9 Crises That Often Lead to Recovery

A young man who entered recovery of his own volition shared that he sought crisis intervention because, “I just felt like something bad was going to happen soon.” Fortunately, he followed the sense of impending doom and found his way into treatment. Sometimes it happens that way. There is an epiphany, a moment of clarity, in which someone is able to recognize that life has gotten out of control; that they must seek crisis intervention for substance use or addiction. But those aha moments ― when somebody actually hears it, heeds it, recognizes it, and acts on it ― are rare. More likely, there are crises that often lead to intervention. Loved Ones and Co-workers See the Problem First Because addiction blinds people from seeing the truth, others can see what is going on long before a person in an active addiction. Their lives may be falling apart in multiple ways― due to legal, employment and marriage issues or an impending divorce ― but they don’t take action until they get a wakeup call.​ Here are some of the common events that lead to crisis intervention.

1. Arrest

When an addicted person is arrested for any reason― theft, drunk driving or substance use ― it puts the wheels in motion for addiction treatment. It may be court-ordered or it could be that the person is incarcerated and can’t access substances. Maybe they just find themselves in enough trouble to try to get sober.

2. Acute health problem

The risky use of alcohol and other drugs can create a cadre of health problems. Sometimes an addicted person becomes ill with a different disease or debilitating ailment, or is hospitalized, and their physical condition prevents them from drinking — or scares them into seeking help. An episode related to a co-occurring mental illness or a new diagnosis can also usher in crisis intervention.

3. Accident

People who are intoxicated or high are prone to accidents ― some with tragic consequences. It’s not unusual to hear about inebriated people crashing their cars or stumbling into a pool and drowning. There are also stories of permanent disability. One man fell onto a train track while on drugs and lost a leg when the train came; another was injured while recklessly operating his boat. A woman went drunk to the gym to use the exercise equipment and her hand was crushed by a 30-pound weight. Accidents can force sobriety due to physical health ― or they can finally convince people to get help.

4. Child endangerment

Parents lost to substance use or addiction often put their children in dangerous situations. It can be abuse and neglect or placing children in harm’s way. There may be an event that sets off a crisis, such as a fire or accident in the home when the parent leaves kids unattended. When police, social services and the courts get involved, it can lead to mandatory treatment for the parent. Sometimes children are placed with relatives or in foster care, a heartbreaking experience that may motivate a mother or father to get healthy.

5. DUI

Driving under the influence is a huge public health issue. Most cities have strict laws that require arrest and follow-up crisis intervention, counseling or rehab. Some people consider it a slap on the wrist, even if their license is suspended and they are fined. If there are multiple DUIs or there’s an accident, it becomes a more serious offense. When children or family members are passengers in the car, it’s considered reckless endangerment or child endangerment. This is a serious charge because car accidents are the leading cause of child death. Court-mandated treatment often pushes people onto the road to recovery and research shows that even brief intervention helps.

6. Mandated by job

There are many ways in which employees and professionals can be forced to seek treatment. One lawyer showed up to a hearing drunk and the judge and the client knew it. The trial was postponed and the client fired the lawyer — and she had to go into treatment. Police officers can be ordered into counseling and a hospital board can demand a doctor or nurse with a drug issue get help. If an employee doesn’t pass a drug test, they may be suspended and told to get help under threat of losing their job. Companies often have employee assistance programs (EAP) that help employees in getting treatment.

7. Overdose

There was a time when a drug overdose meant death, but through a combination of modern medicine, toxicology and trained physicians, many lives can now be saved.  If a person lands in an emergency room, they are treated for the immediate problem and from there they may be admitted or transferred to a detox facility or rehab. They often receive a psychiatric evaluation and the help of a hospital social worker. Surviving an overdose opens the door to services that can at least attempt to help them get clean.

8. Retirement

It’s a time of life that can lead to alcoholism and addiction, especially for executives or CEOs. Many are high-functioning individuals who were used to being super-active. When they retire, they lose their identity. When they are no longer needed, they feel they have no purpose and they fall apart. Escalating substance use, a health crisis or family pressure often lies behind their decision to get treatment.

9. Ultimatum

Research has shown that family plays an important role in getting a loved one into treatment. Love and compassion go a long way, but a person with an addiction is more likely to respond under threat of losing someone they love. A spouse threatening to leave, children taken away or refusing to see them and loved ones who refuse to be enablers can instigate change. Caring people who set boundaries with the addicted loved one are a healing part of crises that often lead to intervention. A crisis may be deeply painful and unsettling, yet it is also an important turning point. It opens the door to healing and recovery, but it’s up to the person struggling with addiction to step through that door. By Kenneth England, MFT, Primary Therapist, Malibu Promises

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