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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


BuddyT of About Alcoholism has an article in today’s newsletter concerning interventions. The article brought back memories of an intervention that was conducted on Riley’s behalf and I thought now would be a good time to bring this up.

Our son, Brian, was dying. He was in the hospital where he lived – which was almost exactly half way between my house and Riley’s house. When we got the word that Brian had been hospitalized, the entire family descended upon the small hospital. Alea flew in from NC and was devastated while she watched her brother slip away from her. Brian was receiving excellent care, but the doctors were quite clear – he would never leave the hospital alive. To say it was a difficult time would be a gross understatement. 

In typical Riley fashion, he ran away. He had brought with him a female friend who was also an active alcoholic. The two of them spent 90% of their time in the motel room on a drunken binge. They brought vodka with them to the hospital and offered it to Brian while he was conscious. Eventually, they were banned from visiting.

After Brian was gone and it was time for us to leave, Riley and his friend drove back home. The normal six hour trip took them a couple of days because they could not get sober enough to drive. Riley’s roommates and friends were extremely worried that they may not make it back in one piece. But, they made it and everyone drew a sigh of relief.

What happened next was a surprise for me, Alea and Riley’s brother. I received a phone call from Betty, a woman that Riley had once been involved with and that the family actually liked. She told me that an intervention had taken place and that Riley was now in detox at the local hospital. I was in shock. Alea was livid. Riley’s brother was confused.

Betty explained that the roommates and a group of AA friends were so concerned about Riley that they decided to hold an intervention as a means of getting him back on the right AA track. Riley had continued to be active in AA even in the depths of drunkenness. They truly believed that if he could get clear headed again – he would be OK.

As it was related to me, Riley insisted that he did not want to go into detox. He stated repeatedly that as soon as he was discharged he would go immediately to the liquor store. After several hours of interventionism – Riley relented. He agreed to go and was then taken to the hospital.

The family could not understand why we were not consulted prior to the event. Alea was now 3,000 miles away and I was 700 miles away, but his brother was nearby. All of my family was local. There were many people who would have attended had they been notified. But that did not happen.

Because the family had not been notified, no one knew or understood what had happened the last time Riley was in detox or even how many times he had been through the process. No one took into account that Riley was lucky to have emerged from the last detox and that he would need family support. I believe they all assumed that his good friend – Betty – would be there for him. And she was. Bless her heart – she was there not just for Riley but for the family as well.

The problem is… Betty had never witnessed such an intense detox situation. (See my page The Truth About Detox) She was not prepared for the in and out of consciousness and the delirium. She was hurt by the cruel, angry expletives Riley hurled at her. She didn’t understand the statements made by the doctor that Riley may not survive. But, Riley did get better and as he got better he became confused to the point of banning Betty from visiting. He also banned mine and Alea’s phone calls. He shut everyone out.

True to his word… Riley left the hospital and went to the liquor store on his way home. He then proceeded to work his way back into the hazy alcohol fog that he had been pulled from by detox. Two months later, his roommates made the phone call that landed him in my house.

I believe this was a group of good people who truly cared about Riley. I think they got so caught up in trying to help him that they didn’t take all the factors into consideration. Good people doing good things that didn’t get a good result. Riley told me later that the only reason he agreed to go was to “get them off my back” and “shut them up.”

At that time, Riley had just lost his son. He had to have been deeply depressed over that situation. He was safe and comfortable in the lack of reality. To ask him to be less than sober was asking him to accept a horribly painful truth.

There was no professional interventionist in the group. No one was experienced with grief therapy. And there was no one to accurately relate Riley’s medical or drinking history to the doctors at the hospital.

I think this intervention would have had a higher success possibility if there had been more planning and consulting of those who had been on this long road with Riley previously. I think the timing could have been an advantage if the group had knowledge of how to best use the circumstances.

In general, I think interventions can be a great way to get the alcoholic into rehab especially if it’s a first time rehab adventure. Anything that offers the alcoholic an alternative life – is a good thing.

In Riley’s case, detox is dangerous – just as dangerous as his drinking. It is a Catch-22. The likelihood of an intervention having any effect on him at all is – unfortunately – unlikely.


HyperCRYPTICal said...

It is a cruel irony that the cure can sometimes kill.

I know of someone who has taken the detox path several times - but alcohol still has the upper hand and coaxes him back eventually.

Last detox brought epilepsy to the fore and he just survived. Drinking again - but he has been advised not to stop.

It is a Catch 22.

Anna :o]

Syd said...

It is amazing to me how the alcoholic can go right back out and drink again after detox. I am glad that those I love have stayed sober. Much to be grateful for.