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Intervention, smoking and getting to yes

August 08, 2013
Dear Jeff and Debra:

We have been talking to a pastoral care counselor about our son’s marijuana addiction. With the pastor’s help, we’ve decided to do an intervention.

We have two questions: How do we locate a therapist specializing in intervention? Also, our son smokes cigarettes, too, which greatly concerns us. Could you recommend a good treatment center that does not allow smoking?

We’d like our son to quit both addictions while he’s away.

Mom and Dad

Dear Mom and Dad:

To find a professional interventionist, call a reputable treatment center and ask for a referral. Specifically request a clinical interventionist — a therapist who has a strong background in addiction treatment. Some interventionists are not clinically trained, but are lay people with little more than their own recovery.

Intervention should be a clinical process that prepares the family not only for intervention, but also for treatment and aftercare. Treatment centers in Michigan make referrals, and nationally known treatment centers, such as Hazelden, have countrywide lists of interventionists.

As for the smoking, when doing an intervention, we prefer not to use a treatment center that bans smoking. We prefer a center that offers smoking cessation classes and works with the patient to see value in tackling the nicotine addiction while in treatment. Otherwise, upon learning he cannot smoke, your son is likely to flatly refuse help. We find that knowing smoking is permissible provides comfort to smokers, and they are more likely to say “yes” on intervention day. But, as the family, you can be comforted knowing the treatment program will work with your loved one to make better decisions around tobacco use. Your clinical interventionist will help you determine the right treatment program for all your son’s needs.

Dear Jeff and Debra:

My sister-in-law returned home for a week- long furlough from her 12-month stay in treatment for heroin addiction. Her husband, children and grandchildren had a week of boating and fun planned, but zero consideration for my sister-in-law’s recovery program. Being a heroin addict, I assumed she would need to attend 12-step meetings daily. But this didn’t happen, and not one person voiced concern. When I brought up the issue as a failure of not only my sister-in-law, but also the entire family, everyone was surprised.

What are my sister-in-law’s chances for success with the lax attitude everyone shares toward her recovery needs?


Dear Dismayed:

Two things happened when your sister-in-law returned home. By not initiating her own daily involvement in her recovery program, she broadcasted to her family and the professionals working with her she has not progressed far in treatment. She does not yet understand the seriousness of her addiction or how much work it takes to stay sober. As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous: “Half measures avail us nothing.”

As for the family, they gave her a clear message: we do not care if you properly attend to your heroin addiction by working a program of recovery. She now understands when she returns home permanently, no one will be paying attention. Lack of accountability is a major contributor to relapse. Doctors, for instance, have high levels of accountability in recovery and, as a result, low rates of relapse.

Additionally, your sister-in-law’s counselors have been undermined. The family’s apathy — whether it’s caused by disinterest or ignorance — has informed a heroin addict, who already has low motivation, that recovery isn’t high on their priority list either. She will likely return to treatment less enthused toward recovery than when she left. You didn’t say how much longer she will be in treatment, but it is clear to us she needs considerably more time as well as a very structured aftercare plan upon discharge. The family will greatly benefit from attending the family program at the treatment center.

Jeff Jay and Debra Jay are the authors of “Love First: A New Approach to Intervention for Alcoholism and Drug Addiction,” and Debra Jay is the author of “No More Letting Go: The Spirituality of Taking Action.” The two are professional interventionists who live in Grosse Pointe Farms. They may be contacted at (313) 882-6921 or lovefirst.net.

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