelming and you find your brain is hurting with questions of “How…” Call em anytime for a no pressure, no strings 100% free consultation. Call anytime.