The Intervention - The Most Important Thing I Ever Did
One of the most painful things one can ever experience is to watch someone self destruct – especially someone who is that dear, that important in your life. I am the older sister among siblings who lost their parents early in life. Alan and I were very close. At least I thought we were close; I thought I knew everything about my bother – his feelings, what he was doing, where he was spending his time… little did I know!
It shook me to the foundation of my being when I discovered his drinking habit and then I had to watch helplessly as my kid brother veered chillingly close to the precipice; very nearly reaching the point of no return in the throes of his alcohol addiction. I found that the two of us had different ways to cope with the deaths of our parents – while I threw myself into my studies and later work, he sought solace elsewhere.
Drinking is never a solace and it is always difficult to hide over a length of time… when money started to disappear (money thankfully was not an issue because my parents had been sensible about savings and so on), when my brother seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time in his room, seemingly sleeping, when his stories started to not add up, I had to face up to the fact that something was terribly, terribly wrong.
Talking to him did not help, getting his friends to talk to him did not help; at one point I realized that he had few genuine friends. I knew that I was the only one who could prevent my beloved brother from self destructing completely.
Preparing for the intervention
He was in denial of course. He insisted that he had a handle on the situation; that he could control how much he drank; that he could quit anytime he wanted. He did not want to or perhaps could not admit to how the beast of his addiction had him in thrall. He was helpless and either did not know or did not want to know this. An intervention was necessary. It was vitally important.
I thought of whom I could involve. There was Dr Spence – he had always been a kindly and constant comfort for us; my brother trusted him. I decided to call Aunt Anne, our mother’s sister – she had very definite ideas of her own, but had a sensible head on her shoulders and I knew that my brother knew that she had our best interests at heart. Then there was Leigh, who had been his almost-girlfriend before he grew so distant from her; I knew she cared deeply. I hadn't seen his buddies Bill and Mitch in a while but I knew they would want to help.
We held the intervention at our home, so Alan would have no reason to suspect anything was afoot. We had decided beforehand what each member of the intervention would say and do… specific instances, changes that needed to be made and consequences if those changes were not made. We were careful not to let Alan know anything about it beforehand.
When he arrived home on the day of the intervention, he was thankfully sober – it was a calculated risk I took, which paid off. Though his first reaction was anger and rejection of what he thought of as well meaning but worthless efforts, we were all determined to get our point across. He finally started to listen; really listen. Quite simply, he had to listen simply because he couldn't get away from the fact that we all cared – I may have cared the most and the deepest, but it was clear that everyone did.
I started things off – speaking simply and from the heart. Our gentle faced family doctor followed and I think perhaps he had the most impact – the course of action he detailed seemed so reasonable. Aunt Anne made a forceful point because she refused to take no for an answer. Bill and Mitch made a huge difference because they weren't shy of telling their friend what a complete a****** he had become recently. Leigh spoke mainly from emotion, and wasn't always fully coherent, but I could see that she was getting across to him.
What followed was tough for Alan – and I want to skim over the really difficult bits to tell you a bit of what has kept him sober, helping him stay clean for over 5 years now.
What my research told me about sober living environments
I read about studies that examined destructive living environments and sober living spaces and how these sober living spaces can impact addiction recovery. Researchers have found that it isn't just the detox program but the follow up that is as important for people attempting to abstain from drugs or alcohol; that the lack of a stable and substance free living environment can be a serious obstacle to sustained abstinence. Even highly motivated individuals can find that their recovery is derailed when such safe environments are not made available.
I think that my brother was very fortunate about finding the right sober living environment - at http://www.afreshstartsoberliving.com/ - that offered an alcohol free living environment along with people who strongly advocated AA attendance, and house rules that required meeting attendance. The peer oriented model of recovery really worked for him and he was lucky I think, about the sort of supportive and energetic people he was surrounded by at the time.