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Confronting a loved one about their addiction

Confronting a loved one about their addiction


Mark Masonville had been married to his wife for less than six months when he began to notice peculiar behavior. She was acting erratically, and seemed oddly defensive and secretive. He could not put his finger on it, until he began diligently monitoring her daily activities, from her emails to her “grocery store runs.”

What he discovered was heartbreaking. “(I found out) she’d been using (drugs) for years, even before I knew her,” he says. “We didn’t date for long before we got married. She hid it well.
“Once we were married, though, the warning signs were like big giant lights – there was really no hiding anything. In retrospect, I should have seen the signs long before.

“Once I knew, the problem I had was confronting her.”

Most people, Masonville shared, judged his discomfort and hesitation in speaking up to his wife. Those with no experience of living with someone suffering from an addiction may quickly come to the conclusion that it must be easy to say something, particularly to someone you love, but as Masonville learned, the topic isn’t as easy to bring up as one would believe.

Fear paralyzed Masonville. If you find yourself in a similar situation, you may experience the same reluctance to speak up. Community-based providers like HOPE Therapy and Wellness Center are on the front lines fighting addiction. We see hundreds of clients each year for addiction support. For many, doing research is the first step. Learn more about addiction and recovery from our Road to Recovery book now available for free. Get your copy HERE.

The intervention for addiction

Experts and mental health professionals will advise that the best time to get help for anyone abusing substances or addictive behaviors is always right now. Don’t wait. Addiction is progressive, and a person’s descent is often rapid. When left untreated and unmonitored, substance abuse gets worse, taking its toll on a person’s relationships, work environment, family and health. The abuse creates a domino effect, affecting everything and everyone around the addict. If the problem is ignored, and no intervention is made, addiction can be fatal.

If a person you love is suffering from addiction, the most effective tool you have at your disposal is a carefully and professionally driven and supervised intervention. This is a planned and structured process – members of the addict’s family come together in unison to firmly and lovingly confront the abuser. In a comforting and controlled environment, the addict is faced with his or her disease and its consequences. The addict is also provided information on how to start treatment right away.

Who stages an intervention for addiction?

When Masonville made the decision to stage an intervention for his wife, Lea, he called upon a mental health professional who had no history with either Masonville or his wife. He informed the interventionist of Lea’s history with substance abuse, the symptoms of what he thought might be a mental health disorder, and Lea’s verbal violence and objectionable behavior.

“I knew that an intervention would be very extremely emotional and potentially traumatic for myself and for (Lea),” says Masonville. “I wanted to have a professional there as kind of a safety net, someone who could maintain control of the situation and know how to ease whatever extreme scenario would come out of the intervention.”

A mental health professional experienced in interventions is beneficial because they are not emotionally involved; they remain composed, unflustered and cool, despite how shocking or harrowing the experience for the substance abuser and his or her family members and friends. Thanks to a professional’s extensive training, they can speak with the abuser and the group as a whole with a firm authority.

The expert tasked with Masonville’s wife’s case suggested, prior to the intervention, that all members of the family learn what they could about Lea’s addiction, and addiction in general. Even before confronting Lea, the family read literature on drug abuse, attended individual and group counseling sessions, and even sought out nearby Narcoholics Anonymous meetings. Masonville even kept a journal of his own healing process, so he could document his feelings and everything he was learning. As a family unit, all those who loved Lea and wished to see her well gathered as closely as they could, learning that if they came together, their chances of helping Lea find recovery were significantly greater.

The professional interventionist urged each member of the family to ensure Lea had no idea the intervention was coming. He also asked that personal grievances be set aside, and reminded the family that the purpose of the meeting was to find a solution for Lea’s addiction. He worked with them to set aside a specific time, date and location, and asked them all to write everything down that they wanted to say to Lea.

“He told us that in the case of an intervention, emotions would be heightened and it would be really easy to forget what we want to say, or we might find ourselves really off track,” he says. “I brought a small book with me and I had everything in it, in point form, that I wanted to make sure I said to her.”

Each family member was asked to list for Lea how they had been impacted by her behavior. They would gently and firmly describe how she had harmed them with her destructive and unacceptable habits, clearly advising her how she would continue to destroy relationships and experience damaging consequences should her behavior continue. They would let her know that these were not empty threats.

The intervention, as Masonville had guessed, was emotionally charged. Lea’s response was as he had expected – she was at first defensive and angry, and then sad and passionate. She tried to get up and leave several times, but the interventionist was skilled in calming her and convincing her to hear out her family.

Each family member, under the guidance of the interventionist, established specific consequences and boundaries for Lea. Should she decline their offer of help, “we told her we couldn’t support her financially or emotionally anymore,” Masonville recalls. “We would stop contact, and she would need to move out of our house.

“She needed to know we were serious, and even though we loved her, she needed to understand that we were suffering too and we couldn’t continue suffering just so she could keep abusing.”

Fortunately, Lea agreed to attend a rehab program. Because this was an ideal scenario, the family had already pre-registered her in an in-patient program. Immediately after the meeting concluded, Masonville drove her – and a packed suitcase – directly to the rehabilitation center.
“We were prepared to enforce the consequences we drew up for her at the intervention,” says Masonville. “Don’t get me wrong – it would have been hard. I love this woman more than life.
Walking away from her would have been the hardest thing I ever had to do, but I also know I love her enough to know that if I didn’t do this, I was just enabling her.”

Quick facts about an intervention for a drug habit

An intervention is a conversation with a specific goal in mind
An intervention is a direct, face-to-face conversation between a person abusing a substance and his or her loved ones
The goal of an intervention is to give the abuser the chance to realize the destruction they are causing in their own lives and in the lives of their loved ones
The addict is provided with a clear message as to what will occur should they not accept responsibility and treatment
The loved ones in an intervention must be prepared to follow through with the consequences laid out for the addict should they not accept treatment
The goal of the intervention is for the addict to accept treatment right away
90% of interventions are successful when there is proper preparation and a professional interventionist is called upon to oversee and guide the process
If you have a family member or loved one suffering from addiction, and you need help or advice seeking an intervention, we are here to help. Visit HOPE Therapy and Wellness Center to make an appointment today.


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