On Episode 14 of the Hope Dealer, Ed McDonough has GateHouse Founder Nathan Irvine on. Nathan and Ed are both in long-term recovery and have been through their fair share of struggles in their journeys to sobriety. On the episode, Nathan, who is a certified interventionalist, talks about boundaries to set with your loved one in active addiction. Families dealing with loved ones in addiction are always being manipulated and have watched someone they loved and raised turn into someone they don’t know before their eyes. The person may physically still be their child, but the addict is entirely incapable of making healthy decisions. They only thing that they care about is getting more substances.
Nathan says, “The only driving force is the substances…the substances control the person.” Everything else gets put on the backburner, everything that once mattered now comes after obtaining more substances. When someone is in active addiction, they operate one way “We want what we want, when we want it.” That is the only way we know how to survive; all our values are skewed, and we only care about the substances.
Nathan points out that “love” to those in active addiction is just a way to get what we want. When we’re told no, we will use what we know to hurt the ones who love us to get what we want out of a situation. Nathan and Ed both say that Al-anon and Nar-anon are vast resources for those who don’t know how to ‘break the cycle’ of addiction with their loved one. Boundaries must be set for not only the sanity of the family, but for the sake of the addict. Tough love can be the difference between life and death for someone in addiction.
Many families don’t know where to draw the line between help and enabling their loved one. Nathan says the first thing to do is to take into consideration how they are supporting their loved one. Are they providing money, food, their home? Does their loved one have any responsibilities like a job, are they paying rent? Are there any consequences to their actions? When someone in active addiction doesn’t have any consequences, we assume that someone else will take care of our problems. That someone else will always be there to bail us out of any situation.
Nathan explains the phenomenon of craving with the analogy of pizza. Nathan explains his love for pizza and that every once in a while, he gets a craving for pizza. Nathan will go out and buy a pizza, and “eat the heck outta the pizza.” Then his craving for pizza is satisfied. He doesn’t crave pizza again for a while and can continue with his life as usual. When the phenomenon of craving for drugs or alcohol goes off in an addict or alcoholic, there is no stopping it. There is no satisfying it. The need and the mental obsession take over every aspect of life, and that is the only thing that matters, getting the next one.
There is often nothing that the family can say or do at this point to get the addict to change their mind, or to seek treatment for their substance use disorder. The feeling of uncertainty or not knowing what to do is where an interventionalist can help. Those in active addiction often use the excuse of “you don’t understand” or will manipulate the family so they can get what they want. Nathan says that interventions work because there is no room for manipulation, the family gets the truth given to them, and so does the loved one suffering.
The boundaries that are set in an intervention must be adhered to, or there’s no point in doing an intervention. If you’re unsure of how to approach your loved one in regard to their substance use disorder, remember that if there was a problem with your car and you have no experience with cars, you would take it to a professional. It’s the same with an intervention when you don’t know how to approach the problem or what to do; you contact a professional.
Nathan described addiction as a forest, you walk through this forest for months, years and sometimes decades. It’s not just that you’re now in this forest that you’ve walked in for 5 years you also have all the behaviors and patterns learned along the way. We must learn how to survive in the world of addiction. We don’t know how to get out on our own, and we also must learn everything over, it’s not a process that will be completed in 30 days.
“Recovery is a beautiful thing; we want to help those still struggling.” Ed and Nathan both stand by that. If you have a loved one in need of help through an intervention contact us today at contact us today at 855-844-3588.