I met a mom in Houston this past Tuesday whom I’ll call Margaret. “He comes home every three days to shower,” she told me. “Is that a good sign?”
“It’s a good sign that you love him,” I told Margaret and her husband Max. They had come downtown to hear me speak about intervening – they had heard me talk about how we can help change someone we love and were hungry for hope. Their 19-year-old son is addicted. They were at their wits end. “We don’t know what to do, just don’t know what to do. He isn’t the son I raised – I don’t know where that boy went?”
I nodded and as her eyes filled with tears, I stood and hugged her as she cried. I’ll share with you what I shared with her. The conventional wisdom that tells us we have to let someone “hit bottom” is garbage. It’s not true. Throw it out. The idea that someone who is addicted must “want to change” is a myth too. Chuck it. These two myths have guided our collective wisdom on the very notion of change, and they needn’t any longer.
Modern science has expanded our understanding of, and treatment protocols for the disease of addiction. It’s not simply a moral failing, or a bad spirit that makes your loved one do what they do. Our insight into brain chemistry and how cravings are triggered and fed have advanced our ability to treat addiction. But first we have to get someone to say yes to help.
You need not trap then treat your loved one. I encourage you to circle the wagons, make an invitation to change, then champion that change all the while taking care of yourself in a new way. Four steps. Not easy, but simple.
We had invited Jessica to a Family Meeting back in March of 2008. She said NO, but showed up anyway. Six of the most important voices in her life were in that family room. Even so, she said NO time and time again. We hunkered down and worked at it. We shared with her powerful Eyewitness Accounts and after a couple hours of work, she said YES because a voice that really mattered moved her to give change a chance.
Jessica had neither hit bottom (she was on probation from work and binge drank). She told us in no uncertain terms that she was doing this only for her mom. Fair enough. We’ll take any reason.
If we wait for the sick, confused, not-thinking-clearly person to think straight, who is the crazy one?! Yet that’s what conventional wisdom suggests. Jessica accepted our help, and once detoxed and many weeks into this reboot, she shifted and latched on to the Change Plan herself. Who gets the credit? Are we keeping score?
Today she’s back teaching the kids she loves, at a job she adores, in a town not far from yours. She was literally saved by love. Her loved ones didn’t take no for an answer, let love lead them instead of fear, and discarded the worn out myths that had kept them stuck for so long.
Every month or so, I teach an online class on Tuesday nights. It’s 3 weeks long, about 5 hours total. And in it, I teach folks how to help their loved one who is sick and suffering. The next one begins February 2. I hope you’ll join me, and let me show you how to help at www.ChangeInstitute.webex.com.