Let’s look at addictive disease from the family point of view:
The word crisis comes to mind. We look for help when we are in trouble.
Crisis though can lead to a destructive path that further divides family and friends. When we are unprepared we tend to react without a plan and with no direction in mind. Everyone has an opinion. If we are the spouse, a child, a mother, or the father, we hear it all. Everybody seems to know what we should have done and what we need to do right now. Everybody else is so sure. The problem is that when the crisis hits, we may not be prepared for constructive action. The natural tendency is to rescue the “addict”. We think that when we help resolve the problem, we can give the “addict” a chance to learn from his mistakes. We believe that once the lesson is learned, the harmful use of alcohol or other drugs will then stop. Up to this point we only feel a sense of deep shame and embarrassment. We couldn’t even talk about it without breaking down.
Yet, if the energy of the crisis can be channeled in the right way, the path then can be constructive. Crisis then leads to build a path to recovery, not just for those addicted, but also for family members and friends. When one concerned individual breaks the pattern and joins other concerned persons and family members, intervention is underway. We are in the process of breaking free from the trap that addiction is.
The door opens for Intervention Alternatives. Intervention is not one big event, but rather a process leading to improved mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health of the family and hopefully the “addict”. The goal then isn’t to target and attack the one addicted.
As family members we have to go on living despite the painful consequences (including the possibility of the death) of the one addicted. We need to be able to tell ourselves that we did what we could, and that we did not disrespect the personhood of the one addicted. To be able to handle and manage our own personal sense of crisis and pain, we need to know how to take action. We need to know what works and what does not work.
As family members, our experience is like living with the ‘Elephant in the Room’. We can just not see the whole picture. We are blind and each of us only knows the part of the problem that strikes us. We are grabbing a foot, a trunk, a tail, but we don’t see the elephant until we all begin to talk together and put the puzzle together. We realize that there is a trail and a record coming into focus. For the addicted one as trouble and crises occur, we become aware that there are other vital records documented showing trouble, for instance, a record of employment, driving records, legal records, and health records. We talk. Once we see it all and put it together, it cannot stay the same. The picture is clear and we know it’s name.
But, if we go up against the disease of addiction we need to realize that we are facing someone we love whose brain has been altered. “Free will” has nothing to do with it. This makes it difficult to see that the “addict’s” perception drives him to self-destruction. Based on the disease model of addiction, we no longer expect that they can make their own decisions because this would presume that the “addict” can see continued drug using is not providing relief from the problem and the pain. The survival brain has taken over for the addicted one.
Knowing that addictive disease is the problem (diagnosis) means that without intervention, the outcome is predictable (insanity/death/institutionalization) and the progression obvious. Our energy is now focused on the cause (diagnosis) and not the symptoms (resulting problems and consequences).
Intervention begins when we reach out and talk; when we work to overcome the sense of shame and embarrassment; when we open up to listen to others who have the similar experience; when we realize that we can learn from the experience and the mistake of others so we do not have to repeat again and again what does not work.
As we escape the addiction trap, we find doors begin to open. We find that our own “sobriety”, we have choices and can choose alternatives. We can then take action in a Good Orderly Direction. As we take care of ourselves we find that the addicted one benefits.
Is this not what we hope for the one addicted? We hope that rather than experiencing the full pain of the consequences coming with addiction, he finds a place where he can openly talk about his experiences with no shame, and learn from the mistakes made by others who openly share their experiences when they share their story of personal addiction. He finds a way to learn from the mistakes of others and the wisdom to know the difference from “self-knowledge” that just repeats the same old and tried patterns of the addiction trap.