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Family Intervention for Alcoholism during the Holidays

answered 08:13 PM EST, Wed December 07, 2011
My whole immediate family and several of my uncles and their families will come to stay at my parents’ place over Christmas. My brother has had a drinking problem for years but things seem to have taken a real turn for the worse this year and he is getting in very heavy with the drinking.

I would like to see him get some treatment for his problem but he insists that he doesn’t have a problem and he can get very angry if I bring it up. I think that he is in denial and I think that we need to do an intervention if we are going to have any hope of convincing him to go.

I have been reading about interventions and I realize that it is important that we get as many people that are close to him as possible to talk about his drinking and how it has affected them to try to break down his wall of denial. Because of this, l I think that that Christmas, when several family members will be coming in from out of town, makes a lot of sense as the time to go ahead and do this.

A part of me though thinks that it is too cruel. My brother has always loved Christmas and the whole holiday and family thing. Am I risking having the intervention not work by combining it with Christmas – with too many other emotions and stuff going on? Should I wait until after Christmas to do it, even though it may mean that some people in the family will not attend? I think if I do wait, some of the people in the family who are not as on board with the idea of sending him to treatment will at least get to observe him and his drinking over that few days and come to understand why we need to do something sooner than later.

Delisted Expert Says...

I am sorry to hear that your family and your brother are becoming increasingly affected by your brother’s progressive drinking.

Most heavy substance abusers or alcoholics do not believe they have a problem when-

  1. most of the people they know drink similarly to them,
  2. other family use alcohol and/or other drugs, and
  3. their drinking can be protected by defensiveness, anger, and strong denial.

You are wise to consider using an intervention specialist to help you with your brother and his alcohol abuse/dependency. I used to do family intervention work with several hospitals so I am very familiar with it and their effectiveness to help impaired family member enter into detox, rehabilitation and successful treatment.

Let’s address your question(s) about whether you should do an intervention with your brother at Christmas with other family members. First, I agree with your pros and cons about doing a substance abuse intervention with family members at Christmas. However, I think it would be wise first to-

  1. identify a good treatment center for alcoholics,
  2. insure that this facility has a good reputation for alcohol detox and rehabilitation,
  3. (3) talk with the admissions staff and make a determination if this facility would provide an professional substance abuse assessment for your brother and family,
  4. confirm if this facility is affordable and will offer at least 90 days of continued treatment (a combination of detox, outpatient, inpatient if necessary, residential treatment, half -way house, and aftercare),
  5. a family program to address the needs and recovery of the family, and
  6. whether the facility could provide an in-house interventionist or recommend a local interventionist as part of the treatment strategy.

I would like to offer you some resources. A national resource to identify established treatment centers is Samhsa.gov.

Here are websites to give you information on interventionists and interventions: nationalinterventionassociation.com and http://www.intervention.com/faqfintv.html

Armed with good information about addiction, alcoholism, addiction as a family disease, intervention, detoxification and rehabilitation, recovery for the alcoholic and family, and relapse prevention would crystallize and assist your family’s decision, and method of intervening, on your brother’s alcohol abuse/alcoholism. My hope is that you find this helpful to you. If you should need anything else from me, please let me know.

Wishing the very best Xmas Season for you and your family,

John W. O’Neal, Ed.S., LPC, MSW, MA, NCC

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Page last updated Dec 10, 2011

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