Continued from p. 1.

      If you're concerned about another person's addiction, you can (1) defer or avoid confronting them (enable them), (2) prepare to confront, and then... 

3) Confront the Addicted Person and/or Their Family

In this context, confronting means asserting your compassionate perception that the person is addicted, and urging him or her and relevant family members (enablers) to commit to a meaningful recovery program. Such confrontations are becoming known as "interventions."

      Let's look briefly at why confront, confront who, and confront how?

Why Confront?

      A quick response might be "To help the addict." A more thoughtful reason is "To honor my integrity and earn my self-respect by doing what I can to help the addict's family break their denials." Another reason is "To reduce the stress I and others feel because of the addict's behavior." This is specially true if the addict is parenting young kids.

Confront Who?

      Choices: (a) the addict, (b) one or more family members (enablers), or (c)  both - separately or together. The most powerful - and difficult - confrontation is with an addict's whole family.

      If you focus only on "fixing" an addict's "stinking thinking" and toxic actions (You have to stop drinking two six-packs of beer a day!") without confronting the underlying personal and family causes of their addiction/s, you greatly reduce your odds for long-term success. Notice the difference between saying...

"I want to help Pat break her denials, hit bottom, and want to manage her gambling addiction" and...

"I want to do what I can to respectfully help Pat's family adults recognize how their beliefs, wounds, and habits are enabling Pat's compulsive gambling and its harmful effects."

An initial confrontation goal is getting all affected people (including helpers) to see changing the addict's family as the target. Doing this will often evoke family adults' denial of their enabling, psychological wounds, and ignorance.

Confronting an Enabler

      Here, "enabling" means promoting an addiction by denying, minimizing, or ignoring its harmful personal and social effects. Like any addiction, enabling is a symptom of the core problems: [ psychological wounds + unawareness ].

      Typical enablers...

  • have many false-self behaviors, and will deny, rationalize, or discount  them and what they mean; and they...

  • give double messages about their actions ("I know I should confront Frieda about her compulsive  shopping, but..."); and they deny or justify this;

  • may choose a helpless victim or martyr role, saying "I can't help (enabling);"

  • have codependent (relationship-addiction) traits, and deny, minimize, or defend them;

       and typical enablers...

  • refuse to (a) learn about or discuss addictions, enabling, and recovery, or to (b) attend an addiction support group like Al-Anon or equivalent;

  • get significantly angry, hostile, defensive, and/or combative if someone brings up the addiction and/or the enabler's behaviors and choices.

      Reality Check - think of the person you feel is addicted and their key family members, friends, and co-workers. Then one at a time, decide if any of them has any of the enabling symptoms above. Start with yourself. Not identifying or confronting enablers raises the odds of an addict's relapsing,

Confront How?

      Recall the premise that any addiction is a symptom of a low-nurturance ("dysfunctional") family. So when you feel prepared to act on your concern, you have five choices:

  • confront the (a) addict and/or (b) some or all of their family adults;

  • (c) over time, or one-time - (d) alone or (e) with informed help.

      Many factors affect which of these options you and any supporters choose - e.g. your ages; wounds; responsibilities; priorities; family composition and member locations, family roles and history; family-relationship quality; grieving progress; communication styles; and family ethnicity, customs, and nurturance level. Exploring the combinations of all these factors is beyond the scope of this article, so let's settle for some...

General Confrontation Guidelines

Keep your true Self in charge of your other subselves - specially in planning and executing a direct confrontation. If you can't do this, lower your expectations.

Keep a long-term perspective - e.g. the rest of the addicted-person's life or the life-span of the family's youngest child.

Keep your boundaries clear - you and any partner are not responsible for the addicted family adults' decisions - they are.

Keep your priorities clear and firm. Suggestion: put your wholistic health and integrity (self-respect) first, any primary relationship second, and everything else third, except in emergencies.

Stay clear on the specific results you want to achieve by confronting. The alternative is "riding off in all directions" and/or major disappointments, frustrations, anxieties, and internal and family conflicts.

Work steadily to improve your communication skills over time (Lesson 2).  Awareness, digging down, empathic listening, and assertion are specially powerful in any addiction confrontation (intervention). Experiment with these examples.

If you choose lay and/or professional people to help make the confrontation, ask them to prepare with steps like these.

      More general confrontation guidelines...

Stay clear that in this context, addiction and wound recovery, are lengthy processes, not events. Also remember that addictions can be managed, not "cured."

Help each other stay aware that true addiction, wound reduction, and spiritual growth (vs. religion) are inter-related.

Help each other to stay aware of...

  • the difference between true and pseudo (trial) recovery; and...

  • the relationship between preliminary (addiction) recovery and full (psychological-wound) recovery.

Aim to help the addicted person/s hit true bottom, vs. stopping or controlling their addiction.

Correct the misperceptions that addiction is (a) a shameful conscious choice and (b) a "disease," rather than a compulsive, unconscious self-medication reflex to lower inner pain and a sign of family dysfunction

Stay aware that a vital part of family confrontation is to inform minor kids in the family of key concepts like...

  • inner pain, compulsions, personality subselves, addiction, enabling, and recovery, and...

  • how to identify and express their feelings and needs without anxiety, guilt, or shame.

Consider that trying to help someone who isn't asking for help is inherently disrespectful, no matter how well-intentioned. It implies "I know what you need better than you do." This may be true, but it still feels insulting and promotes resentment and "resistance."

View personal and family "resistance" to breaking addiction and enabling denials as a frantic attempt to avoid pain and loss of security, not stubbornness, rigidity, ignorance,  stupidity, defiance, arrogance, rigidity, weakness, and self-centeredness.

      Add any personal confrontation guidelines that you feel are important in your unique situation.

      Option - consider discussing and editing these guidelines with your helpers, and print them to use as a reference.

      Once you're well prepared, you've decided who to confront, and your Self is usually guiding you, you have three options with each person you care about:

  • an indirect confrontation over time ("plant seeds"), and/or...

  • a direct confrontation alone or with one or more helpers.

Let's look at each of these choices...

1) Indirect Confrontation - "Seeding"

      Unless family members have hit true bottom, trying to confront them directly about their addiction  will only evoke conflict, hurt, anger, anxiety, guilt, hostility, and frustration. This may increase family dysfunction and the addict's inner pain. Lose lose.

      The practical alternative is to make indirect comments about addiction and recovery over time - i.e. to "plant seeds" that may help break denials later. An effective way to "plant seeds" is a series of sincere I-messages, spoken calmly, with good eye contact and an attitude of mutual respect. Another way is to ask relevant questions. For example...

"Maria, did  you know that when you don't keep your promise to stop losing our money at the casino, I get really frustrated and I'm learning to distrust you?"

"What do you think about the idea that addictions are a family problem, not an individual one, Phil?"

"I think Harry has a food addiction, but he can't admit that. Some people say that addictions are attempts to self-medicate major inner pain. What do you think?"

"Our son just asked me if you were a rageaholic. Did you know he was wondering about that?

"I found another collection of pornography hidden in the basement, and I worry that you're addicted to it, Larry. Your denying that increases my fear."

"Janice just told me about a book she read which said that parental drug addiction causes major psychological problems for all kids in the family."

"Do you agree that Pilar hasn't hit true bottom with her obsessive workouts and dieting?"

"I just read that mental health pros define 'workaholism' as a true addiction. Some say it's being unable to work less than 65 hours a week, despite major health and family problems. Alex, I'm really concerned that that's true of you and us, recently."

"Would you say that your grandfather is addicted to poker and gambling? Has he ever tried to cut back because of his losses and marital strife?"

"I hear that chronic overeating is linked to addiction to compulsive craving for sugar and fats, just like addiction to heroine and marijuana. Our doctor told me yesterday that he feels you're at least 70 pounds overweight, despite his warnings about related health risks. That really scare me, Roberto."

"Helping other people avoid taking self-responsibility is called 'enabling.' I think Janice is enabling her mother by chauffeuring her all over the place, and not insisting that she learn to drive herself. Janice may be codependent, too - what do you think?"

"Norma just told me her sister just got caught shoplifting again, despite her arrest last February. That really shows the power of true addictions, doesn't it?"

"Sal, You say you can quit marijuana any time, but you smoke it every day. I'm scared that's going to cause you major health problems, and that it teaches the kids that using toxic drugs is OK."

"I just finished reading 'Bradshaw on: The Family' - a book about children of alcoholics. It made me think of you and your Mother, and I felt sad."

      Notice that these statements and questions are not judgmental, sarcastic, scornful, or critical, and they don't request or demand any change in the listener. Imagine the accumulated emotional impact of an addict or enabler hearing a focused series of statements ("seeds") like these over weeks or months. Recall that the primary goals of confronting an addict are...

  • preserving your self respect (integrity) and...

  • raise the odds s/he will hit true bottom and break protective denials.

      Can you imagine saying things like these to the person you're concerned about? If so, how would s/he react, over time? If not - what are you scared of? Is your Self (capital "S") answering now? Does it make sense that patiently "planting seeds" like this would prepare all affected people for a direct confrontation about an addiction?

      Recap - if you can tolerate the effects of the addicted person's behaviors and you estimate s/he's not ready to hit true bottom, you can patiently "plant seeds" without expecting change - i.e. make respectful, informational statements and observations about wounds, unawareness, inner pain, self-medication, addiction, denials, enabling, and recovery.

      This aims to help the addicted (wounded) person over time by increasing their discomfort and helping them to hit bottom. Does this make sense? Is it relevant in your situation now? These ageless guidelines can help you keep your balance.

      If you sense that the addict or a related enabler is close to hitting bottom, the second option you have is to... 

2) Confront Directly, by Yourself

      After preparing yourself and committing to the guidelines above, identify the primary needs you're trying to fill by confronting the self-medicating person. Typically, you'll have several primary needs at once - e.g. "I need to...

  • ...preserve my integrity and self-respect by doing what I can to help the addict and his/her/our family now."

  • ...stop living in fear and acting like a helpless victim;

  • ...feel authentic and strong, rather than feeling like an imposter, phony, and a coward."

      And I need to...

  • what I can to guard our child(ren) against the effects of growing up in an addicted (low-nurturance) family;"

  • ...cause some kind of resolution and end the chronic stress I feel"

  • ...convert chronic hopelessness and despair into credible hope for a better future."

  • (add any other needs)

      Then estimate the primary needs of each person you confront. These will include feeling respected as a dignified, worthy person, and heard. An effective confrontation fills your and other involved people's needs well enough, as judged by you and them..


  • put your Self in charge, and maintain a genuine attitude of mutual respect; and...

  • ask your Higher Power to guide and support you all, as you confront;

  • tell other affected people (a) what you're going to do and (b) why, beforehand; and respectfully consider what each of them needs in this situation; and...

  • expect the other person to "resist" your assertions, and be ready to use empathic listening and respectful reassertion and limit-setting as often as needed to get her or him to hear (vs. agree with) you;

      and prepare to confront by...

  • reviewing (a) your and the other person's basic human rights and (b) the things you can and can't control about this person and situation; and (c) referring to these wise guidelines as you go; and...

  • reviewing the specific outcomes you want from this confrontation. and...

  • picking a time and place when you and the other person are physically and emotionally undistracted.

      For perspective, imagine the odds for asserting your needs to the other person effectively without making preparations like these...

Status Check - on a scale of one (I'm not motivated to make any of these confrontation-preparations) to 10 (I'm strongly motivated to make each of these preparations), I'd rate myself as a ___ now. Is your true Self answering this, or "someone else"?

      The third of your options is to...

3) Confront Directly, with Qualified Help

      The emotional impact of any confrontation rises significantly if you ask one or two other concerned adults or older children to join you in asserting your needs and any boundaries. If you choose this option, you need to carefully pick and prepare qualified helpers.

      If you have a mate who has a relationship with the addict and/or any enablers, you must first decide on his or her role: a co-confronter, an indirect supporter, or neutrally uninvolved. If your partner is the addict in question, see this. If the addict is in a divorcing family or stepfamily, you may need to choose the confrontation-role of her or his ex mate, too.

      These role-choices deserve thoughtful, honest discussion, for they will cause reactions ranging between gratitude and hostility in the addict and any enablers. Option - ask your partner and/or ex to read this and appropriate related articles, and then to honestly say if and how s/he wants to be involved. Then assert what you need. If you two (or three) have a significant conflict about this, put resolving it ahead of doing anything else. Start by reminding each other of your current long-term life priorities and goals...

      Ideally, each adult you ask to help you confront will...

  • be clearly guided by his or her true Self, and will ...

  • have studied and discussed this article or equivalent; and will be willing to ...

  • discuss and follow these foundation preparations fully. Option - use this status check to gauge the helper's knowledge.

      And each qualified helper should...

  • be able to clearly describe their own reasons (primary needs) for confronting; and s/he should...

  • want to join you in preparing specifically for each confrontation you want to make, whether phased or direct.

      There are at least two downsides to this option. First, each additional person you involve raises the odds you'll have to resolve conflicts over if, who, how, and when to confront. Second, your target person is more apt to "resist" (feel embarrassed, guilty, anxious, resentful, hurt, angry, and defensive) if several people confront him or her. The local confrontation-preparations above can help you handle this calmly.

      Reflect on how you want to interview prospective helpers to decide if you want to ask their help. You have many choices. Four criteria to consider are...

  • who would have the most impact on the addicted person?;

  • who is most likely to agree to help you?

  • who is least likely to cause major polarization and uproar in the target person's family if s/he confronts with you?, and...

  • who best meets the criteria  above?

Status Check - on a scale of one (I want to confront by myself) to 10 (I want qualified help to confront), where do you rank yourself now ___? Is your Self doing this ranking? If not - who is?

      We're reviewing three options for direct confrontations of addicts and/or their enablers: confront by yourself, confront with one or two qualified helpers, or plan and make a group "intervention." This page outlines the last of these options, and recaps the whole article.

  Plan and Make a Group Intervention

      Probably the most effective choice you can make toward helping an adult hit bottom and want to recover is to do a well-planned group intervention. To intervene means "to come between." In this context, an intervention is a planned group meeting to come between a self-medicating person and their denials and compulsive toxic behaviors - i.e. to respectfully force them to confront the effects of their behavior.

      The two goals of an effective intervention are to...

motivate the addict to participate in a qualified in-patient recovery program, and to...

satisfy the deep need that people who care about the addict and her or his family to do their best to offer meaningful help, without feeling responsible.

If the first goal isn't met, the second one may be.

Typical Intervention Steps

      A typical intervention starts with a concerned person who decides there is enough of a problem to act on: e.g. you. Then you...

      locate and consult with a trained addictions counselor. Some people attempt interventions without professional help, which lowers the odds of successful outcomes. If the counselor agrees that an intervention is warranted after hearing your situation, s/he will outline a version of the steps below, and ask if you'll commit to them. If you commit, then...

      the counselor asks you to identify every relative, friend, co-worker, neighbor, professional (like clergy or doctor), and church-mate who (a) are concerned for the addict, and (b) have been significantly affected by the addict's (or enablers') behaviors. This list includes older kids, and people who live far away.

      Next, the counselor identifies or provides basic educational material about addictions, recovery, and the intervention process. A specially helpful online resource is Using those materials, you...

      contact each adult and child on the list in person or by phone, without telling the addict. You explain the intervention goals and process, and ask if the person would be willing to help. If s/he agrees, ask the helper to review the educational materials, and thoughtfully write down several instances where the addict's actions inconvenienced, hurt, frustrated, or concerned them. The general format of each instance is...

"(Name), I really care about you. On (date) at (place), you (did something recordable on video or audio tape) which affected me (in these specific ways), and I felt _____."

      An instance might sound like "Jeff, last August 15th, you told Marcy and me you and your partner would meet us at Granville's at 7 PM for dinner the following Saturday. We waited at the restaurant for 50 minutes, and the Maitre d' said we had a phone call. It was your partner, who apologized and saying you hadn't come home from work yet. Marcy and I were hurt, puzzled, frustrated, and concerned, and were out the price of an expensive baby sitter. You never offered us an explanation."

      The intent is not to shame, guilt-trip, attack, blame, or preach to the addict, but to inform her or him factually of the impacts of their behavior. Other goals are for each helper to affirm their deep concern for the addict; and to respectfully describe new boundaries if the target person chooses to make no change. The general format is...

"(Name), if you choose not to get help now, the next time you (do specific addictive behavior) I'm going to (take some specific non-punitive action)."

      The addict can complain that this is a threat, a power play, or a manipulative  ultimatum. His or her defensive subselves may choose to see it that way, rather than seeing each helper's statement as a respectful assertion with clear consequences. Each helper's statement/s say Because I care for you and myself, I will no longer enable you. You have free choice on how to respond.”

      With the counselor's help, you research local addiction-recovery treatment facilities and pick one that provides the best mix of reputation, service, accessibility, and cost. Then you (a) negotiate a planning date that helpers and the counselor can attend, and you (b) make reservations for the addict at the treatment facility without her or his knowledge.

      Next, all you helpers - including older kids - meet with the counselor. You introduce each other, and the counselor facilitates planning the intervention and answers any questions. You all...

  • reaffirm your common goals (to help the addict hit bottom, and protect your integrities),

  • review key realities about addiction and recovery (e.g. this article);

  • rehearse and edit each helper's anecdotes for objectivity, clarity, and impact; and...

  • discuss effective ways of responding to the addict's likely reactions to hearing these anecdotes and new consequences.

The counselor educates and coaches everyone, offering questions, examples, suggestions, confrontations, and encouragement.

      When everyone feels ready enough, you pick a date, time, and place for your intervention. Someone approaches the addict with a fictitious request on that date, and gets his or her agreement to come. S/He walks into a room where you all are gathered, and someone explains that you're all there to help.

      Introductions are made, and the target person is respectfully asked to listen without comment or explanation as each helper - including children - reads or says her or his list of incidents and new behavioral limits. The steady emphasis is on caring confrontation, not blame. After the last one is done...

      You assert clearly and directly: "We need you to go into treatment right now. I've made all the arrangements, your bag is packed and in the car, and the staff is expecting you.

      Your team expects and is ready to compassionately counter all the person's resistances. The addict clearly agrees to start inpatient treatment, or s/he doesn’t. "I'll think about it" or ”I’ll do it after (some future event)” are not acceptable responses. If s/he elects not to get inpatient help following your meeting, you all must manifest “tough love”: make good on the consequences you described.

      These steps are for intervening with an adult. For more perspective, search the Web on "addiction intervention." For options on relating to an addicted child, see this after you finish here.

+ + +

Knowledge Check #2 - to gauge what you've learned from this article, re-take the first knowledge check, and then do this one: Links will take you to sections in this article or a popup.

I can name and clearly describe three options for confronting an addicted person (T  F  ?)

I can describe at least four traits of a typical addiction enabler now  (T  F  ?)

I can describe what indirect confrontation ("planting seeds") is, and how to do it. (T  F  ?)

I can describe specifically how to prepare for personally confronting an addict or enabler now. (T  F  ?)

I can describe at least four traits of someone qualified to help me plan and confront an addict or enabler  (T  F  ?);

I can name the two main objectives of a group confrontation.  (T  F  ?)

I can describe the main steps in a group confrontation of an addict.  (T  F  ?)

I can say the Serenity Prayer out loud now, and I use it often.  (T  F  ?)

I can say out loud why I read this article, and whether I got what I needed or not.  (T  F  ?)

My true Self is answering these items now. If not - who is?  (T  F  ?)

Pause and reflect - what are your subselves feeling and thinking now?

      We just briefly reviewed three options you have if you're concerned about another person's addiction.


      This Lesson-5 article provides perspective on...

   what is an addiction?

   perspective on addictions

   what is co-addiction?

   symptoms of a true addiction

what is enabling?

Your language can hurt or help

True and pseudo addiction recovery

options if another adult is addicted:

      The article proposes that all four types of addiction are symptoms of family (vs. personal) dysfunction. It outlines three options if you feel an important person may be or is addicted to a toxic substance, activity, mood state, or relationship:

  • avoid or postpone confrontation,

  • prepare for it, and...

  • confront - alone or with qualified help.

Usually, the most effective confrontation strategy is to organize an effective intervention with qualified help, as outlined above.

      If you feel you have an addiction (wounds), go here. For reliable information about addictions and preliminary recovery, I recommend the Hazelden Institute. Also see the Alcoholics Anonymous 0or other 12-step Web sites. They all provide links to other helpful resources, including books, programs, articles, and online chat rooms and support groups. There is a lot of qualified help available!

      Overall, if you and any partner feel any adult in your extended family was or is addicted, your living and future kids depend on you to act, vs. ignore it. Their psychological health and growth is in your hands. For helpful perspective and many resources, see the NACoA and ACA Web sites. Though they focus on children of chemically-dependent parents, their concepts apply to all minor kids in low-nurturance families.

       For more perspective, see these..

      Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your true Self, or ''someone else''?

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