Intervention: Dealing With the “What if's”
If we do nothing, the alcoholic will probably wind up, at some point in the progression of addiction, in exactly the circumstances we fear.
Any family that contemplates intervention has to deal with fear, in the form of the ‘what if’s?’ that haunt us. Examples may include:
What if she becomes suicidal as a result of confrontation?
What if he reject us, leaves, and winds up on the streets, alone, drinking or using more than before?
What if she just runs away to her drunk/ drug-using friends?
What if he never forgives us for confronting him?
In sum, it’s the fear that intervention will actually make things worse.
There’s no single correct way to deal with these fears and others like them. Here are some suggestions that worked for others:
Fear he will become suicidal: Alcoholics do feel a lot of guilt and shame, but it’s pretty well repressed. The goal is to get him into treatment, where it can emerge safely. Most won’t come out for several months after drinking stops – a reason behind AA’s fourth and fifth steps.
Fear she’ll reject intervention and head for the streets, drinking or using even more: The point of intervention is to prevent this from happening. If we do nothing, the alcoholic will probably wind up, at some point in the progression of addiction, in exactly these circumstances. That’s what we’re trying to avoid.
Fear he’ll seek out bad company: He probably already has. But they’re not as tolerant as his family. First time he misses the rent, you think they won’t evict him? Let’s face it, an impaired alcoholic is dependent on other people, particularly those that love him. He’s not going anywhere for very long.
Fear she’ll never forgive you for intervening: Intervention is an expression of concern from people who care. It’s hard to dispute that. As angry as she might get at the moment, she knows perfectly well why you’re there. It’s because you haven’t given up on her.
And that’s a message any sick alcoholic or addict is desperate to hear.