01 May Successful Intervention
“Successful intervention” wasn’t on Erin’s mind when she and her husband Paul first started to look for answers to their oldest son’s drug and alcohol addiction. She could barely wrap her head around the fact that Trevor had a problem; so considering the possibility of sending him away for treatment wasn’t even an option.
They began by working with a family systems specialist. A family systems specialist’s role is to support families in crisis and they do this by living with the family for a period of four days. Beginning their trek through recovery options at home gave their family a sense of safety and the platform they needed to move forward. The specialist became a part of the family, immersing himself in every aspect of the family dynamic in order to provide them with in depth measures of solution.
On the fourth and final day of assessments, Trevor was arrested for possession of marijuana. The family systems specialist was adamant that Erin and Paul not bail their son out of jail. He told them that it was crucial for Trevor to hit rock bottom and know that this is it. Trevor stayed in jail for 5 days, and again – a suggestion from the specialist that they not let him come home when he was released from jail. That was too much for Erin to bear, how could she turn away her own son? She did feel she could begin with smaller steps and began looking into and planning an eventual intervention. So Trevor came home and Erin started her research. The family systems specialist provided Erin and Paul with some information on ways to ensure a successful intervention and Erin also found some valuable news on the Internet. Once she knew what that looked like and found an appropriate wilderness treatment program with the specialists help, she was ready to move forward.
Erin picked out the people she wanted to take part in Trevor’s intervention. She sent them guidelines to follow and she explained how important it was that they had the same goal in mind, Trevor attending treatment. A date and time were set. Each person wrote statements – not too long, not too short – attesting to the ways his actions had negatively affected him self and others. The day for the intervention arrived. Erin and Paul went into his bedroom and explained what was about to happen. Trevor’s friends and family read the letters they had prepared and, surprisingly he was really listening. Erin recalls not seeing him that attentive or engaged in a long time, however, she describes a young man who was still a little self-absorbed and naïve, thinking it was more akin to a surprise party and he the beloved center of attention.
A successful intervention has only 2 alternatives: 1. The substance abuser has to leave the home and cannot live there anymore, starting immediately – they need to pack their bag and be gone. 2. They can choose to attend treatment.
“I feel it was successful because there was a united front in terms of my parents, my siblings were there as a support system, we were all on the same page and we all spoke and knew what was happening and we all had the same goal in mind. It was very black and white, there could not be any grey area, this was what was going to happen,” Erin shared.
Well, Trevor decided not to go, he felt the wilderness treatment program in Montana was too far away. So he packed a backpack and he walked out of the house. He didn’t say goodbye to his parents and they didn’t say goodbye to him. Even though Erin had very mixed emotions she describes feeling like she was finally doing something, finally moving forward and it felt good.
Trevor was gone but he would sneak back in the house, climbing the roof and entering through the attic window to get some food or take a shower and sleep on the back porch. The specialist told Erin and Paul that they had to change the locks and have a restraining order against him issued. They knew that Trevor would’ve gone to any lengths to control, manipulate and take advantage, so even though this was incredibly painful, they did what was suggested.
Erin felt she was at the point where someone else had to tell her what to do, “I had to take all emotion out of it. I had to become sort of a robot in order to move forward – I don’t know quite how to explain the feeling – it’s a paradigm shift on what love is, it was a loving response to someone through setting boundaries. If that was the only way to bring him to the place that he needed to be then I was ready to do it.”
One day, while Erin was at work and Paul was home, Trevor came over and asked if he could get some clothes and Paul asked him, “So, are you ready to get help?” Trevor didn’t pause too long before replying, “Yeah, I’m ready.” They packed their bags and began the journey to Montana. In a successful intervention it is stressed that the parents are not the ones who should accompany the substance abuser to treatment, preferably it would be another family member or family friend. It didn’t work out this way for Erin’s family for whatever reason and looking back, Erin described it happening exactly the way it was supposed to.
That was the last year of her husband’s life; Paul passed away unexpectedly a few months later. He was able to give this gift to Trevor and this is something Trevor will never forget, and hopefully it will bring him strength down the road. Trevor was ready to receive help. The intervention was well prepared with specific guidelines geared for success. Addicts need to reach their own bottom where receiving help is more attractive that living a life of desperation. Everyone has his or her own bottom. This is Erin’s family’s story…and every family has theirs.