Monday, October 31, 2011

The irony of Intervention...

I happened to catch an episode of Intervention this afternoon and it occurred to me that the way the addictions counselors treat addicts is kind of ironic.  At the start of every intervention, the leader reassures the drug addict/alcoholic/eating disordered individual that everyone in the room just "loves the hell out of them" and wants to fight for them to get better.  Then, after that speech, everyone reads letters aloud as to how the addict's behaviors have negatively affected them.  Then, after that, these people who supposedly love the hell out of the object of their ambush, threaten the addict with abandonment if they don't fall in line.

The threats usually work... at least temporarily.  The addict usually goes into treatment, even if the treatment fails or the addict relapses.  Every once in awhile, the addict resists and tells them to fuck off.  As much as I don't want to make light of how hard it is to live with an addict, I almost kind of root for the addicts who resist when they are confronted in this way.  The reason I root for them is because threatening to shun or abandon someone because they're doing something you don't like is, at its heart, a manipulative control tactic.

My husband's former wife was a big fan of this kind of shit.  When they were married, she convinced him that he was "sick" in the head and was a porn addict.  She threatened to abandon him and turn his family against him.  She said she was trying to force him to "rock bottom".  The reality was, she was the one who had "problems".   Her ploy to make my husband hit rock bottom backfired, because #1, he didn't have an addiction problem (she fabricated it based on her high school dropout education and whacked out religion) and #2, her attempts to "help" him were really a cruel, completely unnecessary control tactic.

If you live with someone who is an addict and is making your life hell, you have every right to do what it takes to protect yourself.  You have every right to say, "that's enough", and do whatever you can to move on from the situation.  But is it really right to guilt and manipulate someone into getting treatment?  Seems to me, that's not what the concept of rock bottom is all about.  The concept of rock bottom is about letting the addict account for his or her own poor choices.  That doesn't mean abandoning or shunning them while trying to manipulate them into submission.  That means not enabling them in their bad behaviors.

So, if you want to do "rock bottom" right, you don't purposely create a bad situation for someone who is an addict.  You simply stop covering for them.  You don't give them money for their bills.  You don't give them a place to sleep off their hangovers.  You don't give them a safe place to shoot heroin or hide their kiddie porn for them.  When you stop doing these things for the addict, they end up having to live with the unpleasant results of their poor decisions.  And that is what ultimately forces them to "rock bottom", not turning everyone against them or acting like they're dead.  Besides, I think it's pretty presumptuous for people to assume that the addict values their relationships with healthy people that much.  A true addict will choose the substance every time, until that choice becomes too risky or the consequences too unpleasant.  Every addict has a different threshold into recovery, just as every healthy person has a threshold into addiction.  Some people are willing to die for their addictions, while others draw the line much sooner.  

My husband and I have lived happily together for almost nine years.  If he were an actual addict, I would know it.  And I would suffer for it.  I have seen no evidence that my husband ever needed an "intervention" from his ex wife and their church.  Forcing my husband to "rock bottom" was probably the kindest thing the ex ever could have done, because she showed her true colors which jolted him back to reality and made him see her for the psycho she is.  Interventions are dramatic and may work for the short term, but in the long run, they are disrespectful, manipulative, and controlling.  If you want to distance yourself from someone who is engaging in bad behaviors, shit or get off the pot.  But don't try to control them.  Ultimately, it won't work.

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