September 21, 2007
Beginning of the Road
By Dane Sorensen
Part Two of Three
An addictive personality is something you are born with. Once your brain has discovered the wonderful world of chemicals, there is no turning back. Only the act of recovery can keep an addict from relapse. Drug addiction can affect any family. And on July 29th we found our family was no exception to those facts.
Alexa and Anesa were the first to see Adria. They met her in Virginia on their way home to Ely for the wedding. The sisters all met at their favorite restaurant in Virginia. Both Alexa and Anesa found a way to break away from the table and phoned us that all was not well. Adria was at least twenty pounds lighter than when they last saw her. She ate a huge meal with dessert and told them she had not eaten since leaving California. Adria was so skittish that the sisters figured out a way to not have her drive the rest of the way home to Ely.
When Alexa had called me I told her to stay cool and to act like nothing was wrong. I knew we had to do something, but I was not sure what it was. The main thing I knew is that people on drugs like cocaine can be very irrational. While my wife's plate was full with all the last minute details of the wedding, I made time to start my research on the best way to deal with Adria.
There is very little in Ely as far as resources. There are no links for drug information on the Ely Bloomenson Hospital web site. They do mention Ely Meth Community Action Team, but do not have any contact information or web links. I called and asked if they had anyone on staff to do drug interventions and was met with silence and inaction.
The Meth action team does have a small web site. While I commend the team for shutting down the meth labs that were flourishing in Ely, I thought their information about what to look for as far as drug use was very incomplete. Their Recovery Page does have a link to Hazelden. The trouble is most people in this town do not have health insurance that will cover the $25,000 fee that Hazelden charges. The other resources mentioned are only phone numbers, plus I already knew that the Ely Clinic and the hospital were not qualified to deal with this effectively. Narcotics Anonymous was listed, but that is a resource which is only important after intervention and treatment.
Within the first day I knew we had to do a family intervention. This is a very powerful tool that you can use to persuade someone to get help. If you are dealing with a minor, you can just drag them in for treatment, but anyone over 18 must go voluntarily. A good intervention must be well planned. I highly recommend having a neutral third party who is a trained interventionist. We hired one of the best in the state of Minnesota. His name is Berkeley Lewis and he is from the Twin Cities. Berk has a radio show at KTNF on Saturdays called "The Next Step" and it is about recovering from addiction. You can listen to "The Next Step" online at: http://www.nextstepradio.com. Berk worked at Hazelden for many years as a counselor before going to Addiction Recovery Professionals (http://www.arprecovery.com). He has done over 200 interventions all over the United States.
The first thing about an intervention is that it must be a surprise to the addict or drunk. If they get wind of it, many will flee. The goal of an intervention is to get your loved one to go and get help. It is not about airing grievances or fixing relationships. That comes much later. Berk had us each write a letter to Adria. In that letter we had to address several points. First was how much we loved her. Next was what had changed about her and how this affected us. Third, was a plea for her to go to rehab. Fourth, was tough love, writ large. By that I mean you had to tell your loved one what you would withhold from them if they did not go. This can be as simple as spending time together, money, their car, a place in your home - anything that you have been doing for them. Lastly, you promise to love them always, but they must go into rehab. This may sound easy to do, but the reality is that emotions run very high during an intervention. I can see why Berk has his clients write down what they are going to say because the tears and distress can affect your performance at the intervention. All four of us were able to write our letters and get them approved and tweaked via email. Berk removed anything that sounded like a demand or accusation. For families where addiction has been the norm for many years it is very difficult for them to write a letter that does not overflow with anger. Before the intervention we needed to meet with Berk in order to review the agenda and how to proceed. My father helped with this by arranging for us to meet at his church, which was only a half-mile away from the house of my mother-in-law. The intervention would take place at her house at four o'clock in the afternoon on August 6th.
The trick was to get everyone down to Minneapolis. For that I used a dead woman. My sister-in-law's godmother, Francis, died the day before Adria came back to Ely. My daughters knew Francis and had wonderful memories of this feisty old lady. Two days before the intervention I told Adria that I thought it would be best if we all went down and attended the funeral. I emailed all three of my girls that obituary - but I changed the time to 4 o'clock. The plan was to drive down Saturday morning.
Adria surprised us on Friday, while we were at work, by driving down to her Grandmother's house. She also took along our dog, Reggie, but left no note for us. I only found out when she appeared at her Grandmother's house while I was on the phone with Grandma. I was going over the timing of how we would separate Adria from the rest of us, so we could meet Berk for the pre-intervention meeting. Poor Grandma almost had a heart attack when Adria walked in as we were talking. She bluntly asked Adria why she was there. I yelled into the phone for Grandma to calm down and not act like anything was unusual. Once Grandma heard that she did calm down. We told her to entertain Adria and we would come down early to make sure Adria was not actually trying to flee and drive back to California.
We did not get out of Ely until about 8 o'clock that evening. Our first stop was to pick up Alexa and James at her in-laws and then pick up our youngest daughter after she finished work. Meanwhile, some of Alexa's friends parked in front of Grandma's house and kept an eye on Adria's car. At about two in the morning we pulled in next door to Grandmother's house. With the help of James, I pulled all the fuses and relays out of Adria's car. We then drove out to Bloomington and crashed at a hotel.
Since Adria thought we were driving down Saturday morning we did not need to worry about breaking away from her for our meeting with Berk. We went directly from the hotel to the church. Traffic was crazy as the Uptown Art Fair was going on and it was raining. When we got to the church we found it was locked up tighter than Fort Knox. Ringing the doorbell and phone calls went unanswered. So we punted. We tried a synagogue that was a few blocks away. That was locked up just as tight. Thirty minutes late we held our meeting at Starbucks. We were able to huddle with Berk in comfort and relative privacy. Go figure.
As we huddled at Starbucks, Berk gave us the rules for the intervention. After asking Adria to sit with Berk and us in the living room he would tell Adria what we were doing. He would pick one of us to read our letter. If Adria had a question for anyone, we were to look at Berk to see if he nodded approval for the person to answer. If he felt it was a question that could endanger the goal of voluntary committal, then he would answer it.
And that is how it came down when we asked Adria to come into the living room with the family. Anesa read her letter first. I think Berk picked her because he could sense that she would cry the most. Oddly, the only thing Adria wanted to know was if Fran was really dead. I read my letter next and about half way through it she interrupted and said, "I'll go." Berk told her that was wonderful, but he wanted her to hear the last two letters. This all happened so fast it was like a blur. I do not think the intervention lasted more than 15 minutes. Berk took the letters and said that Adria would be reading these again while in group therapy. In less than 3 minutes she was packed and in Berk's car on her way to Hazelden.
We all sat in the living room for a long time talking very quietly. I told my wife I felt I had just buried someone and that we were in mourning. Unfortunately, this did not mark the end of our emotional journey. Now that everything was out of our hands we were left to slowly let our hearts bleed. In my next column I will write about how the family sought help for itself.