When the Confrontation Goes South? How to Respond When the Intervention Blows Up in Your Face
When we love someone addicted to drugs or alcohol, we ride the struggle with the person. We do many things to help them. And in most cases, intervention becomes essential – we end up having to confront the addict about the behavior.
In a perfect world, we’d confront the person. (S)he would see how much their drug use is hurting themselves and the people they love. Change would occur. We’d all live happily ever after.
But we don’t live in a perfect world.
And in almost every case that is not the way interventions play out.
In fact, they often blow up in our faces.
The question is, how do we handle it when it does?
To answer this, we first must understand what happens. Normally, we will get one of three responses from the person when we try to intervene.
This is the outburst personality type. The person flies off the handle. Screams. Curses at us. Calls us names. Yells. Anger is unleashed on us for trying to help.
This is the lack of responsibility personality type. The person says it is your fault (s)he has been using or drinking anyways. Or they say they can’t control it. They have no choice. It’s somebody’s fault, but it isn’t theirs.
This is the reserved personality type. The person bottles up, closes him or herself off emotionally, and “punishes” you by withdrawing from the relationship.
To even begin to deal with interventions that blow up in our face, we must first understand these responses for what they truly are. These are manipulation and control tactics.
The person is trying to force you to act a certain way (in this case, to turn a blind eye to their behavior) and force you to allow him or her to act a certain way (use drugs or alcohol as (s)he pleases).
We must address this with boundaries.
To do this, we need to understand 2 key principles.
1. Their Feelings Are Their Responsibility, Not Yours
Initially, you may feel sucked into the manipulation tactics. This means you will feel like it’s your fault the person is screaming, you are the reason (s)he is drinking and using, or you have to allow certain things in order for the person to love you.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
We are all responsible for our own feelings and actions. Nobody has the power to control those things about us. That means you cannot control them in the person you love who is struggling with addiction.
Their anger is their choice. The lack of responsibility is their problem. And their decision to withdraw does not reflect a relational dysfunction on your part. It reflects theirs.
The key is to make sure you own what is your responsibility but that you not allow someone to force you to own theirs. And how the person you love feels or acts is beyond the scope of what you are to be accountable for.
2. You Have a Right to Protect Yourself
This key is paramount. There is nothing wrong with wanting to help someone you love overcome an addiction.
But when doing so crosses your personal boundaries and puts you or your children in harm’s way, something has to change.
If you are getting hit or beat up for intervening in the addict’s life, then the primary goal must shift from that person’s wellbeing to your own. And to that of your kids. You have no obligation to say in an abusive relationship. Sometimes out is the best way through.
If you are being berated and belittled for trying to help, there is only so much of that someone can take. You have no responsibility to allow someone to tear you down verbally while you sit back and try to help them deal with their problem.
If the situation is consistent and evident change is not visible, you will need to get away from the person. Sometimes temporarily. Sometimes permanently.
Overall, you must protect yourself and those for whom you are responsible. And the only people you are responsible for other than yourself of your underage children.
God has made us responsible to one another but never for one another.
When intervention blows up in your face, recognize the blow up for what it is. Often, it is an attempt to manipulate and control you.
At that point, you must refuse any responsibility for the other person’s feelings, ways, or action.
And you may have to get away from the relationship to protect you and/or your children.
When intervention blows up in your face, take control of the situation. And protect yourself from any further harm.