An addict opens the door to what they think is an empty home. Instead, they’re surprised to see all of their closest friends and family members gathered and waiting. The addict looks around in shock.
Their best friend steps away from the group, towards the addict. He places a hand on the addict’s shoulder. “We’re worried about you. This is an intervention.”
I’ve watched this play out in countless TV shows. It’s such a common scene that the website TV Tropes has an entire page devoted to its many occurrences.
Interventions happen in real life too, but they aren’t nearly as common as TV might lead you to believe. Despite my own struggles with alcohol addiction and sobriety, I’ve never found myself on either side of one.
In fact, in all of my years of excessive drinking (over a decade total), I never had anyone tell me that they thought I had a problem. No interventions, and no one-on-one conversations either.
In a way it was nice — I can’t imagine it’s any fun to be confronted about your drinking problem. The trouble is, I used that lack of confrontation as an excuse to keep drinking.
Even though I knew I had an addiction to alcohol, I constantly found ways to trick myself into thinking that my problem wasn’t really that bad. One of those ways was to tell myself that if I had a “real problem,” someone else would have pointed it out to me.
Unfortunately, I really did have a severe addiction, and the fact that nobody else seemed to notice didn’t make that any less true. While I was waiting for a confrontation that never came, I was letting my addiction get worse and worse.
But if my addiction was so bad, why didn’t anyone else say anything? I think there are two main reasons:
Addicts are Good at Hiding Their Addictions
I think that many of my friends, family, and coworkers really didn’t have any idea that I was addicted to alcohol. Even though it was having a lot of negative repercussions on my life, I also was working hard to keep my drinking and it’s effects hidden.
Addicts are known for being good liars, mostly because we get so much practice at it.
If I had told my friends and family how much I was really drinking, they would have realized that I had a serious problem immediately. Unfortunately, I lied and downplayed the extent of my drinking habit, leaving everyone else in the dark.
I’d avoid drinking around the same people too often. I’d drink a small amount at a party and then much more when I got home. I’d grab new drinks quickly and quietly so that nobody realized how many I had actually gone through.
With so many tricks to avoid getting noticed, it’s hardly a surprise that my habit stayed under the radar.
Most People Hate Confrontation
Even if some people did realize that I had a drinking problem, they still might have had good reasons not to say anything to me.
In an ideal world, when someone confronts an addict about their substance abuse, the addict would reflect on the comments and decide it’s time to make a change.
In the real world, the addict is at least as likely to deny that they have a problem, and might even end up blowing up at the person who addressed them. “Shooting the messenger,” essentially.
Most people hate confrontation. Even if they think that someone might have a problem with alcohol or another substance, they might quickly talk themselves out of actually saying anything. After all, maybe the problem isn’t as bad as it appears, and even if it is, the addict probably wouldn’t change their ways.
Don’t Wait for an Intervention
In the end, waiting for someone else to notice my problem was just another delaying tactic. I knew that I had an addiction and that at some point I’d have to quit.
The part of me that loved to drink would look for any excuse possible to put off that day. I wasn’t really looking for external validation of my problem, I was just playing tricks on myself.
If you let these kinds of excuses govern your decision making, you’ll never actually get around to quitting. Addicts are great at making excuses — as soon as one disappears, we can find two more to replace it. Getting sober means putting all the excuses aside.