Don’t Wait for Addicts and Alcoholics to Hit Bottom

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Waiting for drug and alcohol addicts to hit bottom and believing that doing so will make them get help is a myth. Is death their bottom? It was for 93,000 people in the U.S.—1,066 in Minnesota—last year, according to the July 15 article “Overdose deaths in the U.S. set a record.” These being my people—I run four drug and alcohol recovery programs in the Twin Cities—I found the data chilling but not surprising.    

Bottom is subjective. Who decides where the bottom is? The person lost in addiction? Yeah, right. Just over ten years ago when I was addicted to prescription opioids, cocaine and alcohol my ability to function as a human being had vanished. I was down 33 pounds, anxious, depressed, broke and living in a filthy New York City apartment: an angry, sick guy using heavy sedation to process childhood trauma. The only thing that kept me from ending my life was my Boston terrier, Emma, and even she looked at me with disbelief and disgust.

I’m alive because my three brothers and father banged on my door. “Drew, open up!” My tears were a combination of remorse and relief. I despised who I’d become yet, for the first time in what felt like eternity, I had hope. Within 12 hours, I was on a flight to Minneapolis and, accompanied by my father, walking through the doors of The Hazelden Betty Ford Center. 

I was scared for myself then; I’m really scared for others now. Overdose deaths won’t be limited to the tragic ledger that was 2020. Dealers lace fentanyl into everything because it’s cheap and strong. Your kid does cocaine for the first time Saturday night and there can be enough fentanyl in it to kill them. Fentanyl or no, there’s still a vulnerable population navigating fallout from the pandemic. The sober relapse, shoot up with their last remembered dose and die because they lack the tolerance they once had.

For every such out-of-the-blue scenario there are thousands of active drug users whose families are trying daily and desperately to rescue them. They’re watching their loved ones die and don’t know what to do but … wait? A certified clinical interventionist, I facilitate 100-plus interventions/year and oversee three full-time interventionists. Here’s what to do and not do:

Do intervene. No active substance user wants that life; they just don’t know how to live otherwise. They’re overcome by stigma. Ashamed and embarrassed. Dreading detox. Life without their fix is unimaginable. They plan to quit on their own. On and on the resistance goes. Theirs is a potentially lethal disease. Act.

Don’t wait until they’re ready. Rock bottom is an outdated concept that doesn’t square with evidence-based, strategic intervention. Interventionists work 365 days/year, prepping families and intervening with as little as 24-hour notice. Minnesota has premier treatment centers, and we’re tight with directors and admissions people. Help can happen fast.

Don’t stage your own. Families are too enmeshed and themselves usually a mess. It’s called love. A professional interventionist brings objectivity. We know how to talk to addicts and where and when (6 to 9 a.m. is often when addicts are most clear headed). Intervention isn’t a family blitz but a calm, focused, methodical process. It takes an advanced skill set to move active users into a place of willingness.

Do think long term. No matter the immediate outcome, be patient and stick with the plans established prior that render boundaries and consequences. You’ve planted the seed and thrown your loved one your constructive support, a plan. When families allow the process to play out, the person oftentimes later admits to a treatment facility if not on the spot.

Do trust. Once in treatment, recovery happens. The body heals. The brain opens up. Pain and mental anguish subside. Users cross the threshold into feeling better and see glimmers of hope. Combine good clinical care with no use, and people tend to genuinely want to stay sober.

Those with a substance use disorder don’t have to want treatment; they just need to go. Families working with a strong clinical interventionist can get them there. I’ve helped it happen more than 700 times and been there, done that myself.

Within a short amount of time after my brothers and dad got me into treatment, I learned how to live a sober life with unimaginable happiness. I became the person I wanted to be and am alive to tell about it.

Everyone can recover, they just need the necessary guidance. I am here to help! Call us today:

(612) 719-4137

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