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Interventions needed for the family first

Today there are millions of families and friends who agonize over how to help a loved one struggling with alcoholism, drug problems or mental health issues. The biggest obstacle to getting someone help is the issue of denial.

Denial is an unconscious defense mechanism that is necessary for survival. But, with denial in regards to addiction, the denial is taken to an extreme and becomes unhealthy in that it becomes an obstacle to recovery. The alcoholic or addict will blame everything and everyone except their own substance abuse for their problems. Regardless of how you might be contributing to the problem, their choice to act out addictively is still 100 percent their choice and you cannot control this.

People with addictions often suffer from other mental health disorders. Some with untreated problems start using alcohol or drugs as a way to self-medicate. People are less likely to recover from addiction when their co-occurring illness is left untreated.

Working in the addiction field for 25 years, I find the need to educate the family members of those suffering from addiction. If we can get to the family first, educate and make them aware of the dynamics of addiction, they will be more empowered to practice the concept of "tough love."

I hear repeatedly, "I can't have them arrested for stealing," or "Where would he go if I threw them out?" Then months or sometimes a year or two later, I end up reading about their loved one's name in the local newspaper obituaries. Then the "if only" game starts. By then, it's too late.

One way to address a loved one's addiction is to take action through a formal intervention. Staging a well-planned intervention can be an effective way to help a loved one recognize the impact of his or her behaviors and accept treatment.

An intervention is a carefully planned process in which family and friends, and sometimes colleagues, join together to confront someone about the consequences of alcoholism, addiction or another mental health problem, and ask him or her to accept treatment. An intervention can help people who struggle with addictive behaviors but who are in denial about their situation or who have been unwilling to accept treatment.

People with addictions often don't see the negative effects their behavior has on them and others. It's important not to wait until they "want help." Instead, think of an intervention as giving your loved one a clear opportunity to make changes before things get really bad like developing medical issues, being arrested for a DWI or drug possession, losing their careers, their families and oftentimes their lives.

For more information, please feel free to contact me at (716) 435-4895 or go to and click on the intervention link.


Cindy Goss is Director of Catch A Falling Star Assistance Program, which provides crisis response, case management and Intervention services.

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