In the wake of Tiger Woods' admittance and apology for his extramarital affairs, interventionist Brad Lamm offers this advice to families who may be waiting for a loved one to hit rock bottom before they step in to help.
People who change rarely do so in a vacuum. They change with the support of others. Add to the mix a compulsive behavior that has a real physiological jolt to it—a rush, a high or a numbing out—and it's even that much harder again to begin change.
In my life and practice as a board-registered interventionist and recovered addict, I meet a lot of Tigers. And, just as frequently, I meet Frogs.
Tiger is the identified loved one stuck in the behavior that is costing more, more and still more.
Frogs are the family members who recognize their loved one needs help but don't know how to begin to take action and change the life of someone they love. It's as if they've hopped into a pot of water on a stove and, although the temperature is rising, have convinced themselves, "It's really not that hot in here."
Both need a nudge to get moving.
When it comes to facing a family member's addiction, like frogs, we come to accept greater and greater compromises until it becomes the easy way to live. We lull ourselves into thinking: "Tiger's okay. It's better lately." That thinking must stop and be replaced by this truth: "We will wait no longer nor try to beat the heat. We will act now in love, with purpose and a plan."
When I wrote How to Change Someone You Love, I set out to turn the very paradigm of change on its head and help Frogs jump and Tigers talk. Whether I'm teaching or intervening, I challenge families to begin change by jumping out of the increasingly costly situations they find themselves in.
The next thing I ask is that they throw out the myths that keep them stuck in indecision in the first place.
3 myths about addiction
Myth 1: He Has to Hit Bottom
The notion of hitting bottom is a lie. One compulsive sex addict I worked with recently described the urge as all consuming. "I don't think straight for days at a time; it's like I'm crazy." He's in an altered state from it—a common occurrence, whether it's sex or drugs or even smoking. Why would we wait for him to think his way out of the problem? We don't need to. With sideways sexual behavior, the "bottom" that folks wait for is often the spouse of the addicted partner getting a sexually transmitted disease of some sort, including HIV.
You can decide where the bottom is. You need not sink any further.
Myth 2: You Can't Change Someone
We are wonderful, adaptable, changeable creatures—and love is the greatest motivation of all for change. More than fear or danger. Love.
When my phone rings and I hear the fear surrounding the myth that you can't change someone, I work to blow that lie out of the water. If you care about someone who has a self-destructive problem, you are not powerless. In fact, the greatest power you have is the connectedness you have with your loved one. The human brain behaves like a 2-year old—tell it what to do, and it pushes back.
Instead, invite your loved one into a family meeting. Combat the denial, the confusion and pain with love and your eyewitness accounts of the situation, and you're off to a strong start. Secrets and fear suck the oxygen out of the room when trying to enable change.
Fall into hope and love. It will serve you best.
Myth 3: You Can't Help Someone Unless He's Ready
Finally, the myth that you cannot help someone begin change unless he's ready is a bunch of nonsense. Through a loving invitation to change and family intervention, we help him get ready.
Many people go through life accepting these myths—the Frogs and the Tigers. We've all heard them, and to act on a lie is a terrible stasis. You will have trouble beginning change unless you unlearn and let go of these myths. Once you do that—and I know you can—you'll be ready to take action in ways that will make a profound and lasting difference in the lives of people you love.
Your path is not inevitable. You and your family and friends can begin powerful, loving and lasting change. You have unmatched power in beginning change right where you are; more power than a doctor, a lawyer or the church. Change begins with you and a decision to fall out of fear and into action.
Brad Lamm is a board-registered interventionist. He is the author of How to Change Someone You Love. His group offers free training and support groups at BradLamm.com.
Printed from Oprah.com on Thursday, March 13, 2014
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