Before Mike Loverde became the President and Founder of Family First Intervention, he battled heroin addiction, even going so far as to steal from his mother, Florence, in order to support his drug habit. Florence decided she needed the help of a professional drug interventionist in order to get her son back from the throes of heroin abuse.
Mike Loverde’s intervention is told below by his actual drug intervention counselor.
The Drug Interventionist’s Story
Having performed many interventions in the past, most situations you walk into aren’t a mystery. It only took a few moments speaking with Mike’s mother, Florence, to see the whole picture: late 20s heroin addict living at home, stealing her possessions, 19 rehabs, promising to quit for years.
Most people think that an intervention is about the addict. Families often want us to come out and magically inspire a drug addict enough to want to change his life forever. The problem, though, is this: Were I able to speak words of wisdom that would touch the very soul of a drug addict to the point that he was driven to tears, it wouldn’t be enough. Two days later, withdrawing from drugs in detox, the addict will completely forget my inspirational speech, get uncomfortable, leave treatment against medical advice, and come home.
In Mike’s case, it was the same: A mother who had tried everything else threw out a hopeful roll of the dice. She kept telling me, “I think Mike will listen to you. I think he’ll relate.”
Inside, I knew what she was thinking. Maybe this interventionist could inspire him. Maybe this time things will be different. I wish inspiration was all it took. My job would be easy.
In the video above, Mike explains why it is so difficult to reason with an addict. It is because addicts think differently than a normal person. Simply giving them a pep talk is not enough; if it were, addiction wouldn’t be as big of an epidemic as it is today.
Interventionist Family Day
Arriving the day before the intervention, I spent several hours with the family. What they saw as the problem was that Mike was destroying the family. This was all about Mike. When you are an interventionist, you are disconnected enough from the family that you can see things differently. Many times, what you see is a hopeful picture where a substance abuser has all the variables in place for a successful intervention, followed by a commitment to treatment. But in this case, what I saw, but couldn’t tell them at the time, was a much bleaker picture.
I saw that if the family continued to do as they had always done, Mike would probably agree to treatment, but he would leave within days, going back home. He would create a scenario where he would be the victim or “in trouble” enough to pull Mom’s heartstrings so she would crumble and let him back in the house, the same house where Mike had used heroin for the last four years.
The biggest problem was that I believed in my heart that this family probably would do as they had always done. Tomorrow, Mike will agree to go, and they will thank me as he goes off to treatment. But within days, I would get a phone call from Florence telling me that Mike left or got kicked out of treatment and was now on the couch and high again, that she had to let him back in the house. She would say that he was dirty, begging and crying. She would say that she couldn’t bring herself to just throw her son away. This was what was going to happen…I knew it in my heart.
Preparing for the Intervention
There is a motto in the field of interventions: “Hope for the best, and prepare for the worst.” The only chance I (and Mike) had was to convince this family of a particular truth in order to change their behavior.
This truth was something that many families have trouble understanding. Many families feel that their loved one is “safer” if he is within their home, that somehow they can protect their loved one from serious harm. They are wrought with the fear that if he leaves the home or ends up on the streets, that he will be dead within days.
In reality, the odds of Mike overdosing actually increased exponentially if he stayed in their home. Their home had now become a “dope house” for Mike. The family covered all of the money he could have spent on food, shelter or survival, and that left him just enough to support his daily habit. Furthermore, every time he shot up in their bathroom or the basement, he was conditioning himself to associate those surroundings with the idea of getting high. Mike’s chances of long-term sobriety in this home, as beautiful as it was, were near zero.
Getting His Family to Do What Must Be Done
Educating the family on the nature of addiction, the Jellinek curve, and the biochemical effects of heroin on the brain – none of these were anywhere near as important as this one simple thing: Mike could not return to the family home, no matter what decision he made. And I continued to repeat this point over a 10-hour session.
At the end of the day, both the family and I, being mentally and emotionally exhausted, retired and prepared for the following day. Gathering my papers, I knew that the family rationally understood the points presented, but again I doubted if they were prepared emotionally to do what was necessary. Few families truly are when it comes down to an intervention of this type.
When you are dealing with the family of an addict or alcoholic, there will always be behaviors that enabled the substance abuse. Old habits die hard, and many times, interventions won’t cause lasting change unless someone identifies and helps stop the enabling behaviors.
The Drug Intervention Begins
For a heroin intervention, it is usually best to perform the intervention after the addict has taken the morning “fix.” If you try do it before, they’ll never hear a word you say, their anxiety will rise and all their focus will be on getting high again.
With Mike, we planned to meet on Memorial Day at around noon. He would already be high and I would arrive as a “family friend,” just visiting for the holiday. Like clockwork, Mike got up that morning and left to get high. Like clockwork, he arrived at noon, with the slightly oily sheen common to most heroin addicts. Interestingly enough, a late-stage heroin user like Mike actually appears quite normal when using. The days of slurring his words and nodding on the couch are long gone for him. Now he only uses to “feel normal.”
After greeting Mike, we began the intervention. The family began to read heartfelt letters. Although each letter was emotionally powerful, it was his father’s letter, read through tears, that hit Mike the hardest. Just like clockwork, Mike agreed to go to treatment.
All heroin addicts willingly agree to go to treatment, for every day is a hell for them and deep inside they want out. However, statistically, only a small percentage of heroin addicts stay through the uncomfortable detox. Fewer still continue treatment after detox, for they feel that “all they needed was to get off the dope.”
Off to Detox, but Addiction’s Reality Sets In
After a several hour transit, we arrived at the detox facility. Due to a breakdown in communication, the detox facility would not be administering medications for Mike to “easily” come down off the heroin. In other words, Mike would be quitting cold turkey. Looking me in the eyes as he pulled his suitcase into the building, he said, “This time, I’m going to do it. I’m really going to try.” Looking back at him, I realized the sad reality was that he probably was telling the truth…at the time.
Eight hours later, forgetting his promises, forgetting his father’s tearful letter, and oblivious to my inspirational speech, Mike checked himself out of detox and found the local drug dealer. He was back on the streets and heading back home.
Tough Love After the Intervention
When I got the call from Mike’s mother, you could hear the frustration, anxiety and fear in her voice. The familiar feeling of helplessness came back to her, and she kept asking me what to do. Knowing what was to follow, I suspected she wouldn’t hold firm. First the phone calls, then the arrival back home. Could Florence shut the door on Mike? Did she have the ability to hurt her son in order to help him?
That day, every hour saw another call from Florence. She would say, “He’s calling now. What should I do? He says he’s coming home. What should I do?”
Call after call, and then nothing. This was the moment I dreaded. When this happens, it usually means the addict is back at home, and the mother doesn’t want to call because she is ashamed, having not stuck to the plan. So, I waited.
The following day, I received a call from Florence. Just as predicted, Mike showed up and begged. But this time, instead of letting him in, she did something that days before she was incapable of: She called the police. Upset, Mike left but continued the phone calls. As she held her ground, Mike eventually crumbled and said, “Fine, I’ll go anywhere you want.”
In the case of Mike and his family, success happened when his family finally set boundaries and held to them. Mike’s family was no longer going to enable his addiction, and it could not thrive any longer.
Drug Intervention Success
I am proud to say that I was a witness to Mike’s recovery. After detox, he entered a six-month treatment program out of state. Resistant at times, Mike would try to return, but his mother remained firm: “You can’t come home.”
Forced to take responsibility for his life and his actions, Mike paid off all his debts, made up the damage to his family, and eventually dedicated his life to helping others – and not just drug addicts or alcoholics like he was, but more importantly, his focus is on helping families like his. For it wasn’t until Mike’s family changed that Mike truly began his journey into recovery. It’s never the addict who needs help first. It is always the family first, always.
Family First Intervention
There are many individuals like Mike that are finding themselves lost in a cycle of addiction and broken relationships. Fortunately, Mike’s family intervened and he was able to get the help he needed. Not all individuals are given the same opportunity, and not all families are ready to stop allowing the addiction to thrive by ending their codependent or enabling behaviors.
Make your own success story. Give Family First Intervention a call today to discuss what you can do to end addiction and enabling behaviors within your family.