04/27/2012 12:10 pm ET Updated Jun 27, 2012

Fighting Addiction with Tough Love

Before you throw them out of the house, try laying down the law with love. It looks like it is 5 o'clock in the morning, I am almost certain that it is Friday, and I am already sitting in Terminal Three with a much needed cup of coffee, waiting to catch an early flight out to New York. I have to admit, I am still pretty tired after spending a good part of the night speaking with my client, trying to help alleviate her anxiety and to help her get rid of some of her doubt heavily infused with guilt and shame.

The majority of last night's conversation centered around the death of her husband two years prior, and the impact of his loss on the entire family. She confided in me that her eldest son, the person that I am on my way to help, took it the hardest. Up until the time of her husband's death, he was reportedly more of a weekend or recreational user. It now appears that for the past two years, he has been unsuccessfully working to numb out the pain of his loss by using both opiate-based painkillers and heroin on a daily basis.

My client ultimately reached out to me with guarded apprehension after one of her friends recommended that she seek out the help of a professional interventionist. Right from the beginning, she told me that she had just about given up hope on her son, and that I represented more of a last-ditch effort before she had to kick him out of the house and begin "planning for a funeral." The first thing I told her after hearing that, was that she would probably not have to plan for that funeral as long as she was prepared to lay down the law with love.

As I stated in my previous blog, the success of the intervention process lies almost exclusively within the collective loving power of the family to hold and uphold healthy boundaries. So therefore, in order for me to do my job effectively and help an individual get up onto the proverbial road to recovery, I have to understand exactly what those boundaries are. When it comes to establishing the healthy boundaries to be applied to anyone who may demonstrate the need for help during the entirety of the intervention process, I usually start off by trying to figure out who are the most important people in that person's life and what are the things that matter most to them. With that information, I am then able to construct a carefully-coordinated plan to effectively bypass most of the denial by dismantling the bulk of the resistance. By embracing this approach, the intervention becomes far more than just trying to get someone to agree to enter into treatment. Now, strategically fueled by love and understanding, the potential long-term benefits of the intervention process are held firmly in place with a more sturdy foundation.

It is almost like going into a battle. In order to win the war, or in this case, to help save the life of someone who may have lost the capacity and/or the courage to face another day, I have to understand the terms of engagement. However, unlike modern warfare, when it comes to planning for an intervention, there is no Geneva Convention to hold anyone accountable for their actions. Therefore, I always have to be ready for the unexpected twist and turn, and of course, be able to control the collective fear of the unknown with calm and composure.

Well, it is time to board my plane. Hopefully, I will be able get some rest on the flight up to New York. My client warned me that her son can be fast on his feet when he is not busy nodding off. So I better get as much rest as possible before I hit the ground in the Big Apple. On a more personal note, my father passed away when I was 15. He was and will always be the most influential man in my life. There is no doubt in my mind that his death, and my own subsequent unsuccessful efforts to self-medicate my own pain, was the driving force behind my current career path. Beyond the dark shadows of addiction, I know the pain of losing a loved one. With that in mind, it is almost time to get this young man on his way to treatment, so that he can begin to mourn his own loss, while he learns to recover with dignity and without drugs. I just have to make sure that his mother is actually prepared to lay down the law with love. I will keep you posted.