If you're concerned about another person's
addiction, you can (1) defer or avoid
them (enable them), (2)
prepare to confront, and then...
3) Confront the Addicted
Person and/or Their Family
In this context,
perception that the person is addicted, and urging him or
her and relevant family members (enablers) to commit to a
meaningful recovery program. Such confrontations are becoming
known as "interventions."
Let's look briefly at why confront, confront who, and confront how?
quick response might be "To help the addict." A more thoughtful reason is
"To honor my integrity and earn my self-respect by doing what I can to help
the addict's family break their denials." Another reason is "To reduce the
stress I and others feel because of the addict's behavior." This is
specially true if the addict is parenting young kids.
Choices: (a) the addict, (b) one or more family members (enablers), or (c) both -
separately or together. The most powerful - and difficult - confrontation is
with an addict's whole family.
If you focus only on
"fixing" an addict's "stinking thinking" and toxic actions (You have to stop
drinking two six-packs of beer a day!") without confronting the underlying personal
and family causes of their addiction/s, you greatly reduce your odds
for long-term success. Notice the difference between saying...
"I want to help Pat break her
denials, hit bottom, and want to manage her gambling addiction" and...
"I want to do what I can to respectfully help Pat's family adults
recognize how their beliefs, wounds, and habits are enabling Pat's compulsive
gambling and its harmful effects."
|An initial confrontation goal is
getting all affected people (including helpers) to see
changing the addict's family as the target.
Doing this will often evoke family adults' denial of their
enabling, psychological wounds, and ignorance.
Confronting an Enabler
Here, "enabling" means
promoting an addiction by denying, minimizing, or ignoring its harmful
personal and social effects. Like any addiction,
enabling is a symptom
of the core problems: [ psychological wounds + unawareness ].
have many false-self behaviors, and will deny,
rationalize, or discount them and what they
("I know I should confront Frieda about her compulsive shopping,
but..."); and they deny or justify this;
may choose a helpless
saying "I can't help (enabling);"
(relationship-addiction) traits, and deny,
minimize, or defend them;
and typical enablers...
refuse to (a) learn about or discuss
addictions, enabling, and recovery, or to (b) attend an addiction
support group like Al-Anon or equivalent;
get significantly angry, hostile, defensive,
and/or combative if someone brings up the addiction and/or the enabler's
behaviors and choices.
Reality Check - think of the person you feel is addicted and their key
family members, friends, and co-workers. Then one at a time, decide if any
of them has any of the enabling symptoms above.
yourself. Not identifying or
confronting enablers raises the odds of an addict's relapsing,
Recall the premise that any addiction is a symptom of a
family. So when you feel prepared to act on your concern, you have five choices:
confront the (a) addict and/or (b) some or all of their family adults;
(c) over time, or one-time - (d) alone or (e)
with informed help.
Many factors affect which of these options you and any supporters choose -
e.g. your ages;
responsibilities; priorities; family
composition and member
locations, family roles and history; family-relationship quality;
grieving progress; communication styles; and family ethnicity, customs, and
nurturance level. Exploring the combinations of all these factors is beyond
the scope of this article, so let's settle for some...
General Confrontation Guidelines
- specially in planning and executing a direct
confrontation. If you can't do this, lower your expectations.
Keep a long-term perspective - e.g.
the rest of the addicted-person's life or the life-span of the
family's youngest child.
clear - you and
any partner are not responsible for the addicted family adults' decisions -
Keep your priorities clear and firm.
Suggestion: put your
and integrity (self-respect) first, any primary relationship second, and
everything else third, except in emergencies.
Stay clear on the specific
results you want to achieve by confronting. The alternative is "riding
off in all directions" and/or major disappointments, frustrations, anxieties, and
and family conflicts.
Work steadily to
improve your communication
Awareness, digging down, empathic
listening, and assertion are specially powerful in any addiction
confrontation (intervention). Experiment with these
If you choose lay and/or professional
people to help make the confrontation, ask them to prepare with steps
More general confrontation guidelines...
Stay clear that in this context,
wound recovery, are lengthy
processes, not events. Also remember that addictions can be
managed, not "cured."
Help each other stay aware that true
addiction, wound reduction, and
(vs. religion) are inter-related.
Help each other to stay aware of...
help the addicted person/s hit
vs. stopping or controlling their addiction.
Correct the misperceptions that addiction
is (a) a
shameful conscious choice and (b) a "disease," rather than
a compulsive, unconscious self-medication reflex to lower
and a sign of family dysfunction
Stay aware that a vital part of
family confrontation is to inform minor kids in the family of key
inner pain, compulsions, personality subselves,
addiction, enabling, and recovery, and...
without anxiety, guilt, or shame.
trying to help someone who isn't
asking for help is inherently disrespectful, no
matter how well-intentioned. It implies "I know what you need better
than you do." This may be true, but it still feels insulting and
promotes resentment and "resistance."
View personal and family "resistance"
to breaking addiction and enabling denials as a frantic
attempt to avoid pain and loss of security, not stubbornness, rigidity,
defiance, arrogance, rigidity, weakness, and
Add any personal confrontation guidelines that you feel are important in
your unique situation.
Option - consider discussing and editing these guidelines with your
helpers, and print them to use as a reference.
Once you're well prepared, you've decided who to
confront, and your Self is usually guiding you, you have three
with each person you care about:
confrontation over time ("plant seeds"), and/or...
a direct confrontation alone or with
one or more helpers.
Let's look at each of these choices...
1) Indirect Confrontation -
Unless family members have hit
trying to confront them directly about their addiction will only evoke
conflict, hurt, anger, anxiety, guilt, hostility, and frustration. This may
increase family dysfunction and the addict's inner pain. Lose lose.
The practical alternative is to make indirect comments about addiction and
recovery over time - i.e. to "plant seeds" that may help break denials
later. An effective way to "plant seeds" is a series of
spoken calmly, with good eye contact and an attitude of
mutual respect. Another
way is to ask relevant questions. For example...
"Maria, did you know that when you don't keep your promise to
stop losing our money at the casino, I get really frustrated and I'm
learning to distrust you?"
"What do you think about the idea that
addictions are a family problem, not an individual one, Phil?"
"I think Harry has a food addiction, but he
can't admit that. Some people say that addictions are attempts to
self-medicate major inner pain. What do you think?"
"Our son just asked me if you were a
rageaholic. Did you know he was wondering about that?
"I found another collection of pornography
hidden in the basement, and I worry that you're addicted to it,
Larry. Your denying that increases my fear."
"Janice just told me about a book she read
which said that parental drug addiction causes major psychological
problems for all kids in the family."
"Do you agree that Pilar hasn't hit
with her obsessive workouts and dieting?"
"I just read that mental health pros
define 'workaholism' as
a true addiction. Some say it's being unable to work less than 65 hours
a week, despite major health and family problems. Alex, I'm really
concerned that that's true of you and us, recently."
"Would you say that your grandfather is
addicted to poker and gambling? Has he ever tried to cut back because of
his losses and marital strife?"
"I hear that
chronic overeating is linked to
addiction to compulsive craving for sugar and fats, just like addiction
to heroine and marijuana. Our doctor told me yesterday that he feels
you're at least 70 pounds overweight, despite his warnings about related
health risks. That really scare me, Roberto."
"Helping other people avoid taking
self-responsibility is called 'enabling.' I think Janice is enabling her
mother by chauffeuring her all over the place, and not insisting that
she learn to drive herself. Janice may be codependent, too - what do you
"Norma just told me her sister just got
caught shoplifting again, despite her arrest last February. That really
shows the power of true addictions, doesn't it?"
"Sal, You say you can quit
time, but you smoke it every day. I'm scared that's going to cause you
major health problems, and that it teaches the kids that using toxic
drugs is OK."
"I just finished reading 'Bradshaw on: The Family' - a book about children of alcoholics. It made me think of you and your Mother,
and I felt sad."
Notice that these statements and questions are
not judgmental, sarcastic, scornful, or critical,
and they don't request or demand any change in the listener. Imagine the accumulated
emotional impact of an addict or enabler hearing a focused series of statements
these over weeks or months. Recall that the primary goals of confronting an
you imagine saying things like these to the person you're concerned about? If so, how would s/he
react, over time? If not - what are you scared of? Is your Self (capital
now? Does it make sense that patiently "planting seeds" like this would
prepare all affected people for a direct confrontation about an addiction?
Recap - if you can tolerate the effects of
the addicted person's behaviors and you estimate s/he's not ready to
hit true bottom, you can patiently "plant
seeds" without expecting change - i.e. make respectful,
informational statements and observations about wounds, unawareness, inner
pain, self-medication, addiction, denials, enabling, and recovery.
This aims to help the addicted (wounded) person over
time by increasing their discomfort and helping them to hit
bottom. Does this make sense? Is it relevant in your situation
now? These ageless
can help you keep your balance.
you sense that the addict or a related enabler is close to hitting bottom,
the second option you have is to...
After preparing yourself and committing to the guidelines above,
you're trying to fill by confronting the self-medicating person.
Typically, you'll have several primary needs at once - e.g. "I need to...
and self-respect by doing what I can to help the
addict and his/her/our family now."
...stop living in fear
and acting like a helpless
...feel authentic and strong, rather than
feeling like an imposter, phony, and a coward."
And I need to...
...do what I can to guard our child(ren)
of growing up in an addicted
...cause some kind of resolution and end the
...convert chronic hopelessness
and despair into credible hope for a better future."
(add any other needs)
Then estimate the
person you confront. These will include feeling respected as a
dignified, worthy person, and
An effective confrontation fills
your and other involved people's needs well enough, as judged by
you and them..
and maintain a genuine attitude of mutual respect; and...
to guide and support you all, as you confront;
tell other affected people (a) what
you're going to do and (b) why, beforehand; and respectfully consider what each of them needs in this situation; and...
person to "resist" your assertions, and be ready to use
and limit-setting as often as needed to get her or him to hear
(vs. agree with) you;
to confront by...
reviewing (a) your and the other person's
basic human rights and (b) the things
you can and can't control about this person and situation; and (c)
referring to these wise
as you go; and...
reviewing the specific outcomes you want
from this confrontation. and...
picking a time and place when you and the
other person are physically and emotionally undistracted.
For perspective, imagine the odds for asserting your needs to the other
person effectively without making preparations like these...
Status Check - on a scale of
one (I'm not motivated to
make any of these confrontation-preparations)
to 10 (I'm strongly
motivated to make each of these preparations), I'd rate myself as a ___ now.
Is your true Self
this, or "someone else"?
The third of your options is to...
with Qualified Help
The emotional impact of any confrontation rises significantly if you ask one or two other
concerned adults or older children to join you in asserting your needs and
any boundaries. If
you choose this option, you need to carefully pick and prepare qualified
you have a mate who has a relationship with the addict and/or any enablers,
you must first decide on his or her role: a co-confronter, an indirect
supporter, or neutrally uninvolved. If
your partner is the addict in question, see
this. If the addict is in a
divorcing family or stepfamily, you may need to choose the confrontation-role of her or
his ex mate, too.
These role-choices deserve thoughtful, honest discussion, for they will
cause reactions ranging between gratitude and hostility in the addict and
any enablers. Option - ask your partner and/or ex to read this and
appropriate related articles, and then to honestly say if and how s/he
wants to be involved. Then assert what you need. If you two (or
three) have a significant conflict about this, put
ahead of doing anything else. Start by reminding each other of your current
Ideally, each adult
you ask to help you confront will...
be clearly guided
by his or her true Self, and will ...
have studied and discussed this article or
equivalent; and will be willing to ...
discuss and follow these foundation
Option - use this status check
to gauge the helper's knowledge.
And each qualified helper should...
be able to clearly describe their own reasons
(primary needs) for confronting; and s/he should...
want to join you in
preparing specifically for each
confrontation you want to make, whether phased or direct.
There are at least two downsides to this option. First, each additional
person you involve raises the odds you'll have to resolve conflicts over if,
who, how, and when to confront. Second, your target person is more apt to "resist"
(feel embarrassed, guilty, anxious, resentful, hurt, angry, and defensive)
if several people confront him or her. The local confrontation-preparations
above can help you handle this calmly.
Reflect on how you want to interview
prospective helpers to decide if you want to ask their help. You have
many choices. Four criteria to consider are...
who would have the most
impact on the addicted person?;
who is most likely to agree to help
who is least likely to cause major polarization and uproar in
the target person's family if s/he confronts with you?, and...
meets the criteria above?
Status Check -
on a scale of one (I want to
confront by myself) to 10 (I
want qualified help to confront), where do you rank yourself now ___? Is
your Self doing this ranking? If not - who is?
We're reviewing three options for direct
confrontations of addicts and/or
their enablers: confront by yourself, confront with one or two qualified
helpers, or plan and make a group "intervention." This page outlines the last of
these options, and recaps the whole article.
Plan and Make a Group
Probably the most effective choice you can make toward
helping an adult hit bottom and want
to recover is to do a
well-planned group intervention. To intervene means "to
come between." In this context, an intervention is a planned group meeting
to come between a self-medicating person and their denials and compulsive toxic behaviors - i.e. to
respectfully force them to
confront the effects of their behavior.
The two goals of an
effective intervention are to...
motivate the addict to participate
in a qualified in-patient recovery program,
the deep need that people who care about the addict and her or his family to do their best
to offer meaningful help, without feeling responsible.
the first goal isn't met, the second one may be.
Typical Intervention Steps
typical intervention starts with a concerned person who
decides there is enough of a problem to act on: e.g. you. Then you...
and consult with a trained addictions counselor. Some people attempt
interventions without professional help, which lowers the odds of successful
outcomes. If the counselor agrees that an intervention is warranted after hearing your
situation, s/he will outline a version of the steps below,
and ask if you'll commit to them. If you commit, then...
the counselor asks you to
identify every relative, friend, co-worker, neighbor, professional (like
clergy or doctor), and church-mate who (a) are concerned for the addict, and
been significantly affected by the addict's (or enablers') behaviors. This list includes
older kids, and people who live far away.
Next, the counselor
identifies or provides basic educational material about addictions, recovery,
and the intervention process. A specially helpful online resource is
www.hazelden.com. Using those materials, you...
contact each adult and
child on the list in person or by phone,
the addict. You explain the
intervention goals and process, and ask if the person would be willing to
help. If s/he agrees, ask the helper to review the educational materials, and
thoughtfully write down several instances where the addict's actions
inconvenienced, hurt, frustrated, or concerned them. The general format of each instance is...
"(Name), I really care
about you. On (date) at (place), you (did something recordable on video or audio
tape) which affected me (in these specific ways), and I felt _____."
An instance might sound
like "Jeff, last August 15th, you told Marcy and me you and your
partner would meet us at Granville's at 7 PM for dinner the following
Saturday. We waited at the restaurant for 50
minutes, and the Maitre d' said we had a phone call. It was your partner, who
apologized and saying you hadn't come home from work yet. Marcy and I were
hurt, puzzled, frustrated, and concerned, and were out the price of an
expensive baby sitter. You never offered us an explanation."
The intent is not to
shame, guilt-trip, attack, blame, or preach to the addict, but to
inform her or him factually of the impacts
of their behavior. Other goals are for each helper to affirm their deep concern for
the addict; and to respectfully describe new boundaries if
the target person chooses to make no change. The general format is...
"(Name), if you choose not to get
help now, the next time you (do specific addictive behavior) I'm going to (take some
specific non-punitive action)."
The addict can complain that this is a
threat, a power play, or a manipulative ultimatum. His or her
defensive subselves may choose to see it that way, rather than seeing each
helper's statement as a respectful assertion with clear consequences.
Each helper's statement/s say “Because
I care for you and myself, I will no longer
you. You have free choice
on how to respond.”
the counselor's help, you research local addiction-recovery treatment
facilities and pick one that provides the best mix of reputation, service,
accessibility, and cost. Then you (a) negotiate a planning date that helpers and the counselor can
attend, and you (b) make reservations for the addict at the treatment facility
without her or his knowledge.
Next, all you helpers - including older kids
- meet with the counselor. You introduce each
other, and the counselor facilitates planning the intervention and answers any
questions. You all...
reaffirm your common
goals (to help the addict hit bottom, and protect your integrities),
realities about addiction and recovery (e.g. this article);
rehearse and edit each helper's
anecdotes for objectivity, clarity, and impact; and...
of responding to the addict's likely reactions to hearing these
anecdotes and new consequences.
The counselor educates and coaches everyone, offering questions,
examples, suggestions, confrontations, and encouragement.
When everyone feels ready
enough, you pick a date, time, and place for your intervention. Someone
approaches the addict with a fictitious request on that date, and gets his or
her agreement to come. S/He walks into a room where you all are gathered, and
someone explains that you're all there to help.
Introductions are made, and
the target person is respectfully asked to listen
without comment or explanation as each helper - including children - reads or
says her or his list of incidents and new behavioral limits.
emphasis is on caring confrontation, not blame. After the last one is
You assert clearly and
directly: "We need you to go into treatment
right now. I've made all the
arrangements, your bag is packed and in the car, and the staff is expecting
team expects and is ready to compassionately counter all the person's resistances. The addict
clearly agrees to start inpatient treatment, or s/he doesn’t. "I'll think about it"
or ”I’ll do it after (some future event)” are
responses. If s/he elects not to get inpatient help following your meeting,
you all must manifest “tough love”:
make good on the consequences you
These steps are for intervening with an adult. For more perspective, search
the Web on "addiction intervention." For options on relating to an addicted
child, see this after you finish
+ + +
Check #2 - to gauge what you've learned from this article,
re-take the first knowledge check, and
then do this one: Links will take you to sections in this article or a
I can name and clearly describe three
options for confronting an addicted person (T F ?)
I can describe at least four traits
of a typical addiction
enabler now (T F ?)
I can describe what
confrontation ("planting seeds") is, and how to do it. (T F
I can describe specifically
how to prepare for
personally confronting an addict or enabler now. (T F ?)
I can describe at least four
traits of someone qualified to
help me plan and confront an addict or enabler
(T F ?);
I can name the two main
objectives of a group confrontation. (T
I can describe the main
steps in a group confrontation of an addict.
(T F ?)
I can say the
out loud now, and I use it often. (T F ?)
I can say out loud why I read this
article, and whether I got what I needed or not. (T F
My true Self is
these items now. If not - who
is? (T F ?)
Pause and reflect - what are your subselves
just briefly reviewed three options you have if you're concerned about
another person's addiction.
Lesson-5 article provides perspective on...
what is an addiction?
symptoms of a
language can hurt or help
True and pseudo
options if another adult is addicted:
The article proposes that all
of addiction are symptoms of family (vs. personal) dysfunction. It outlines three options if you feel an important
person may be or is addicted to a toxic substance, activity, mood state, or
Usually, the most effective confrontation strategy is to
effective intervention with qualified help, as outlined above.
feel you have an addiction (wounds), go
here. For reliable information about
addictions and preliminary recovery, I recommend the
Hazelden Institute. Also
0or other 12-step Web
sites. They all provide links to other helpful resources, including books,
programs, articles, and online
chat rooms and support groups. There is a lot of qualified help
Overall, if you and
partner feel any adult in your extended family was or is addicted,
your living and future kids
depend on you to act, vs. ignore it. Their psychological health and growth is in your hands. For
helpful perspective and many resources, see the
Web sites. Though they focus on children of chemically-dependent parents,
apply to all minor kids in low-nurturance families.
For more perspective, see these..
Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get
what you needed? If not, what
you need? Who's
these questions - your
intro / course outline /
site search /
definitions / chat