Opiate Addiction in Southwest Florida has reached epidemic levels. The rate of emergency room admissions, overdose deaths and arrests in the greater Sarasota area meets or exceeds statewide numbers. If you’re reading this, I’m sure you know someone in your life who is suffering from Opiate Addiction. There things that will work in getting them clean and things that wont – and it’s not always what it seems.
What you need to do: How do you help them?
- First, decide if the person needs hospitalization Do they show the physical signs of addiction/withdrawal or simply behavioral and psychological symptoms? If they have physical signs (sweating, heart palpitations, falling, intoxication) they will probably need hospitalization.
- Identify friends and relatives (parents, spouses, children) who will help the person get into recovery. Codependency is an issue here: sometimes people who say they want to help are simply keeping the addict happy, enabling them to continue to use.
- Third, who is supporting the addict in maintaining their addiction to opiates? Roommate? Paramour? Dealer? Remember the old adage: “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” This cannot be underestimated – I’ve had numerous interventions that have failed due to sabotage from the inside.
- Don’t try this at home. If you watch television or movies, you’ve probably seen an intervention staged for dramatic effect. My favorite was an episode of The Sopranos. Christopher Moltisanti is the subject, and when his girlfriend discloses a shameful act by Chris and the man mouths off in an impudent manner, Tony, et al, become enraged, kicking and punching Chris until he ends up in an emergency room. We all know that this is NOT the way to do an intervention, but still, the process is not as easy as it looks.
What you DON’T do:
- Don’t make a threat you have no intention of following through with. Are you really going to leave him? Take away your daughter’s car keys? Kick your son to the curb? The addict has heard this from you many times before and knows this is just another empty threat. Let’s face it: you’re not that convincing, but this is a complement, really. You don’t lie with the cheerful alacrity of an addict.
- Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Watching a family member ruining their life with alcohol, drugs or other process addictions is excruciating. This is one of the great tragedies of the disease of drug addiction: those who are closest to the alcoholic – those who love him or her the most – get hurt the worst. You’ve been lied to, cheated, manipulated and betrayed. You feel like a fool, and this makes you angry. But when you lose it with the addict, you lose your credibility. This is another reason for having a dispassionate third party to moderate the discussion. Another trick is to use “I” statements which keep you from entering the Blame Game which no one wins. An example: “When you lied about paying the electric bill, I felt deceived and unloved.”
- Finally, and most importantly, don’t give up hope. Addiction is a chronic, life-threatening illness that steals the will, the values and the soul of the addict and holds them hostage. It sometimes takes a long time for the alcoholic to make it to the finish line of recovery. Been to detox dozens of times? Had repeated hospitalizations? Been arrested, evicted, and in rehab more times than you care to count? Talk to someone in recovery – most people travel a long and winding road on the way to peace. Then, find a Certified Addictions Professional who specializes in intervention. You are not alone.