I am at SECAD in Nashville. It’s being held at some creepy biosphere of a hotel, an endless labyrinth of rooms and theme restaurants, all of which suck. In any event I complain about these rehab conferences but the truth is, they can offer a good opportunity to see people, many good people trying to do the best they can in what can feel like an unwinnable war, the war on addictive disease.
A few blogs back I wrote about Brad Lamm‘s book “How to change someone you love”. Again, I have not read the book, I don’t think I could get through it without vomiting but I did see Lamm speak today at the conference. Lamm seems like a well-meaning guy, clearly cares about his clients and has a light touch when handling interventions. There was nothing wrong with how he described what he does. As I have said, and say many times, my style of intervention is not for everyone. What I think about all of this is fit is critical. Playing the odds, what is going to support the individual into a life in recovery. Sometimes it’s the carrot and sometimes it’s the rod and none of us have a crystal ball so we do the best we can, one day at a time.
The issue I have with Lamm is the title of his book. “How to change someone you love”. I was hoping to hear something profound, something revolutionary about how to change someone you love. That would seem to be a pretty big deal if he actually developed a system to change people, but nothing came. The presentation was unresearched and unsubstantiated platitudes about love, and more love, and the loved one and loving the other loved ones, there was a lot of love there. When not talking about love, the presentation was about media appearances and a portion of it was about his family, which was interesting, but it really escaped me as to how it was relevant to changing people. I kept waiting to hear how to change someone but nothing came. At one point he said, you may have to say “Sweetheart, lets stick with the change plan” which sounds a lot like a boundary to me and isn’t really changing anyone; it’s setting a limit to support change. Maybe it is loving, but is it changing them?
Working on this side of the dope fiend game we get that call all the time. “Please change ________ about _________”. Rarely do people want to look at the whole system, they want people changed. Which is the easy solution and frankly, a fantasy at best.
The title of the book is irresponsible. It’s selling snake oil. It would be like selling a weight loss book called “How to eat ice cream daily and lose weight”. Except that when families are seeking information about interventions and treatment options they are vulnerable. We all know you can’t lose weight eating a shitty diet but few people know what to do to handle someone impaired by addictive disease. So there you are at Barnes and Noble, worrying about your husbands drinking problem and you see “How to change someone you love” and you think “yes, yes, I want to change him!” While not as severe as Chris Prentiss, who runs an addiction “cure” center, telling people they can change someone is along those lines. It’s a slick, well not so slick, shuck and jive. It gives them what they want and not what they need and that never helps and individual or system out of a mess with an addiction. At one point during the presentation when I was questioning and commenting Lamm suggested we “agree to disagree” (an alanon standby slogan by the way), fair enough. Lamm thinks he can change people and I think we can only change ourselves, unless of course, Lamm can change me.