Publishers Note: The contents of this editorial are not intended to replace the advice of medical or therapeutic specialists in the field of addiction.
With the rash of drug-related deaths in Grundy County, the question inevitably comes up in our minds if we know someone who turns to illicit drugs: “Do I get involved?” Or even worse, depending on the individual’s circumstances: “Do I try again to intervene?” Whether it’s a family member or a friend, recognizing the red flags is not terribly difficult. And, as the past couple of weeks have shown it very well may be a question of life and death.
First, there are some tell-tale signs that a person may be struggling with addiction. Some of which anyone observing the person over any length of time and some behaviors will only be known to those very close. Sparing a lengthy description of each if you see someone start exhibiting secretive behavior, borrowing money, exhibiting aggressive behavior, letting themselves go physically, a reduction in energy, frequent conflicts at school or work, and an increase in ‘health issues’ which has them constantly seeking medical attention. Someone who exhibits a single sign may very well not be a likely candidate, but someone exhibiting multiple symptoms is probably worth having a conversation. Remember, as either a precursor or a result of their abuse you may be addressing someone with depression or some other emotional need as well. For that reason, amongst others, please invite a professional to assist with the initial intervention. For Grundy County, family or friends can call Dave Hodges at 931-709-1161.
A likely next step, with the guidance of an interventionist, is to look at people in the loved one’s circle of friends/co-workers/family that would be able and willing to carry themselves constructively if things get tense with the intervention. Someone that is emotionally charged and likely to ‘take the bait” if the one struggling with addiction lashes out maybe someone worth scrutinizing a little more before asking them to be part of the initial group.
Many treatment centers advise for the initial intervention group to meet together beforehand. The purpose of the intervention is not to attack the person struggling but to cast a light on how the behavior affects those around them. So the intervention ‘team’ is not having to transfer an addict’s struggle in order to help but merely telling their personal story on how they have to adjust around the ‘out-of-the-normal’ behavior which results from the person’s drug or alcohol abuse. Some professionals encourage each person to write themselves a script to help keep the emotional reaction to a minimum versus ‘winging it.’
Be ready for anything. There is no way to accurately gauge how the person will react. They may break down and apologize to everyone because they think that’s what will get them past this event. They may even be sincerely apologetic and agree to get help. They may also respond with anger and start blaming everyone there. And, especially if you’ve caught them in the throws of active usage, they are capable of saying some of the most hateful things and drive people away either emotionally or physically, or both. You may have some members of the intervention that will, not unjustly so, throw their hands up and declare they’re done trying to help.
One of the most pervasive misconceptions of an intervention is that it is an event versus a process. The members of the intervention will be keeping the person struggling accountable to whatever course of treatment results (if one does). “Hey, how you doing to today?’ at work has a very different meaning after intervention and treatment. There should be a comfort in having a quiet sidebar or a cup of coffee with a co-worker that just got taken out to the woodshed for a bad quarterly report. These are the types of times that drive addicts back to the drug of choice. Spouses who don’t want to rock the boat because it’s easier to close your proverbial eyes and keep the peace…that can’t be the default. Friends who are willing to attend NA or AA meetings with the person will be important as well.
As awkward as any one of these steps or roles may be, it pales in comparison to hearing about the person’s death due to an overdose or the result of their impairment. We can’t be afraid to take the step in between an addict and a disaster.
If you are currently struggling with an addiction, you need not wait for intervention. You can call toll free from anywhere in the State of Tennessee 1-800-560-5767. That helpline will plug you into assistance in your area. And, finally, a word for the rest of us. I know of a treatment plan for someone who attended meetings in Chattanooga because they were worried about what people would say about them closer to their house if they “were caught” attending a local meeting after they heard people at work talking about whose car they had seen at a local meeting. Support those that are willing to get well. At the very least, don’t be an obstacle in their efforts.