TOUGH LOVE DOES NOT MEAN THE STREET!
Do not throw your loved one out of the house! Instead, try laying down the law with love. It looks like it is 5 o’clock in the morning, I am almost certain that it is Friday, and I am already sitting in Terminal Three with a much-needed cup of coffee, waiting to catch an early American Airlines flight out to New York. I have to admit, I am still pretty tired after spending a good part of the night speaking with my client, trying to help alleviate her anxiety and to help her get rid of some of her doubt heavily infused with guilt and shame. The majority of last night’s conversation centered around the death of her husband two years prior, and the impact of his loss on the entire family. She confided in me that her eldest son, the person that I am on my way to help, took it the hardest. Up until the time of her husband’s death, he was reportedly more of a weekend or recreational user. It now appears that for the past two years, he has been unsuccessfully trying to numb out the pain of his loss by abusing opiate-based painkillers daily.
My client ultimately reached out to me with guarded apprehension after one of her friends recommended that she seek out the help of a professional interventionist. Right from the beginning, she told me that she had just about given up hope on her son and that I represented more of a last-ditch effort before she had to kick him out of the house and begin “planning for a funeral.” The first thing I told her after hearing that, was that she would probably not have to plan for that funeral as long as she was prepared to lay down the law with love.
By no means do I purport to be some kind of mental health Merlin, or substance abuse disorder sorcerer, but rather a well-trained and intuitively compassionate behavioral health intervention professional who has learned how to effectively harness the collective loving power of close family and friends to hold and then uphold healthy strategically loving boundaries strong enough to support the recovery process moving forward. From my perspective, the success of a mental health or substance use disorder intervention requires a laser-focused approach on following the intervention plan. So, therefore, in order for me to do my job effectively, I have to learn how to recognize the most significant boundaries available to work with on any given assignment.
When it comes to establishing healthy boundaries, I usually start off by trying to learn as much about the identified person as possible, for example, who or what they care most about, as well as some of the most significant events they may have experienced in life. With that information, I am then able to construct a carefully-coordinated plan to effectively bypass most of the denial by dismantling the bulk of the resistance. By embracing this approach, the intervention becomes far more than just trying to get someone to agree to enter into treatment. Now, strategically fueled by love and understanding, the potential long-term benefits of the intervention process are held firmly in place with a more sturdy foundation. For me, an intervention has the capacity to be one of the most loving, enriching, and cathartic experiences for everyone involved in the process. However, similar to going into battle, you have to be ready to engage with whatever and whoever might be keeping the identified person unwell. With that perspective in mind, I also have to understand the terms of engagement. Nevertheless, unlike modern warfare, when it comes to planning for an intervention, there is no Geneva Convention to hold anyone accountable for their actions. Therefore, I always have to be ready for the unexpected twist and turn, and of course, be able to control the collective fear of the unknown with calm, composure, and contingency plans.
Well, it is time to board my plane. Hopefully, I will be able to get some rest on the flight up to New York. My client warned me that her son can be fast on his feet when he is not busy nodding off. So I better get as much rest as possible before I hit the ground in the Big Apple. On a more personal note, my father passed away when I was 15. He was and will always be the most influential man in my life. There is no doubt in my mind that his death, and my own subsequent unsuccessful efforts to self-medicate my own pain, were the driving force behind my own career path. Beyond the dark shadows of addiction, I know the pain of losing a loved one. With that in mind, it is almost time to get this young man on his way to treatment, so that he can begin to mourn his own loss, while he learns to recover with dignity and without drugs. I just have to make sure that his mother is actually prepared to lay down the law with love.