Lost Opportunity: Could Putting off an Intervention Be a Deadly Decision?
Sometimes we wish that disturbing situations would just go away. We convince ourselves that if we don’t think too much about it or act like it doesn’t exist, that somehow things will magically change and take the burden away from us to do anything.
But when we’re talking about addiction of one of our family members or loved ones, or even one of our close friends, we may be losing more than just an opportunity. Our failure to act may be one of the worst decisions we’ve ever made.
Let’s look at some scenarios and see how our failure to act could be so detrimental to another’s life – and our own.
Escalation of Serious Negative Consequences
Addiction isn’t a straight-line path for everyone. Some individuals can “carry on” for years as high-functioning alcoholics or confine their drug use to surreptitious forays and cloak their growing dependence using a variety of subterfuges, distorted half-truths, and outright lies.
There does come a time, however, when it all starts crashing down. The lies have escalated to the point where the individual can’t even keep track of them anymore. Friends, family members, loved ones and employers catch the person in first one, and then another and another falsehood.
Pretty soon, it’s more than just deception and lies that are happening all too frequently. The individual, who has by now become dependent on alcohol or drugs, begins to have difficulty sticking to schedules, frequently loses track of time, and gets into a series of consequences that escalate in their seriousness.
Naturally, the person who is addicted doesn’t see anything wrong. It takes almost total loss of everything the individual holds dear for the realization that he or she is addicted to really sink in. And by then, there may very well be the loss of a job, home, financial ruin, health consequences, and estrangement from family and loved ones.
When an addict goes untreated, it only gets worse. At the end of the line, when all is lost, sometimes the individual decides that taking his or her own life is the only solution.
This is a deadly consequence of putting off an intervention that you know is necessary. No, you can’t force the addict to get treatment, but you can certainly offer your support and encouragement, along with the help of other friends and family members and possibly a trained interventionist.
It’s certainly something worth considering. But let’s take a look at another scenario where putting off an intervention could prove to be a deadly decision.
Abuse Results from Continuing Addiction
It’s not easy being a parent even in the best of times. It’s also tough to be a loving spouse or partner in times of crisis. But add in addiction and the prospects for a healthy family atmosphere just gets murkier.
When one family member is an addict, either to alcohol or drugs, or gambling or compulsive sexual behavior, workaholism or compulsive spending – or a combination of these – going over the line and becoming abusive to family members and loved ones is all too common. The more the addict feels cornered or threatened or is running out of options and excuses, the greater the risk that he or she will start taking out frustrations and anger on those nearby.
It’s just too easy to lash out, first verbally and then physically. Cruelty to spouse and/or children in the household is certainly not inevitable, but it happens so frequently as to be statistically significant.
And abuse leads to psychological and physical damage in those who are abused. In many cases, an abused child grows up to be an abuser to his or her children and spouse as well. In this regard, the consequences of foregoing an intervention could be extremely damaging to the persons closest to the addict.
Even if your loved one, family member or close friend hasn’t yet resorted to physical violence and abuse, it may only be a matter of time. Addiction changes how the individual is able to process what’s going on, interferes with rational thinking, increases aggression, and results in poor decision-making.
Why allow such a heartbreaking outcome to occur – when you could take the time and make the effort to stage a potentially lifesaving intervention?
Financial Difficulties Intensify, Putting Children at Risk
Let’s face it: Addiction costs money. As a person sinks deeper into addiction, what may have started off as casual drinking or doing drugs has propelled the individual into a vicious cycle of drug-seeking, using, coming off the high, and starting the process all over again. By the time the person is completely hooked, seeking, using and seeking takes over his or her life.
It also costs a great deal of money. Besides the cost of the drugs (or alcohol, or gambling, or any other type of addiction), there are the ancillary costs to be taken into account. Days lost from work, a cut in pay due to poor work performance, loss of a job, court costs, fines, money to pay for lawyers, medical bills – all these add up to wreak a tremendous toll on the family’s financial situation.
Something’s got to give. It may be that the mortgage or rent falls into arrears. The utilities go unpaid. Necessary medical and dental expenditures are put off, including those for minor children living in the household. Food becomes scarce. Clothing is worn, left dirty. Personal hygiene is untended to.
Still, without an intervention and treatment, the addict won’t curtail his or her self-destructive pattern of behavior.
But it’s not just the addict that suffers. Worst of all, the children in the family are being neglected by one or both parents as a result of addiction. Suffering more than just physically, the children are being put at a great risk for psychological and emotional damage.
Hoping against hope that this isn’t the case, or couldn’t possibly be the case, with your friend or loved one just won’t cut it. If you even suspect – and you know by now whether you do suspect addiction or not – you owe it to the addict, yourself, and any person who’s in daily close contact with that individual to encourage an intervention and ultimately get treatment for the addict.
Fatalities or Injuries as a Result of Driving Drunk
No one likes to think about the consequences of a loved one or family member driving drunk, getting into an accident, and causing injuries or death to others. But the fact of the matter is that the more often someone who’s inebriated or drugged gets behind the wheel, the more likely it is that sooner or later that individual will cause an accident – with potentially fatal results.
Consider the facts. According to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in 2010, an estimated 22.1 million persons aged 12 or older were classified with substance dependence or abuse in the past year. Of these, 2.9 million were dependent on or abused both alcohol and illicit drugs, 4.2 million had dependence on or abuse of illicit drugs but not alcohol, and 15.0 million had dependence on or abuse of alcohol but not illicit drugs.
The survey also inquired about driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs within the past year. The answers reported were also alarming here, with 10.6 million persons aged 12 or older saying that they had driven under the influence of illicit drugs during the past 12 months, and 11.4 percent reporting that they had driven under the influence of alcohol at least one time during the past year.
It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that the potential for tragedy is everywhere on the roads and highways of this country each year. With the largest concentration of illicit drug and alcohol use among those aged 18 to 25, it also stands to reason that this age group is even more likely to become involved in a motor vehicle accident while under the influence.
Remember, it only takes one time driving drunk or under the influence of drugs to result in a tragedy that the individual will never be able to erase. Ironically, the person who causes such accidents usually, but not always, survives. Nevertheless, the ramifications for looking away when someone you know or love decides to get behind the wheel after drinking or drug use could be something that haunts you forever.
If you feel anything for this person, do everyone a favor and make the decision to do an intervention. To not get involved, to just go your own way, could be the most deadly decision you’d ever make.
Deterioration of Health with Life-Threatening Results
Watching someone you care about deteriorate before your eyes isn’t a pleasant experience. While you certainly aren’t God and can’t prevent some medical conditions or unforeseen accidents from happening, when the deterioration is due to addiction of one sort or another, what you need to know and remember is that unless the addiction is treated, the individual’s health is only going to worsen over time.
Addiction is a progressive and often fatal disease. It isn’t something that just goes away.
Depending on the addiction, here are some of the potential life-threatening medical conditions that occur over time.
Alcoholism – Excessive drinking can cause potentially serious problems, including:
· Accidental serious injury or death
· Certain cancers, including breast cancer, cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus and liver
· Cirrhosis of the liver
· Fetal alcohol syndrome and other health problems in an unborn child
· Heart muscle damage (alcoholic cardiomyopathy) leading to heart failure
· High blood pressure
· Sudden death (if the person already has cardiovascular disease)
Heroin abuse – Long-term use leads to addiction and may also result in the following:
· Arthritis and other rheumatologic problems
· Bacterial infections
· Clogging of the blood vessels leading to the kidney, liver, lungs or brain
· Collapsed veins
· Infection of heart lining and valves
· Infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C
· Liver and kidney diseases
· Lung complications (including pneumonia and tuberculosis)
Meth abuse – Long-term use (sometimes even short-term use) leads to addiction and may also result in the following:
· High blood pressure
· Rapid breathing
· Over time, constant fluctuations can cause consistent blood pressure problems, cardiac damage and artery blockage.
· Rapid increase in heart rate and body temperature leads to risk of sudden stroke or heart attack
· Spontaneous brain hemorrhages
· Aneurysm ruptures
· Enlargement of the heart
· Compromised immunity
· Liver damage
· Lung disease
· Dental disorders, “meth mouth” conditions of rotting teeth and gum disease
· Psychosis, including hallucinations, paranoia and mood disturbances
About Staging an Intervention
With the previous list of possible long-term medical consequences as a start (it is by no means complete), it is clear that once a loved one, family member or friend is addicted, he or she needs help of a professional nature. But what, exactly should you do? We’ll take a look.
As already stated, a person who has become addicted is very adept at denying that there’s any kind of a problem. Since they don’t believe that they have a problem, or they have convinced themselves and others that they don’t, they’re not likely to ask for help on their own. That’s where friends, family members, and even co-workers come in. At this point in time, it’s up to you as a group to persuade the individual to get help.
Getting started in staging an intervention is not all that difficult. It just takes some planning and a commitment to see it through. All that an intervention is this: a carefully planned process during which family and friends, teachers, clergy members, or others, including a trained professional interventionist, come together to confront an individual about his or her addiction and ask him or her to accept a treatment plan. If the intervention is directed by a professional interventionist, the arrangements for the addicted individual to go off to treatment have already been arranged. As soon as the person agrees to go into treatment, he or she is escorted to the treatment facility by the interventionist.
Of course, not every intervention involves the use of a professional interventionist. Family members and friends may be able to pull off a successful intervention, but there must be a great deal of research and planning that goes into it before the intervention is undertaken. Remember that a poorly planned and executed intervention will likely not result in your loved one, friend or co-worker agreeing to go into treatment. If you don’t have everything in order, and stand united in your determination that the addict gets treatment, it could result in an even worse situation.
Does this mean that an intervention is too much trouble for you to get involved in? Do you think that it’s better to let the situation remain as it is? That would be a lost opportunity, indeed. Do not put off an intervention because you fear your loved one, family member, friend or co-worker will turn away from you, hate you, or reject you. When confronted about addiction, the addict is very likely to exhibit a range of powerful emotions, from hysteria to anger to denial to threats, tears and walking out the door.
That doesn’t mean that staging an intervention is not worth the trouble. Do your research. Find out where you can get help to arrange an intervention. Be thorough. Be persistent. Find the support you need to get the ball rolling.
One more thing about hiring a professional interventionist: Your goal should be to hire one with a proven record of getting highly resistant individuals into treatment. After all, the addict desperately needs help in order to overcome his or her addiction. Wishing won’t make it so, nor will threats, anger, tears or long silences. Take advantage of this opportunity to get your friend, co-worker, loved one or family member the help he or she needs to get his or her life back in order and on the road to recovery.