Having a loved one who is struggling with addiction can feel overwhelming, create disharmony in the relationship and feel downright hopeless at times. The most well-known model used to help someone get into some form of treatment has been the Johnson Intervention method. Many have seen this model used on various television shows, filled with high drama, intense music and emotional reactions from both the loved ones and the individual struggling with addiction. This form of intervention typically involves hiring an interventionist who coaches the loved ones on how to effectively confront the addict and set expectations that they either go to treatment or face the reality of not being involved in their loved ones lives anymore, to greater or lesser degrees.
Research has shown that this approach is effective only 30% of the time and can often decrease the likelihood that treatment will be as effective for the individual who is “forced” to enter treatment (Myers, et.al, 2002). Those who are forced to attend treatment may not be ready to make a change in their behavior and this can cause resentment and resistance during the treatment process.
Another approach that has not yet hit the main stream world of addiction is called CRAFT, community reinforcement and family training. This approach was created by Robert Meyers and colleagues at the University of New Mexico and has been shown to have a roughly 65% success rate in getting a loved one into some form of treatment. CRAFT was developed to assist loved ones in learning new effective ways to interact with the substance user in a kind and loving fashion, with the intention of reducing or stopping their substance use or drinking, and encourage them to enter into some form of treatment.
Since friends and families lives often become completely consumed by their loved one’s addiction, CRAFT emphasizes learning coping skills on how to effectively care for themselves and take back control of their life. By practicing self-care regularly, LO are better able to handle stress, express their feelings in more tactful ways, and maintain a positive outlook on the situation which influences more helpful interactions that with the struggling individual and increases the chances they will choose to seek treatment.
While this approach may sound utopian and like all that is done is cater and be nice to the individual who is seemingly causing so much chaos and discord–there is a helpful way to approach the treatment conversations where someone is more likely to be open and receptive to the conversation. Nagging, pleading and threatening typically don’t work on us when someone wants to get us to engage in something so why would we think it would be helpful to do the same to a loved one?
Addressing conversations with a loved one, letting them know how you feel, and what you would like to see happen going forward is important. A few tips below that may be helpful in starting this process. If you would like further reading on this topic, I suggest reading How to Get Your Loved One Sober, by Robert Meyers and Brenda Wolf.
- Do not have conversations with your loved one when they are under the influence. Remove yourself from the situation and let them know in a calm, matter-of-fact manner that they appear to be under the influence, how it makes you feel, and that you would like to have the conversation when they are sober. Remove yourself from the situation and do not reinforce their use by spending time with them or engaging in conversation. No argument or fighting, simply walk away and distance yourself.
- Address your loved ones use at a time when they are most likely to be receptive, using the PIUS formula to address your wants, needs and feelings.
- P: Positive communication that focuses on what you do like and want for the relationship, not what you don’t like and want them to stop. Instead of saying “you always ruin dinner by getting drunk”, try “I enjoy having meals with you so much when you are sober”.
- I: use “I” statements to express how you are feeling. Using I statements lowers the defenses of the other person and allows them to be more receptive because the focus is on your feelings and not on their defects of character
- U: show understanding to your loved one’s situation and express how hard it must be to change as an example. This too helps lower defenses and shows that you are empathizing with their feelings and difficulties.
- S: Share responsibility to some extent for the current circumstances you all find yourselves in. How can you help and support your loved one during the change process and how has your mindset and behaviors potentially influenced the situation? While you are taking some responsibility for the problem, you are also taking some responsibility for developing a solution and path to a healthier, more loving relationship.
If you or a loved one is struggling with problematic substance use, we are here to help you find a solution. Even if we are not the best fit for you or your loved one, we can help you find someone who is.