So here we are in a New Year and I am not sure exactly what I want to tackle.
Looking back on 2022 I experienced a good many things, much that I enjoyed and am proud of. My team and I helped many families. We traveled near and far, touching the lives of others. I was fortunate to present globally in London and Zurich. I traveled to Peru, to the ancient ruins, and settled into living in a forest.
In all, like most of us, I experienced great highs and great lows. My mentor who always gave me courage and who always believed in me died at 96 years old. I truly now had to parent myself.
Long standing business relationships were let go in search of authenticity and transparency, bringing a wave of grief, sadness, and new beginnings.
My husband once again proved he has the will to overcome whatever health obstacle comes his way. A true testimony for resiliency.
My grandchildren keep growing, keep changing — affirming that there is hope in the future.
In addition to interventions, my practice grew in coaching families who experience a multitude of problems, actually honing my clinical skills and giving me the ability to work much longer than one would with an intervention client.
In thinking about interventions, I am not sure the world quite understands how incredibly talented an interventionist must be. They enter into a family’s life prior to any treatment, and their task is to move not just the loved one, but the entire family, to change. This is a very different phenomenon than working with someone who has already entered a treatment facility. While the treatment and auxiliary teams are incredibly skillful and often do what I have written about, “clinician interventions” inside of a treatment facility, the client i.e. “The Identified Loved One (ILO)” is safely nestled inside a facility and the treatment team’s job is to join up and continue to invite someone to change.
Impact Letters – Love Letters from the Heart
One of the key components of any intervention, irregardless of intervention style, is the creation of impact letters, or as one of my colleagues Ed Storti has referred to as a “living eulogy.” These are love letters that the team prepares prior to any invitation to change. They set the stage for a loving, compassionate conversation directed to motivate the ILO to accepting the invitation and saying yes to treatment. This is carefully articulated in my books Addiction in the Family: Helping Families Navigate Challenges, Emotions and Recovery and my textbook The Definitive Guide to Addition Intervention.
Dr. Bob Waldinger, Harvard psychiatrist professor and the author of the new book The Good Life, makes a point of asking us to think about an important person in our lives and what they have done. He invites us to write in his words “a living eulogy”. This is similar to an impact letter, which I and others have written about, and invites one to explore Heart, Hurt, and Hope. In other words what’s special about the person? What experiences, what memories do you hold that make this person important? What are you experiencing now that causes you concern and what is your hope for this person and your relationship?
Dr Waldinger invites us in The Good Life to thank someone special and share how have they enriched your lives. This is always the first part of an Impact for Intervention Letter. In doing so, he invites us to be open. He invites us to consider how you might thank the person if you never saw them again. Take a few moments and write down what you think you would tell them with as many examples as possible. Don’t overthink, as it can be dashed off straight from your heart. “Think of it as a eulogy for the living.” Then send it by text, by mail, handwritten note, whatever.
Research has shown that the happiest people take the time to explicitly cherish the people they love, and there is no better way than sharing a note of appreciation to someone. Research has shown that writing a note of appreciation has an immediate positive effect on the well being of you and the recipient. In the case of a person experiencing a Substance Use Disorder (SUD), it’s designed to break into the honeycomb of denial that has them armored up.
Writing a note of appreciation, a living eulogy, does not have to be just confined to interventions. One can practice this in everyday life. Though folks may think it’s strange that I am writing a note of appreciation, a love letter, so to speak after not talking for a long time or being in distress, as many are when someone is experiencing a SUD or MH disorder, Dr . Peggy Liu, an associate professor of business from my undergraduate alma mater, the University of Pittsburg, led a 2022 study in which participants sent a short note to someone in their social circle with whom they had not interacted in a while. Recipients reported positive feelings as someone has taken the time to reach out to acknowledge them and showed they cared.
So, if you are interested in learning more about the benefits of thanking someone one special in your life that you have not been in contact for whatever reason good, bad or indifferent with, try writing a note of appreciation and see the result.
If you want to learn more about why and how this activity works so well for yourself, your families, and their loved ones who contact me, I welcome discussing others’ experiences I’ve witnesses and learning about yours.