Has anyone done an intervention on a friend?
January 28, 2013 8:51 AM   Subscribe

And if so, please tell me how you did it? What the situation was? And what kind of resources did you use?
posted by Unred to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What is the friend's general affliction? Drugs, alcohol, abusive relationship, mental health?

What you are intervening for can dictate the how, where, why and other specifics.
posted by lampshade at 9:10 AM on January 28, 2013

My friend drinks a lot. And I think a lot of us (his friends) feel like we've enabled him by staying out and drinking with him socially. But its apparent that he's not just doing it socially and no longer has control over stopping. He also has various groups of friends that don't know each other, which seems to be a good way to hide how much and how often he drinks.
posted by Unred at 9:13 AM on January 28, 2013

I did something like an intervention once. It was a housemate. He had drank himself to sleep but first he'd put chicken in a pot to make soup and turned on the range and left it unattended. This would have been much worse had the smoke alarm not woke me up. I put out the fire and sat down with him and had a long talk with the guy, about the damage he was doing, et cetera. I was less concerned with his personal well-being than I was with not waking up in a burning house, honestly, but the idea was the same. Had it been less immediate, but I'd heard about it, I might have gotten more people involved and done it less on the spur of the moment - just set it up at a time I knew he'd be home.

My advice for you is threefold:

1. Obviously, everyone involved in this intervention will need to be taking the angle of "we're here because we care about you, etc," but you will need to be prepared to give him clear examples of ways that his drinking has caused actual problems for him or for other people: the time he got shitfaced and made a huge ugly scene at a party, the time he got blackout drunk and woke up on someone's lawn, the time he was sent home from a job because he showed up smelling like booze, and so on and so forth. "You drink a lot and we're worried" is a good starting point for it, but you're going to want to have as much ammunition as possible if you're going to make an impact on the various rationalizations that alcoholics tend to have.

2. One of the things you should all be on the same page about is your hopes for an outcome and what you'd like to see happen by the end if it goes well. This way there's no confusion in the ranks if he promises to try to cut back and that's good enough for his partner and his cousin and the dudes in his fantasy football league but it doesn't cut it for anyone else.

3. Beforehand, have a discussion about what happens (in terms of your ideas, expectations and ideally plans) in the event that you get everyone together and lead this horse to water and it does not drink. Another intervention? Let him get on with drinking himself to death? Have a plan amongst yourselves. If you can't have a plan, have a dialogue. Recovery tends to take a couple tries.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:56 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I staged an intervention for a partner who was deeply and passionately addicted to alcohol (already in that stage where they stood up for it, i.e. the alcohol itself, VERY fiercely, as though I was somehow insulting its honor by pointing out that there was a problem) and surrounded themselves exclusively with other people who were in the same boat.

How I did it:
I said stuff like, "I love you so much, you are so important to me, you're doing a lot of damage to your health! You're regularly getting behind the wheel of a car while black-out wasted, so you could quite easily kill or seriously injure yourself and/or others, not to mention get arrested and go to jail, your alcohol consumption is affecting every single aspect of your life, and since you are not currently able to stand up for yourself, I would like to stand up for you, and I would like to help you however you need to be helped. You need to stop drinking, for your safety and the safety of those around you. You have my full and total support in this process, I will help you however I can. Seriously, I love you so much! I just want you to know what it feels like to feel OK when you're not drunk all the time!" I bought books like Getting Them Sober. I went to AlAnon for my own support.

What happened next:
* So, so, SO much protesting -- "All of my friends drink this much! It's normal to have 12 beers when I'm out with my friends! Driving drunk isn't that hard, I'm a more careful driver when I know I'm drunk! The one time I hit something drunk driving, it was just a light post, and I only fucked up my own car! I don't have a drinking problem, you're just a prude! You just hate my friends, and you hate it when I have fun!"
* So, so, SO much bargaining -- "What if I promise to take a cab when I go out drinking? What if I take my bike instead? What if I promise to limit myself to 8 drinks total per night? What if I only limit myself to 4 drinks at first, then I'll have a water, then another 4 drinks? What if I always have a designated driver? What if I make sure to leave at bar close instead of going to house parties or speakeasies afterward?"
* Finally, they broke down and lied and said they would agree to try -- not to quit, of course, but to moderate their drinking. To them, "moderate" drinking meant 6-8 beers on a weeknight, 8-12+ on a weekend or at a party.
* Many tears were shed.
* Many promises were made.
* All intoxicants were removed from the house.
* They went out one night and successfully "moderated" themselves to drinking a mere six-pack; they viewed this as a great and unbridled success, pretty much equivalent to complete recovery, and they were very "in your face!" to me about it. I was... nonplussed.
* Less than a week later, they went out promising to be home around midnight, and when I woke up at 8 AM the next day, they were still gone. Wallet and keys and car and person were still as gone as they had been at bedtime, their phone was turned off, I had no idea who they were with (random hookup they had met at the bar) or where they had gone (random hookup's apartment) for over 48 hours.
* At around 3:45 AM on the third day, the day I had decided I would call the police to file a missing person report, I woke up to a huge crash in the living room. I came out of my bedroom holding a baseball bat, thinking someone had broken into the house.
* It was not a burglar, it was the alcoholic, utterly incoherent, drooling all over themselves, completely unable to walk or form words yet somehow having operated a motor vehicle successfully enough that they had arrived home, unlocked the door, and entered the abode.
* They had collapsed in the living room, not five feet from the door, and since they were face-down and completely unresponsive on the floor, I thought the giant crash may have been caused by their soft little skull caroming off the sharp corner of the coffee table. I screamed their name to no response, and truly believed for a few moments that they had died. I was too scared to call 911, I just screamed and screamed.
* My screaming and shaking eventually roused them to a minimal degree; they rolled themselves up to face me in order to express their sudden anger. Lots of slurred "fugyuu, Ikin hannl mself fugginfugyuu!" nonsense, then they fell back asleep mid-rage and started snoring really loudly.
* I rolled them onto their stomach and went back to bed.
* I woke up in the morning and they had vomited all over basically every square inch of the living room, then fallen back asleep face-down in the vomit. I left a note saying I was leaving the house for a while to clear my head.
* After two full days of hangover/alcohol poisoning recovery and the accompanying realization that if I had not turned them back over onto their stomach, they may have choked to death on their own vomit, they contacted me with a vow that the vomit had been cleaned up and they would never drink again. They swore to a new "clean" lifestyle -- sans booze, but with the caveat that all other intoxicants would remain in rotation.
* Despite having vowed to stick through it all, I no longer have the energy to care enough to find out whether or not they are even still "sober" because that experience was so terrifying, relentless, and utterly fucking exhausting. They wrung the care and love right out of my bones. All for booze, all for naught.

I learned the hard way that there is a reason interventions are often best left to professionals. As such, I would strongly recommend that rather than staging your own intervention per se, you instead choose to express your very serious concern, avail your friend of a bunch of information regarding professional resources (counselors, detox, etc.), maybe ask if they'll go to an AA meeting if you tag along for support, and just promise you will stay by their side throughout the recovery process if they choose to pursue it.
In any case, definitely go to an AlAnon meeting first to see what you're up against and learn from people who have been in your exact position; that was a real eye-opener for me -- life-altering, really. The road is long and rocky. Alcoholism is a beast.
posted by divined by radio at 10:17 AM on January 28, 2013 [17 favorites]

I have not staged an intervention, but I have very dear loved ones with alcohol and drug problems. Some of those people are clean and sober. Some never got there.

I just want to say that no matter how often you went out drinking with him or ignored warning signs, his problem is in no way, not even one tiny small way, your fault or your responsibility. You can help him most by by letting him know you are aware of what's going on, and by not participating in the problematic behavior anymore, now that you recognize it exists. Taking on the responsibility of trying to get him sober is going to be a very frustrating experience.
posted by something something at 10:41 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

My experience is:

1. There's really nothing, nothing, nothing you or anyone else can do to make an addict go straight.
2. You still have to try, if you love them. "Try" can mean almost anything, but you have to believe you tried, if they kill themselves with their addiction - for your own sake.
3. If the intervention is about something other than addiction, say depression or suicidal behavior, it might actually work (by which I mean it apparently helped sway things).

If you have a group interested in intervening, form a closed media group (such as a Yahoo group) so that you can keep members up-to-date on events, keep people in-the-know so they aren't fooled by lies, and generally to support each other emotionally.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:26 AM on January 28, 2013

We did this, unfortunately two of the participants chose to use it as an excuse for a ridiculous amount of drama, gossip etc. In retrospect we shouldn't have included them in planning because there were signs they were indiscreet and not generally nice people ahead of time.

One actively undermined everyone else so she wouldn't lose her party buddy, secretly bringing booze to the persons house several nights the following week and encouraging them to drink it. So my advice is to take a good hard look at the people you want to include.
posted by fshgrl at 11:34 AM on January 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

fshgrl, that's an excellent point. We had to excise a member for being honhelpful, too (different circumstances, but still). The group is likely to be very motivated to help, but frankly: sick people often have sick friends.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:37 AM on January 28, 2013

Yeah we included close friends. Who, not surprisingly in retrospect, turned out to have some major issues of their own.
posted by fshgrl at 11:38 AM on January 28, 2013

Thank you all. You've given me a lot to think about. And I feel much better after this comment "I just want to say that no matter how often you went out drinking with him or ignored warning signs, his problem is in no way, not even one tiny small way, your fault or your responsibility." This is all a great starting place.
posted by Unred at 11:53 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

It seems like most of the good points have been covered, but I will add that should you go through with the intervention, be sure to have a destination at the end and a means to make it happen. If it is to be a rehab, then do everything you can to have it set up and ready to go directly to. Another tip is to stage the intervention in the morning after the addict's night out partying. It is manipulative, but convicing a hungover person is easier than dealing with a person when they have had a chance to drink up during the day.

As suggested though and first off, get to Al-Anon for some IRL support and advice. Interventions are a human issue and there is only so much that can happen over the phone or online. This is true not just for the intervention but conveying your situation.

Finally - and this is the hard truth - you have to be ready to walk away from this person at some point. If not, and their behavior worsens, it will bring you down too. It is a sad fact that addicts can be some of the most stubborn individual in giving up their addictions and will sacrifice anything to get that high. You have to choose not to be the lamb and if you are, chances are the addict will not get clean anyway.
posted by lampshade at 11:55 AM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

To lampshade's point -- yes! One of the most important aspects of this process will be to know when to walk away. It may be sudden, it may be slow, it may inspire you to go lights-out no-contact-ever-again once you feel you've had enough, it may never come. In any case, it does not make you a bad person or a bad friend if you need to bail. You are not obliged to suffer the slings and arrows of addiction second-hand just because someone is your friend/lover/family; it is not virtuous to martyr yourself just to ensure the addict has you to lean on again and again and again... and again....

Once more for emphasis: His addiction is not your responsibility, your burden, or your fault.

This song may be a wee bit adult contemporary, and the video is unsettlingly trite considering the apparent gravity of the lyrics (unsurprisingly, it was directed by Zach Braff). But listening to Jay Clifford's "Know When To Walk Away" on repeat for hours on end really got me through the period of time when the whole "living with an active alcoholic" thing seemed to have reached its most hopeless and intractable peak.
posted by divined by radio at 1:29 PM on January 28, 2013

A friend and I had an intervention for a third friend who had an increasingly bad prescription drug problem. It was done as lovingly and in the most supportive way possible, letting her know we would help in whatever way we could and that we would always be there for her. She chose to see the effort as a betrayal and decided we were terrible friends. She walked away and we haven't spoken since. It was 13 years ago. I do not regret the decision to have the intervention for a minute. My life has been healthier and happier without bearing her burden.

Understanding all the possible outcomes is key. Are you ok with whatever happens?
posted by Cloudberry Sky at 6:25 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I never wanted to participate in an intervention with my alcoholic family member because I wasn't committed to being fully involved in the recovery process. Are you really in for that much work? I would get advice from a professional alcohol counselor, and have that person present.
posted by theora55 at 8:26 PM on January 28, 2013

I am completely okay with whatever outcome. I think the weird part is although I see this person on a constant basis, I don't think I'm his close friend. And oddly, I don't know who would be. His alcoholism has made him very secretive about relationships and his social life. So, all I can do is with the people he does know make a stand and if I lose his friendship that's okay. Either he chooses to get himself healthy or I make my world healthy by taking him out of it. I appreciate you all for answering and opening my eyes to this.
posted by Unred at 10:09 AM on January 29, 2013

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