iStock_000000319521XSmallWhen You Love a Shapeshifter, Part 7

The drugs or alcohol have turned someone you love into a monster. How can we turn them back?

Imagine yourself going up to the addicted person right now, and politely suggesting they should get treatment. Play that out, in your head.  What’s the response they give you?

Negative, right?

Sure, but it’s the type of negative response that will give you an idea of the defenses you’ll encounter in a real-life confrontation or even an intervention. You’ve probably heard them before, many times. And that’s helpful, because it’s unlikely you’ll hear anything new, next time. The tried-and-true defenses have worked, so the addict isn’t likely to change them.

In other words, you already know what will happen— and that’s a terrific advantage. You can prepare. You can work out solutions ahead of time. Let’s look at some common examples:

Simple Denial: They reject all the evidence and insist, in words that amount to “I don’t care what you say, I know I’m not an alcoholic/addict,” that they don’t have a problem at all. This is easy for them, because they don’t see (0r often recall) the intoxication-related problems that are so clear to you. The trap for you here is “your word against mine,” and they already know you’re wrong.

Temper Tantrums: When the drinking or using is threatened, it may activate a “fight/flight” response that sends the addict or alcoholic into “cornered animal” mode. Flourishing the temper or stalking angrily from the room has silenced many a family, for years sometimes. The addict knows that the best defense is a good offense.

Indignation: If the alcoholic senses shame or embarrassment in you, they may tap right into it with statements like: “You’re deliberately humiliating me in front of people.” “How can you accuse your own (father/mother/child/etc.) of something like that?” “You drink, too– how dare you criticize!” “If you cared about me you wouldn’t hurt me like this.”

Hostile Silence: Adolescents love this one. So do parents, confronted by their children. They believe that by demonstrating you can’t make them do anything against their will, they’ll convince you that confrontation is useless. They’ll wait you out, and you’ll give up and go away.

And finally, the various paychological defense mechanisms. We cover those in detail here, so take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with them and recognize the ones you’re used to hearing.

Replay your confrontation with the alcoholic/addict in your head again, and make a note of the responses that pop into your memory. Jot them down, and if you’re working with other family members who share your concern, compare notes. Identify the most likely defenses you’ll face.

They’ve worked in the past, so our next action step will focus on understanding why. This will help you plan a more effective approach.

Coming Soon: Taking Action: Analyze Past Flaws

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