Drug and Alcohol Addiction: Cause or Symptom?
If drugs or alcohol were an addict’s fundamental problem, recovery would be academic. Simply detox and it’s done.
But – that isn’t how it works.
The fact is, addiction is a set of low conditions which cut across multiple aspects of a person’s life. One becomes more and more degraded as he turns to self-medication. Excessive drinking and drug use in turn worsen his situation, leading to the conclusion that they are the cause of his problems.
The real demon is not what is in the bottle, the baggy, the needle, or the pipe. If it were, anyone who could detox could stop using or drinking permanently. But ask anyone like me, who’s been down that road, that isn’t what happens.
As a professional interventionist, my most powerful tool is my ability to see things from the addict’s point of view.
I wish every family could understand what it’s like to be an addict. Seeing things from that viewpoint can help you create solutions for the addict in your life.
I don’t try to scare addicts out of using or drinking by citing statistics about how life-threatening it is, or how he might end up in jail. If you’ve tried this approach, you know these warnings fall on deaf ears.
When I facilitate an intervention, I look at it as a real-life game, but I don’t see the addict as my opponent. When I see an addict, I see someone in a prison, shackled by a demon, and it’s that demon I am playing against.
The fact that the addict’s life is in my hands motivates me to challenge and outmaneuver the mechanisms that are shackling him.
How does one win a game of Texas Hold ’em? By knowing when to bluff, fold or play. How does one win in an intervention? The same way–by thinking ahead several moves at a time and playing to win.
The prospect of doing an intervention is intimidating, and effective tactics are not always easy to come up with. Mulling over what might happen can be enough to make you want to curl up in a ball and stay in bed, and, not only because of your fears about what the addict might do, but because of how the family may or may not work together.
Even if you get your loved one to go to treatment, what will happen once he’s there? If he’s in denial, is it a waste of money? Is it selfish not to try? Will your life be in greater ruins because of the intervention? These questions plague families and cause them to remain paralyzed.
Excuses for putting off doing an intervention are easy to come up with: doctors’ appointments, court dates, weddings, vacations and everything in between. Ironically, the same thing is happening to the addict. If he were to go to a good program, he could get his life back in order and be happy again, if only he would just get up, pack his stuff and start. But he has a list of things he must do before treatment can even be considered. This cycle of promises, efforts and failures on the part of the addict and his family can continue for years.
If you’re considering Detox as a solution, my advice is to stop looking at drugs or alcohol as the problem and start looking at programs that address the underlying losses, transgressions and disconnection that led your loved one to self medicate in the first place, otherwise treatment becomes a revolving door.