2020 is here, and with this new decade comes the wonderful opportunity for new beginnings. On that note, I have been thinking a lot about interventions, and the phone calls I receive from lovely folks who are terribly misinformed about what an invitation to change actually is. These folks are often the ones who can benefit from invitations to change.

Today I wanted to explore the 7 common misconceptions I most often hear:

1. My mother or father is too old, and will never change their behavior – it’s just no use!

The reality is that no one is ever too young or too old to change his or her behavior. Health and growth have no age limit when we put our mind to doing something.  

Recently I worked with a 72-year-old female who had lost her way with pills and alcohol after the death of her husband. Because of her behavior, her family avoided her at all costs, and her friends at the country club worried when she had golf clubs in hand.

Convincing her daughters that her life was worth saving was the hardest task I had. They were angry and frustrated. They thought she was too old to be helped, too old for change. Reluctantly they decided to go through with the intervention.

Thanks to their mother’s friends and their ultimate love, the woman went willingly to treatment. In treatment, the care and concern she found (along with her ability to grieve the loss of her childhood sweetheart) and her supportive friends made all the difference.

She is now a regular at local A.A. meetings, trading golf cocktails for mocktails. She also spends time volunteering at a local senior center helping others.  

Her daughters now wonder where she finds the energy to do all she does and are happy to experience a mom (and especially a grandmother) who is present and healthy.

2.  The addict/alcoholic is a busy executive, and can’t possibly find the time to be away from work. His or her company will falter.   

The truth is the company most likely has been running successfully thanks to all the folks around who have been shielding the top executive. Treatment can often be customized for an executive so he or she can attend a specific board meeting or have their computer available for delegated work matters during certain hours. This arrangement can be sorted once he or she has gone through medical detoxification.

When it comes to treatment, there is no one size fits all. As a clinician, I prefer — though it’s not always possible — for the executive to experience customized treatment inside a facility, as it gives them the opportunity to take time out and meet and relate to others in similar situations

3. I can’t tell my adolescent son or daughter what to do. They will run away. 

Setting boundaries with loved ones can be very scary, even for parents. They are afraid of what I call “adolescent rage” where love ones yell, scream, demand, and threaten.

Several families that I’ve worked with lived in armed camps, so to speak. They had locks on their bedroom doors because they were afraid of what their adolescent would do.

Most of all, they were afraid that if they set boundaries, their children would not love them; that if they intervened the child would run away and never speak to them again.

The truth is that families with non-existent boundaries need help finding their voice, because setting healthy limits is the way to best help their kids live a healthy, thriving life.

4. My daughter has a newborn and can’t possibly go to treatment. 

Finding treatment for women who are pregnant or have young children is not impossible. There is treatment out there that will accommodate mothers and children. There is always a solution!

5. Digital addiction: my young adult son just dropped out of college. He stays in his room and vapes and is always on the computer. He has a learning disability. I am afraid to leave home as I don’t know what he will do. I can’t to anything until he is over 18. 

The truth is you can do something, and you already are giving him food, clothing and shelter. The truth is you can intervene and get him the help he needs.

Perhaps as a combination of wilderness first and inpatient treatment, along with a solid renter plan into everyday living so your son can launch into the world and be the young adult he is meant to be.

6. LGBTQ: a mother calls and shares her teenage daughter is fraught with anxiety. She has shared she identifies as male and wants to change her clothing and cut her hair. The mother isn’t sure how to proceed. 

With adolescents, it is common for them to be nuanced and dynamic in how they identify and experience their sexual identities. Helping a family of an adolescent find the right kind of professionals to talk to about anxiety and sexual identity is important so as to promote healthy development, social and emotional well being, and optimal physical health without shame and stigma for all involved.

7. A husband calls and shares he is consumed with porn and marijuana. It’s the only way he can live with his wife. He wants you to do an intervention on his wife, yet he smokes and drinks as well. 

As a clinical interventionist, I believe you must help the whole family, and sometimes who calls may well be the first person you help.

Previously, I wrote in my books Falling Up and the Definitive Guide To Addiction Interventions, that nothing changes until something changes, and 95 percent of the time as a clinical interventionist the first work I do is with family, friends, employers and others that are close to the loved one.

The first barrier to break down is the caller’s fear. After our initial discovery call, I share that there is a solution – and  that help is possible. For I have learned, personally and professionally, there is always hope, and there is always a solution.

However, as a family member, friend, partner, employer, or employee, it can at first feel daunting that hard choices must be considered to facilitate movement and growth. That is why I am grateful to have the privilege to coach loved ones along the way.