Anyone heard of a "Letter Intervention" ? Help for niece

Discussion in 'Substance Abuse' started by TerryJ2, Aug 6, 2010.

  1. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    My sister texted me today, requesting that my daughter and I ea write intervention ltrs to her difficult child, who is 23 and addicted to pot, crystal meth and lord knows what else. difficult child has gone through treatment 3X, stayed clean for 2-3 wks, then fallen off the wagon.

    I called my sister because her cryptic text instructed easy child to send the ltrs separately, and I didn't realize that everyone was sending one; it sounded like easy child was supposed to write more than one.
    Anyway, I said, "What if difficult child doesn't open them?"
    "I've gone through every what-if scenario and this is what we are doing at this point."
    "So she's reading all these letters alone, with-no therapist?"
    "This is what we're doing at this point."
    "Wouldn't you rather have us fly up and do a real intervention?"
    "I've just gotten out of a mtng with-3 counselors and this is what we're going to do."
    "What prompted this particular idea?"
    "I took difficult child in for bloodwork, serotonin, dopamine, etc. (she's got anxiety issues and my sister had good luck a few yrs back with-therapy and regular medications) but the staff refused to even do blood draws when they saw that she was using, and how out of it she was."
    In fact, my sister said, "Her brain is mush."

    OMG, this is heartbreaking.
    My sister was the one who introduced me to Al Anon (along with-a few people here) and talked so much about detachment. And here she is, 2 wks after a major surgery, back at it again.

    And she's dragging us into it. I wouldn't mind if I thought it would do some good. In fact, I'm the one who offered to fly up.

    I told her I'd work on it this weekend, and talk to easy child in the car tomorrow (we're driving to Richmond to meet another difficult child, her soon-to-be 3rd roommate whose helicopter mom is introducing the girls, as though they're kindergartners. She told easy child that her daughter had an Learning Disability (LD) but she grew out of it. Yeah, right!
    Poor easy child. First, she's on her way to meet another roommate from h*ll, then I have to tell her about the ltr.

    The more I think about it, I think this is a crummy idea. Once difficult child opens the first ltr, she's going to know what the other ltrs are about. No one writes by snail mail anymore and she's going to chuck them all. Plus, it's going to tip her off that a "real" intervention is coming down the pike and she can rehearse her reaction and excuses.
  2. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    It sounds like your sister is at the end of her rope and terrified for, and likely of, her daughter. She is clearly working with therapists and people experienced in substance abuse problems. My heart aches for her and for the entire family.

    Personally I really cannot say what I would do. It is hard to know if you are not in that situation. I believe that most likely I would not write a letter for this letter intervention. I would let my sister know that until/unless you know more about WHY this is being done in letter form, and exactly how/when she would receive them and if she would be alone, with druggie friends, with family, or with a therapist when she read them. With the info you have, I think this would drive her even farther away.

    I have not heard of an intervention by letter only. Many interventionists have the family/friends write letters and read them to the addict (the type of intervention on the tv show). The letters are pretty much the "script" for the intervention in many cases. Loved ones are encouraged to stick to their letters and not comment on other people's letters because if arguing worked the problem would already be resolved.

    EVERY source I have ever seen about interventions strongly stresses that a professional interventionist (there is a certification process) be on hand to orchestrate things and keep things on track. Without a therapist there (interventionists are usually tdocs of some kind)the letters would likely overwhelm the addict and send them into a crisis. I do not have a reference to cite to prove this, but it seems extremely logical to conclude that this would cause a crisis. I did do a quick search to find out if "letter interventions" were some new therapeautic tool. NO site listed letter interventions as a type of intervention.

    Most difficult children seem to have trouble with praise - giving it, realizing in their heart that it has been given to them, and even seeing it when it is written. These letters are meant to be full of love, but also very descriptive of the ways the addict has hurt and damaged the family. If difficult child actually reads more than one letter chances are that she will zoom in on the negative stuff and totally miss everything good about herself in the letter. Receiving all of those letters "full" of negative stuff might very well result in suicide attempts and other ways to destroy herself and others.

    What does easy child think about this? This might be a good time to ask her what her gut instincts on this issue are. She may already trust those instincts, but this could be a good time to let her know (again?) that the instincts are there for a reason and should be seriously considered, even if she decides not to follow them. I realize this is mostly about your niece, but it still might have a valuable lesson about trusting her instincts, among other things. Know what I mean??

    I hope your sister can find some peace. Your niece is a very blessed woman to have all of you love her, even when she is this lost.
  3. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    I agree. On all the points.
    easy child and I talked today and she thinks it's a very bad idea.
    She also said she is not at all close to her cousin and it would only make things worse.
    She said if she got ltrs like that, she would blow it off and say, "They don't know me. I don't really have a problem. This whole thing is stupid."
    and, "My mom had everyone write these."
    So, how to tell my sister ...
  4. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Whoa! Hold your horses! She asked easy child to participate and easy child does not have a close relationship to this cousin? No. Freakin'. Way.

    Yes, at 19 easy child is a legal adult. However, she is still in some respects a child, YOUR child. No way is it appropriate for your sister to ask easy child to intervene in this or any situation involving the cousin's substance abuse. It would be different if they were close, or had been close until the addiction started. Asking you is something a sister does, but asking easy child is, in my opinion at least, a sign that she really has lost her grip on normal boundaries in families. I would no more ask the aunt who has kids' Wiz and Jess' ages to have her kids somehow influence my kids about something than I would walk outside and pee on a tree. It just isn't appropriate, and my kids and my aunt's kids DID play together when they were little and do keep in touch on facebook.

    Your sister may need the intervention to let her know that there really is nothing to be accomplished with this letter intervention. I would be shocked if a licensed therapist thought it was a good idea, esp if that therapist specialized in addiction.

    As for what to tell your sister, how about, "I know this is a very hard time for you, and a difficult thing to cope with. We have chosen not to send letters because we are quite sure that they will make things worse. We love you and want to support you. If you need to come here to get away from it all for a few days, you are more than welcome. If you decide to have a formal intervention with an interventionist, I will help all that I can. I just cannot see anything positive coming from a letter intervention."

    If she asks about easy child, tell her that easy child is focusing on school right now and needs to spend all of her focus there as she needs excellent grades to meet her goals."
  5. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Thank you. Luckily, easy child is pretty opinionated herself, and immediately said no. Well, to me, anyway. I let her read the txt msgs on my cell and she asked for more of an explanation. When I told her how bad it was, she thought the ltrs were a ridiculous idea.

    The flip side of this is that my sister wants to retract all communication between anyone involved in the intervention and her difficult child, as a sort of carrot and stick. IOW, no communication until you go to rehab.

    But if difficult child doesn't feel close to us, it's not a punishment.

    This is more of a loyalty to my sister and less of an intervention for my niece.
  6. barneysmom

    barneysmom Member

    Hi Terry,

    I hope your niece's brain isn't mush. What does that mean? Also the staff refusing to do blood draws -- I don't understand that part.

    Maybe your sister is vulnerable after a major surgery -- I had my gall bladder out via laparoscopy (general anesthesia, but not a major surgery) and I was still so deathly tired (to the point of tears) after two weeks I got worried and called the doctor to see what was up. Anesthesia has long-acting effects, also can interfere with a person's mood/judgment.

    Just brainstorming with you, looking out for your sis and niece (and you and easy child).
  7. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Thank you.
    I do not think my sister is in any condition to be doing this. She needs at least another mo to 6 wks to heal.
    She gave up the drugs within a few days after the surgery, regardless of the pain, because she had such horrible side effects. (Similar to the weirdness that my 82-yr-old cousin is known for ... and since they were on the same medications, it comes as no surprise. The diff is, cousin could not differentiate between reality and drugs, and sister figured it out immediately.)
    Still, she is going through huge hormonal fluctuations (it was a hysterectomy gone bad--vaginal turned to major surgery when they nicked her bladder, trying to get endometrial tissue off of it) and needs to take a lot more time for herself. She's had two bladder infections since she's been out of the hospital.

    And don't forget, she's my dad's main caregiver, too, and he's got Alzheimer's.

    Along with-my sister, I, too am terrified for my niece. In fact, I hardly slept at all last night. Today I thought, I have enough trouble detaching from my cousin and difficult child ... I cannot handle this, too.
    I will fly up and do an intervention in person. If ... if my sister lets me. And if she realizes how much safter it is.
    But I want my sister to heal first.

    Unfortunately, I think she has already set this in motion and there is no going back.

    I have spoken to my brother and one other sister and they are in agreement. I am hoping my brother will call and do what he does best--diplomacy.

    I have not spoken to my sister since Friday.
  8. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I missed the 2 weeks after major surgery. No one should make major decisions like this so soon after surgery. Hysterectomies with complications make this esp true. My hyster went very easily and two weeks later I was still a wreck, even with-o infection. Somehow I missed the mention of that on your first post. If she had anything other than a vag hyster she MUST refrain from decisions for quite a while after the surgery.

    The hyster may have pushed her to think about her own mortality and how alone her daughter would be after she died. It is fairly reasonable to face this after an operation, esp one that makes a female unable to have children. Many women seem to feel this marks the end of their "womanhoods" orfemininity and the beginning of the end of their lives. She may feel urgency to push her daughter very hard to clean up her life because she might not be there to help if her daughter waits very long to accept help.

    It doesn't make her plan very effective. Asking the relatives all to have no further contact with her daughter is just another sign of her codependency.

    If you are going to participate in an intervention, please please please make sure that a certified interventionist is going to preside over it. Like many things psychological, it is possible to do far more harm than good if you do not have someone properly trained to lead the intervention.

    Here is a link to find a qualified interventionist: Assoc of Intervention Specialists (AIS):
  9. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    It doesn't make her plan very effective. Asking the relatives all to have no further contact with her daughter is just another sign of her codependency.

    I agree. So sad.

    P.S. I'm so glad you are all healed now.
  10. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    I just spoke with-my sister.

    She said that difficult child is leaning toward interventon, but getting her to show up is the hard part. Sister has contact with-one of difficult child's friends and can get her to participate in both letter writing and showing up in person.
    Apparently a cpl people have already written letters and mailed them.

    I told her that my easy child flat out refused and why. Sister said she had researched it and knows what she is doing. She said it isn't that easy child might not feel close to difficult child, it's what is going on in difficult child's mind, and she feels like easy child is like a sister. Sister said that difficult child's friendships have dwindled and she has barely anyone in her life any more. She is trying to choose key people to participate.

    I told her I felt loyalty to her, but frozen with-fear about difficult child and I don't want to send her over the edge. I did not sleep at all the other night, thinking about niece difficult child, and I did not like the idea that a therapist would not be present when she read the ltrs. Sister said, "Doing something is better than nothing." I again said I didn't want to send her over the edge, and sister said, "She's going to die anyway."

    The letters are supposed to mostly stress the positive aspects of difficult child and what we love about her. Then we can add something about how we miss the way she used to be, but we cannot say anything that blames or shames.
    I don't know how I'm supposed to add something like, "I remember the time when your mom asked you to bring up your laundry to your room and you screamed and ranted and raved like a 2-yr-old, way out of proportion to the situation. And the time you slept through Christmas in Colo and were so moody you couldn't even celebrate."
    Isn't that blaming?

    I've typed up a few ideas but I'm still frozen.
  11. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    In regard to codependency, I found this on another board:
    Codependents tend to:

    1. Feel terribly anxious about problems and people.
    2. Worry about the silliest things.
    3. Think and talk a lot about other people.
    4. Lose sleep over problems or other people's behavior.
    5. Worry.
    6. Never Find answers.
    7. Check on people.
    8. Try to catch people in acts of misbehavior.
    9. Feel unable to quit talking, thinking, and worrying about other people or problems.
    10. Abandon their routine because they are so upset about somebody or something.
    11. Focus all their energy on other people and problems.
    12. Wonder why they never have any energy.
    13. Wonder why they can't get things done.

    I am tempted to identify with it, but how often do you get the response, "She's going to die anyway"?
    It's not like a "regular" problem.
  12. barneysmom

    barneysmom Member


    i think you have good intuition and you can trust your intuition on this.

    Especially since you've already done so much work on boundaries, which are hard for intuitive people (I'm working on boundaries now as you know) -- also reading more about intuition and how to use it.

    Your intuition should be rock solid and not to be underestimated when making this decision about your niece.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2010
  13. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    It's not necessarily. For example, I have a broken window (hypothetically). There is glass all over the ground. I really need to call a glazier but I'm just frozen by the shock of suddenly breaking the window; I can't think clearly. So I begin to do the washing. Or I might pin a sheet over the hole, while still leaving the shards of glass in the frame (to cut the sheet when the wind blows) and shards of glass left on the ground, to cut feet. Maybe I could cover the glass on the ground with some soil, so we don't have to look at the broken glass. It would help if I also put up a sign warning people to not walk in that area in bare feet, but that would require me to be thinking more clearly.

    Doing something is better than nothing? No, I should call the glazier. I should get the tape measure out and get the dimensions of the window. I should get sample of the glass and measure the thickness. I should be doing more appropriate things all aimed at getting the window repaired, professionally. I should first tidy up, then take stock, then call in the professionals.

  14. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Well, apparently my sister called in the professionals and they agreed to this. I still have no idea whose idea it really was.
    In the meantime, I wrote a poem for a reading I attended last night. The theme was, "What is good?" I wrote it in lieu of my intervention letter.
    People were very supportive. One came up and told me I should mail it. The others said it was great but had no idea whether I should mail it.
    Think, think, think, said Pooh Bear ...

    What is good?

    Your ringing giggle, impossibly perfect complexion,
    silky vanilla-blonde hair drawn up in a black bow.
    Your diminutive gymnast figure, delicate fingers,
    butterfly waist, swan neck. Your artistry, beyond your
    years even when you were five, repertoire of scribbles
    and kittens, daisies and monarchs, and unlimited
    collection of fine-tipped markers. Your sense of
    composition, unusual angles, grasp of light and dark,
    unique eye for drama and depth, overlay and contrast.

    You made the priest laugh at your baptism.
    Insistent that your cap be removed so his hand
    could caress your scalp with holy water, in the
    name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
    your mother reluctantly slid the fabric from your tiny
    head. Like a Jack-in-the box, your hair sprang to life,
    poster child for static electricity.

    I only babysat you once, five months old,
    lips like dusted pink portulaca, cheeks puffed
    like a baby Sumo, eyes as blue as Lake of the
    Isles. I dressed you like a doll, slicked your hair
    in a Mohawk, then set you up with a basketful
    of funky sunglasses, Elvis in diapers. You giggled
    for hours. I made line drawings, your chubby
    fingers finely inked like marble that surrendered
    to the touch of Michelangelo.

    I wasn’t sure why you’d changed high schools
    twice in one year, then once again. I didn’t understand
    why you weren’t making art any more, couldn’t
    figure out why you spent Christmas like a recluse
    that time in Colorado when everyone else was
    splashing in the pool, waterskiing, gorging on
    turkey with cranberry. We missed you that Christmas,
    upstairs in bed. You were a million miles away.

    I heard you were working at a cafe, but before
    I could send congratulations, you were waitressing,
    then working at another coffee shop, then some sort
    of photo store. Your birthday card was unopened.
    No one knew where you lived.

    My heart leapt when I visited and caught sight
    of your tiny figure, so long gone and then so near.
    My heart leapt again when your screams and shouts
    echoed the halls and made my skin crawl. All my sister
    asked was that you carry up your laundry. Shocked
    by your wrath, I wondered why my chest hurt, why
    my pulse wouldn’t slow. I wondered if my stomach
    would always knot when I heard your footfalls, ached
    to see your sweet smile, hear your delicious laughter,
    welcome your artistic spirit into my world again.
    You are funny. You are smart. You are talented.
    You are loved.
    You are good.
  15. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    What an awesome poem. You have a real gift with words and imagery. If you feel you need to send something, that would be the thing to send.

    I really do not think your sister is thinking clearly, but it may take months or years for her to get to a point where she can admit it. We like to think that addicts are going to die any minute, and of course they can, but it is NOT as likely as we want the addict to think it is. I know a LOT of people who have been alcoholics for decades and likely will be for decades more. I know many people who have been addicts for many years, even decades. I will admit that not many have been on meth, but I know of some who have. One of J's classmates when she was in 5th grade, a really sweet difficult child who did a LOT to protect thank you on the bus when kids were picking on him, is the daughter of a meth addict. This girl is a difficult child mostly because her mom used drugs while pregnant. I would bet that many of us know a lot of people who have used drugs or alcohol for years and are still doing so.

    So niece might die, but it is not the inevitable outcome of the next few months, not unless something else is going on with her. Your sis may not be able to see this, of course. I seriously question the abilities and certification and common sense of any therapist who encouraged your sister to try this letter intervention. It just does not sound like a good thing, though I am NOT a therapist, of course.

    If you feel you need to send something, your poem is beautiful and positive and I would send it rather than a typical letter.

    As to doing something being better than nothing, that is hogwash. There are a lot of times when doing nothing is better than doing something, even when it comes to your child's health. How many times have we taken our kids to the doctor for a virus? Getting an antibiotic is a lot worse than letting it run its course if it is a virus, isn't it? There are a lot of times when doing nothing is better than doing something. If you are not willing to do what you say you will, telling a difficult child that you will do something if they don't shape up is a LOT worse than just keeping your trap shut in the first place, isn't it? Any of us could go on and on with examples.

    in my opinion it is just another way your sister isn't thinking clearly or rationally. I am sorry you have to make such choices as this. Do what your instincts tell you to do.
  16. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Well, I added one more sentence toward the end: "You are strong."
    And I haven't mailed it.
  17. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    A little change in plans ...

    My sister is arranging a "real" intervention over Labor Day weekend.
    My s-i-l works for an airline and can arrange flts.
    easy child will fly from the airport closest to her college, stay one day, then fly back to school.
    I am mailing the poem I wrote.
    Several others have written and mailed letters. I spoke to my sister today and she said difficult child is not suicidal and the ltrs are okay.
    I feel better about it now, especially since there is a "real" intervention, with-a trained therapist, who will be present.
  18. Mattsmom277

    Mattsmom277 Active Member

    Whew! Was just catching up reading this thread and was another who wanted to chime in that a true intervention is what needs to happen. I am so glad to see you post that your sister is going to go that route. I think her heart was in the right place but her mind was focusing on what was the best at this stage.

    Interventions are so hard. And the ones we see on t.v. always finish with them going to rehab etc. I know that isn't the case in many situations. Do you think you could speak to your sister and get her thinking about what she wants to do and can do if the daughter refuses to get help? Because I think most people want to believe in thier loved one so much that they convince themselves their heart wrenching outpouring of love and support and urging them to help themselves is going to be just the ticket to someone getting clean. So many people don't focus on the alternative, and plan ahead on how to react, what that means for them in terms of if refusal is a line in the sand, etc.

    I hope your niece responds. Addiction is so brutal. Going through watching my sister in law throw her entire life away. Grown married woman, 2 teens (one moved out last week to finish high school living at a friends parents, can't blame her). Visited my mother in law for a week (father in law just passed, mother in law thought sister in law would be a support) and just learned tonight that she rifled through medicine cabinets at other families homes, got pain medications (her drug of choice) from a uncle dying of stomache cancer, and was knocking on complete strangers doors in mother in law's apt building, asking seniors (therefore ill and maybe on medications!) if they had xyz drugs (percocet, oxycontin etc). I have suggested intervention many times, but it hasn't happened. brother in law just caves and goes on floating through day by day trying to act like their entire world hasn't fallen apart, ignoring 2 major car accidents due to her being high etc. Me and s/o no longer are speaking to her. Their other sister isn't speaking to her. Remaining brother only sees her if their mother brings her by his house and he's forced to be nice in order to not upset my mother in law.

    Please let us know how the intervention goes, and how your sister handles whatever the outcome is. At the very least, your niece will know she is loved and is important enough and special enough and worthy enough for her family and other loved ones to arrange this opportunity for her in a loving way.
  19. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    OMG, your s-i-l is really out of control. Knocking on strangers' doors, two car accidents, kids living with-other famlies ... so sad.

    I have been checking Facebook nearly every day and haven't seen C post at all since last wk. She did post a new profile picture of herself with-her grandfather (my dad) which was interesting, because my sister said that if C does not go into rehab, all communication with-family and friends will be cut off, and that includes Grandpa. (I don't know how that would be achieved, since she could visit him and he'd never remember that she was there), but she gets the point.

    I am emailing my sister right now to see if she has lined up a therapist and a treatment center. She was working on it last wk.
    She's still recovering from surgery, but has started back to work, and her days are as busy as usual.

    by the way, Barney'smom, I would agree that my niece's brain is mush based on the fact that she's got several videos on YouTube where she is smoking a bong on camera, then inhaling and exhaling and rolling around to weird music. She plays it backward and forward, so it looks like the smoke is going back into her mouth. In every video, she's either smoking, drinking a mixed drink, or holding a bottle of something. The only thing she's not doing is shooting up or snorting, and I'm expecting that any day.
    Then she gets mad at my sister for "telling everyone" that she's on drugs.
    See what I mean?