Sober Services have built our reputation up around the very positive results we’ve been achieving with our Sober Interventions since early 2008, though Ian Young has been offering drug and alcohol interventions and refining his skills since 2001. Our standard model of Sober Interventions includes interaction from the surrounding family and in the USA this is called the Johnston Method, or “Family Intervention”. This is a model that has been proven to work for around 20 years now. Our Sober Interventions are based around this model, but tweeked for the specific family we’re working with to improve it’s chances of success even further.
What signs should a person look for in a loved one if they suspect that they have addiction problems?
Traditionally, what we find the most obvious changes are in their behaviours, attitudes, attendance, achievements, restlessness, irritability, reduced interest in things that used to excite them, missing work, family events, or appointments. You may find all or just some of these traits showing up in your loved one. These are all just signs that help is needed.
When it comes to an intervention with a loved one, what can you do if most of the family have already given up on the addicted person?
This happens so often and often the first hurdle is reinvigorating the family to accept that help is available that actually has a high chance to succeed. The family and loved ones feel they tried everything to help; gave them money, bailed them out of trouble at work, continued to permit them to drink / use under their roof despite all attempts to dissuade them, walked around on egg shells, listened to the often constant demands the addict puts on them, until they finally say “enough is enough” and give up. So this is actually the tough part. If you really want them to recover then you have to put some actual consequences in place. You will need to work with a skilled and trained interventionist in order to create these consequences with love, honesty and respect. Often, one of the hardest things for the family members to do is to put actual consequences or’ bottom lines’ into place, as it appears to them that they’re not being loving or supportive. It just seems easier to turn a blind eye. But the result of this can be devastating. If you walk though the difficult path to create structured and guided bottom lines that are agreed by the whole family, then we have a chance for the addict / alcoholic to arrive at their own emotional ‘rock bottom’ and finally surrender to the recovery process, accepting the help that we can offer. All addicts and alcoholics need to experience this ‘rock bottom’ place, most likely to be an emotional state of surrender, in order to begin their journey into healthy recovery. No one ever wakes up and says today is a great day to get sober and stop using. Something negative happened in their life that created the pain to want to change. This is what we bring to the alcoholic / addict in our Sober Intervention process – the reason why they should accept the help that’s on offer.
Is there a tactic for Sober Interventions that puts the subject of the intervention at ease? Do you have a certain tactic to ensure that they don’t scream, “You’re ganging up on me” and run out?
We have found time and time again that by offering love and respect from the absolute outset that it helps deal with the natural fear and anxieties that they are feeling. We’ve found, that by splitting the Sober Intervention into an assessment followed by two stages that we can predetermine the best member of our team to be on hand to build rapport with the addict / alcoholic as soon as possible. It truly helps to have the right Interventionist guiding each case, chosen by our team to ensure maximum affiliation between the client and the team. Also, that said, each family system is different and may require a different model of intervention. It’s best to be trained and experienced in many different processes and scenarios of intervention.
With different, often conflicting approaches to rehab and recovery, is there a specific approach you recommend?
Sober Services leans towards the 12 Step Recovery Programme, because it has been proven to work 100% of the time when its principles are applied. We are very open minded to other principles, theories and forms of treatment, so long as there’s evidence that they work. So, whilst we’re open minded to all potential models of care, the one we see that helps the most people with long term statistics is the 12 Step model. Most of our staff have recovered from their own addictions too, and would have recovered through the 12 Step Programme, so we’re genuinely speaking from a place of actual experience and not just statistics. However, we’re not so closed minded to not agree that there are other approaches that do work, so if someone genuinely doesn’t want to go down a 12 step path we would absolutely have no problem trying other options. In our experience there is one ingredient that is an absolute must for someone’s successful recovery – they must have felt enough pain from their addiction and be prepared to apply themselves to an abstinence-based model of living. Without this willingness there is no genuine, long-term hope whatsoever. But with this willingness there is every possibility they will stop and stay stopped permanently. This is why our Sober Interventions are so incredibly powerful and useful towards helping people stop who didn’t actually have a desire to stop themselves, before we became involved.
Without hesitating, the answer to this is alcohol. Alcohol is so socially accepted within our modern culture that people’s level of denial around the problem and their lack of willingness to do something about it is incredibly hard for friends and family to witness or confront them over. In all cases, the alcoholics and other addicts that are the most motivated to change are always the ones that have felt enough personal emotional discomfort and pain that they want to change (even though they may well struggle to achieve this alone). So no matter what the addiction is, the common thread is they must be motivated to want to recover. This is where the consequences that we introduce in our Sober Interventions come into play and why they are so successful. By inducing the emotional rock bottom that they have yet to hit by themselves, we are able to precipitate the addict / alcoholic’s willingness to change before our very eyes. We can wait for the natural progression of the disease, or we can intervene today and catch it before it is to late and before the consequences have manifested themselves even further. Thinking of other diseases, if symptoms (debilitating or even just minor) arise the patient will do whatever it takes to recover. But with addictions, and because of the associated pleasure with their preferred substance or behaviour, it manifests itself as a mental health disease where the patient goes into denial, and covers up the negative experiences associated with their addiction, preferring to focus only on their perceived positive reasons to continue to use. This, of course is insanity at it’s very most blatant, particularly since the afflicted individual simply cannot see it for themselves. Emotional discomfort is only thing we see that motivates them to lean towards recovery or even get them to start the process. When the person does experience consequences for themselves, far too often, once the pain has subsided and they feel better again, their mind tells them they are ok and certainly don’t need any outside help. Their mind will tell them that they’re perfectly OK and will minimise their consequences even to themselves. This form of self delusion is what keeps the family of the alcoholic / addict running around in circles, always grasping the hopeful words of remorse that are spoken by the afflicted when they’re feeling their worst, but then seemingly forgetting their promises soon afterwards. Unfortunately, far too often the family and those around the addict / alcoholic fall into their denial too, and end up covering up for them and their consequences too. This in turn then enables the addict to carry on destroying himself or herself. For instance, by bailing them out of their debts, fearing for the repercussions of being in debt, the family there-by allow the addict to go back into debt again.
How often is the family as unsupportive as you’ve described? Meaning, how often does the family cave-in to the addicted person?
Far too often. It’s really quite sad. It would be really simple if every enquiry we received was from a family looking for our Treatment Advisory Service and simply searching for the best facility to send their addicted loved one to. But most of the time that’s simply not the case. First of all, most of our enquiries are from families who have an addict living amongst them that doesn’t want to stop or get any help. But even sadder are the times that it’s obvious to us that the reason they don’t want to stop is because there’s no reason for them to stop. They’ve got a roof over their head, they’re fed and they’ve got disposable money in their pocket. Why would they consider stopping when they’ve got everything they need to maintain their addiction? We have the experience and the training to know how to help, and the first thing is making sure all of the family members and associated friends are on board with the idea of getting them professional help and all agreeing to the same bottom line/s for their loved one – “accept the help we’re offering or …..”. We do understand that it seems like you’re going against your loved one, or confronting them in a manner that’s uncomfortable, but when you can step back see that what you’ve been doing isn’t actually helping them in the long run, then surely it must be time to see if there is a different path you and the family members can take to get a different result. Disappointingly, some family members just cannot hear or see this point and sadly, eventually that kills the addict. We’ve seen over and over again in many different sectors of the traditional National Health Service the dreadful attitude towards treating addictions of “Lets see what the addict wants?” “It’s about Service User choice” they say. This is crazy!!! What they want is more drugs / booze and can they have them for free. That’s the nature of addictions. That’s why they’re in such a sad state in the first place. Feeding them more drugs and providing them for free is a crazy solution to someone’s addiction. What they want is killing them, so why listen to them? Why would we ask the addict / alcoholic figure what the best form of treatment is, when the primary goal of an addict / alcoholic is to protect their supply of drugs and drink? And the greatest goal of every alcoholic is to learn how to drink like a gentleman again, just like the crack user wants to be able to snort lines socially again and the heroin user wants to be stoned, laughing and giggling with friends, not chasing the next hit. Do you think the trained professionals that have personally triumphed over their own addictions and then dedicated their own lives to work in the field know less about the recovery process than the addict that is still using? It just doesn’t make sense. So our Sober Interventions are established to set up and manage the whole family through the process, and don’t just focus on the actual addicted individual. As many of the family as possible needs to be involved with the intervention. Ideally around 4 to 6 family members and close friends.
Is there a different technique for different drugs? Or is it always the same approach, irrelevant of the substance or drink?
Every Sober Intervention is different and takes on its own specific course. In the same way, every addict / alcoholic is a different person too. So it’s not really just the technique for each drug that’s different, though that’s certainly the case, but more specifically it’s the addict that’s different with a bespoke plan for their recovery. Really getting to know the actual family is very important and that’s often what gives each Sober Intervention it’s direction and specific process.
What is the youngest person you have worked with? What is the age of the youngest Intervention you’ve done? What is the average age?
13 is the youngest we’ve personally been asked to intervene with. Ian Young ~ the founder of Sober Services in 2003 was working at the UK’s only Young Persons’ 12 Step Rehab, which is sadly closed now, so he learnt some specific tools and ways to manage young people. Sober Services generally is an adult service, offering help to over 18s due to legal reasons. We frequently help family through Sober Interventions when their loved one is 18 or 19. The average age of the people we perform Sober Interventions upon is probably around 25 – 45, though we regularly work with addicts aged from 18 through to 60+. If you see the signs in your son or daughter, or in your parents or grandparent please do not wait. When is now a good time to get them the help that could save their life? You could be catching their addiction in its early stages, or before it progresses any further.
On the reverse of this, what is the oldest? Do people ever just say they’re too old to stop now? Do people start at an advanced age?
The oldest person we’ve had through Sober Services so far was in his late 60s, though there’s absolutely no reason to not get well just because you’re in your 70s or 80s. When you’re killing yourself through your addiction it will only ever get worse, not better, unless you get on board with some form of abstinence based solution. When is now the right time to get well?
Sober Services operates out of London, across the UK, and has taken on Sober Intervention contracts right across Europe, South Africa parts of the Middle East including Israel and India. We’re always happy to travel around the globe to use our expertise to help.
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