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A Peek Into the Reality of Addiction Intervention — “My Brother Is Too Stubborn for an Intervention” January 3rd, 2018 posted by: to Addiction Treatment

A Peek Into the Reality of Addiction Intervention —

A personal story of addiction and the need for intervention

We decided that we would take a detour from time to time from our usual blog model and share some of the confidential responses we have received from our readers with you.  We will frame the reader comment or question, as well as our response, in such a way that identities of the authors or their addicted loved ones will be obscured.  

The central focus of the writer’s submission will be presented after the subtitle below followed by our response under a different heading.  The author’s submissions may contain questions or comments similar to the ones you might be hesitant to post, but we would like to hear from you anyway.  If you do not want us to include your submission in mosaic1 form in our blog just let us know.


My Brother Is Too Stubborn for an Intervention

Dear Mr. Leadem,

While I respect the work you and your team have done, I must take exception to your position that there is hope for every addict that is still coherent enough to receive visitors.  I don’t think you have ever met anyone like my brother.  I will try to keep this short and you don’t really need to respond because I do not care about him anymore.

My brother and I grew up in a home with two actively alcoholic parents who were always teaching us a lesson when they were drunk whether we needed it or not.  Most of the time not.  Both of us got used to being treated as if we were throw away kids and the beatings stopped hurting before we finished grammar school.

Both of us – we were twins – would make up stories to calm ourselves as the chaos of our parents’ insanity filled the house.  One of our favorites were prince and princess.  As I recall it, my brother always assumed the role of the brave guardian and I was the princess in distress.  He slew a great many dragons and was often covered with their blood.  Well, that is the child’s fantasy story we told ourselves but we both secretly knew it was his blood from the most recent beating and not the blood of dragons at all.  I guess neither one of us could handle the raw truth at that age.  As we got older and the fantasies no longer insulated us from the truth, we both began making deals with God.  

I promised God, who I don’t talk to anymore, that I would stop eating so much candy if he would stop my father and mother from drinking.  My brother, who seldom ate because he was so rattled all the time, promised God that if he ever made it out of the house alive he would never drink alcohol because he was never going to be like my parents.

My parents both died before my brother and I were of age and we went to live with my father’s aunt for a year before we could move out on our own.  Neither of us cried at the twin funeral service we begrudgingly attended.  As we saw it, it was just facing life. Things never work out the way you want.  That night I topped the scale at 300 pounds and my brother, already in the throes of his own addiction, continued to tell whoever would listen, that he was never going to be as bad as my parents.  

I got professional help and eventually lost 150 pounds but my brother continued drinking and will probably die one night in a drunken driving accident like my mom and dad but there is nothing I can do.  I tried to get him to get help but he keeps saying it is not that bad.  He will probably be saying that until he drinks himself to death.  He is just too stubborn.  I talked with my therapist about doing an intervention but neither one of us could think of any way of getting through to him and decided he might be hopeless.

Thanks for listening and good luck with helping those who are willing.


A thought to all the “royal” children of alcoholics

Dear Princess,

I respect your right to remain anonymous and since I do not know your name I will address my response to your pseudonym, but the story you shared of you and your brother is anything but anonymous.  I read and reread your short note many times and each time I cried tears that were seared by the flames of my own childhood memories.  Without knowing the parts of the story that you committed I can tell you that I have personally consulted with hundreds of adult children of alcoholics who have shared pretty much the same story.  It is tragic. My heart goes out to both you and your brother for the sadness, fear and hopelessness that you were forced to endure.  It should not have been.  Kids are not supposed to grow up using a fairy tale to drown out the screech of reality that pierces every cloud no matter how rich the silver lining is.  I would not suggest that your story has a silver lining.  I would suggest that you should celebrate your willingness to accept help to address the pain that continued to ravage your life for years after your parents’ death.  I applaud your courage for getting help and developing a new relationship with food in which it is no longer a cure for the pain of your parents’ alcoholism but rather a source of fuel for your body.  My hope for you is that you continue to draw on your source of courage a bit more and look beyond what you have called your brother’s stubbornness.

Your brother might very well be stubborn, I have not met him so I do not know for sure. However, what you would appear to be calling stubbornness is really an odd sort of life-preserving costume not much different than the outfit you and your brother fashioned during your flights from reality.  Let me explain briefly.  Your brother’s strategy for coping with the pain became of a form of denial that is usually referred to as a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is one used by many children of alcoholics who become alcoholics themselves.  One will say, “I will never be like my alcoholic parent” in an attempt to sooth the wounds he or she is experiencing and inadvertently create the framework for more pain.  When I, as an example, would pray myself to sleep with pledges to never drink like my alcoholic father I set two prophecies in motion.  First, I acknowledge that I would be drinking alcoholic beverages which is seldom a good idea for a child with the gene-pool like mine where there are at least three generations of known alcoholics.  The second prophecy is that I would probably end up drinking and behaving just like my father.  That is because when you don’t want to end up like your father you never look honestly at the ways in which you are behaving just like him so there is no way to make an adjustment.

I would suspect that your brother has done just that – but there is hope.  It may not seem like it but there is plenty of reason to believe that a well-trained intervention team could get through to your brother if they were willing to do it differently than he is doing it and begin the intervention training by looking at what needs to change in each one of them.  I have trained many intervention teams using our intervention model that, at its core is this very idea.  The model we use would enable the team to craft a phantom letter on behalf of each of your parent’s in which they talk about how different things might have been for him or her had only they been willing to look at and work on himself/herself.  We stopped one intervention when such a letter was being read to a man like your brother to see why he had run from the room.  When we met up with him in the parking lot he was crying in the car.  When questioned he responded simply with, “I am waiting for a ride to treatment; I am not going to end up like my father.”

So princess, please don’t write your brother off.  Draw on the courage you found to address your unhealthy relationship with food and consider getting help to get your brother some help.


If you, our reader, have comments about this case or other questions please do not hesitate to contact us.  If you want help securing the services of a Certified Raising the Bottoms InterventionistTM call us.


1 Any resemblance to your story or any case that you might have been working on is merely coincidental because our writing style is a mosaic of a wide variety of cases we have worked with over the past 46 years that range from the West to the East Coasts of the United States.


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See our book: An Ounce of Prevention: A Course in Relapse Prevention

Related Article(s):

How to Create an Intervention Plan and How to Influence the Success of an Intervention Plan

What is Intervention? Practical Uses for Intervention Strategies

How Can Family Help Intervene in Addiction? The Importance of the Intervention Team


About the Authors

The authors, John and Elaine LeademElaine and John Leadem are the co-founders of Leadem Counseling & Consulting Services, P.C. (LCCS) and share a combined tenure in the addiction treatment field of over 69 years.

They have authored and published a variety of titles designed to aid recovering addicts and their treatment providers in developing a comprehensive set of therapeutic resources from meditation guides for recovering couples to course material for developing individualized relapse prevention plans.

John’s personal mentorship by Vernon E. Johnson, Ph.D., the author of I’ll Quit Tomorrow and the pioneer of addiction intervention, led to the development their unique three-phase intervention model after 40 years of providing direct addiction intervention services.  The model has been used in over 500 interventions and is easily adapted to a variety of substance addictions and other clinical problems.   It is especially suited to work with process addictions, such as sex addiction, because it is designed to help the sex addict rise above the shame and accept help because each of the IT members are pointing the finger at themselves first.

© Copyright, John Leadem & Elaine Leadem, 2017

You are free to copy this article for future reference, to post it on other web sites and to share it with family or friends.  If you would like to have permission to include it in a publication of your own you can request written permission by contacting the authors at

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