Intervention: The Fight of a Lifetime
anonymous Asks ...
My sister is addicted to pain drugs. This morning her boyfriend found her on the floor not breathing with blue lips (actually she was still breathing but just barely and it looked like she wasn’t). He called 911 and they were able to resuscitate her. This is the 3rd time she has accidentally overdosed. If someone was going to keep trying to jump off a bridge we’d out them in a hospital until they weren’t a danger to themselves, even if they didn’t want to be there. My sister doesn’t want treatment right now but she is going to die soon without it – so what’s the difference? How is one form of suicide different from another? The hospital says they can’t take her on unless she agrees to the treatment. Is there anything I can do to get her forced into this?
Evan Jarschauer Says ...
Thank you for the courage to reach out to help save your sister’s life! The simple answer to your question is that there are definitely a variety of measures that can be taken to help move the recovery process along without waiting for a person to actually agree to enter into treatment on their own accord.
The reality is that by the time someone has accidentally overdosed for the 3rd time, they may have lost the capacity to reason and make rational decisions on their own! Similar to a professional boxer who is obviously outmatched, barely able to see straight, and unable to stand up, your sister now appears to be dependent upon you, and perhaps other concerned family members and friends, to throw in the proverbial towel and intervene on her behalf.
Most states have specific statutes in place that provide for involuntary assessment and treatment for both substance abuse and psychiatric disorders. Your local county clerk of the court should be able help you with all of the paperwork required to initiate the process. However, as with any legal matter, you may also want to consider reviewing the case with a good family attorney if possible.
Nevertheless, beyond filing a petition for involuntary treatment, perhaps the most powerful action that you can take to “get her forced into treatment,” is to help her understand that you and other concerned family members and friends, including her boyfriend, are unified in supporting the recovery process by establishing and then implementing healthy boundaries designed to bypass the denial and dismantle the resistance. Tough love does not mean turning your back on a loved one, but rather supporting a firm approach. The reality is that the success of any intervention lies almost exclusively within the collective loving power of family and friends to actually uphold healthy boundaries.
Understanding the inequities of the healthcare system, and given the life and death nature of your case, proceed with caution and vigilance. Be prepared to act a moments’ notice with a solid plan for her care once she finally agrees to accept treatment. Based on the detail that you provided, it appears obvious that if nothing is done, the situation may get progressively worse. Although you may not be able to actually force your sister or anyone else for that matter into treatment, you may be able to move her in the right direction by creating just enough strategically managed loving discomfort to motivate her to have to stand up and join in the fight for her recovery. Please feel free to reach out to explore some of the potential healthy boundaries that may apply to your specific case.