Addiction Intervention: A Professional’s Perspective

Meet Alice Tanner, Addiction Interventionist and Family Recovery Consultant

Riverbank House has been blessed to become acquainted with Alice Tanner of Addiction Recovery Consulting Services in California.  Alice provides a host of services for families whose loved one struggles with substance use disorder, and she was kind enough to sit down with us to explore the benefits of family-focused intervention and ongoing family recovery support.

Riverbank House:  Alice, what drew you to a career as an addiction interventionist?

Alice Tanner:  My recovery started with a Systemic Family Intervention. It was the kindest, hardest and most loving thing any family can do; I am eternally grateful my family stepped up to the plate, loved me enough to walk through the fear and bring me the help that I needed but was unable to get for myself.

I was completely taken with the process, the healing, the restoration of life and families and began to investigate it as a new career path.

The decision was not made quickly or lightly, but I had known for a long time that I wanted to pursue a new career path and the timing for the change was right.   Taking the skills from my former career, adding appropriate and extensive training, and my career as an interventionist and addiction consultant was born.  I am often amazed that was 18 years ago!

RBH:  Why would a family engage an addiction interventionist?  How can professional help aid a family in a time of crisis?

Alice Tanner:  The truth is that everybody who enters recovery does so by way of intervention.  Everybody.  No exceptions.  The intervention will be a legal, financial, health, employment, relationship or family intervention, but it is an intervention nonetheless.  An intervention is nothing more than an event that intercedes to disrupt an alcoholic/addict’s illness and direct them into treatment.  An arrest can be an intervention.  A divorce can be an intervention.  Getting fired from a job can be an intervention.  See, it’s really only a matter of what kind of intervention does the family want . . . a professionally facilitated, controlled, planned and moderated intervention . . . or an unplanned, ugly, potentially disastrous and unrecoverable intervention?  As for getting the services of a professional, it is a no-brainer.

No one performs their own surgery or drills their own cavity.

No one performs any other types of major medical services on their own loved one, nor do they ask their unqualified friends to do it.  Heck, most of us don’t even work on our own cars.  If we are smart, we go to a qualified mechanic.  We go to a vet for our pet’s health.  If we do that for a car or a pet, why would we do anything less for our human loved ones?  Loved ones suffering with a disease need and deserve professional help.  And, with professional help better results are more assured!

RBH:  What has been your greatest reward in working with families?

Alice Tanner:  To see families heal as families.  Addiction takes everyone in the family to a worse place.  They all develop unhealthy ways of thinking, coping, behaving, interacting, and the system gets very sick.  Together.  When the family as a whole decides to recover together the change is unbelievable.

Empowered and restored, families are enriched in ways they never thought possible.

Families don’t simply go back to the place from which they started so many years before.  They heal, grow and thrive far beyond where they were, beyond what they ever imagined possible.  That change inspires me daily.

RBH:  What is the most important message you would give to families whose loved one is struggling with addiction?

Alice Tanner:  Get appropriate professional help.  Don’t wait.  The longer you wait, the worse the disease gets, the more unwell the system as a whole gets and the harder it is to recover.  Everyone knows this and heeds that advice with almost every other disease we know of.

Early detection, early treatment is the mantra.

No one would ever think that waiting until cancer is a stage 3 or 4 is a better idea than treating it when it is a stage 1 or 2.  Addiction is no different.  Know that you will be scared and that you will meet resistance from others in your family, but do not let that deter you.  A good interventionist or addiction consultant will help you through all of this and work with the others in the family.

RBH:  When a loved one enters drug rehab or any treatment for addiction, what will be the greatest challenge facing the family?

Alice Tanner:  Families tend to fall into two groups; those who are calling the treatment program regularly and still “hovering” or those who are so relieved that their loved one is in a safe place and not causing problems any longer that they go back to their lives.  Both of these groups are still intensely and obsessively focused on their loved one.  They do little or no work of their own, seek little or no help for themselves.  It’s all about their loved one, right?  They believe that going to the “family program” is sufficient.  Professionals know that such an approach is not even close.

Families also place too much emphasis on what treatment can and will do.

They believe that once a person goes to treatment that the hard part is done, that their loved one will get out of treatment, do what they need to do and that all will be well.  They cling to this hope, but it doesn’t work this way.  The family is still unwell and unhealed.  Thus, the cycle of relapse and doing things the way they have done them in the past (always focusing on the addict and THEIR treatment/recovery) begins.  Over and over, the addict goes to treatment, the family does very little or nothing for themselves.  If they do something it is often non-professional (a few Al-anon meetings) and short-term (attend the family program associated with their loved one’s treatment).  They continue to get the same poor results and become very disillusioned with treatment, treatment centers, the “industry”.  They are angry and frustrated with their addicted loved one.  They are angry and frustrated with each other.  It never ends well.

RBH:  How does substance use disorder influence the family system?

Alice Tanner:  Addiction is a family disease, meaning that as the addict gets sick so does the family.  Addiction impacts, influences and alters everyone in the family in negative ways.  The adaptations, the coping tools, the attitudes that develop are unhealthy and become dangerous and destructive as the disease advances.  Some call this “dysfunctional” and it is.  But, it goes far beyond that.  Science, studies and evidence-based practices support this.  The families who live it know it is true, too.

RBH:  Is there hope that a family can recover, even if the loved one with addiction can’t seem to stay abstinent?

Alice Tanner:  Absolutely.  The myth is that recovery is based on what the addict does, that if the addict recovers all is well and the family is well.  That is not true.  Recovery is an individual effort, but individual family members can choose recovery.  The more who do, the more well the family system becomes as a whole and the greater chance the addict will eventually recover.  The more people in the family system who recover the greater and faster the recovery will be and the more likely the recovery will be sustained.  The best gift individuals can give themselves is recovery whether it be the addict or the family member.  Seek help!  Get it from an appropriate professional and get it early.  Be willing to engage professional help for a sustained period of time.  Change does not happen quickly or easily, but when it does happen it is the most fantastic gift you can give yourself and those you love.

How to Contact Alice

While Alice’s practice is located on the West Coast, she works with families throughout the United States.  She can be contacted at 415-717-3675, via email at alice@bayarea-intervention.com, on Facebook, or through her website at www.bayarea-intervention.com.

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