Alcoholism Intervention in a family business is tough work. In addition to the alcoholic, alcoholism in a family business adversely impacts all three of the major “systems” or spheres of influence – the family system, the management system for the business, and the ownership system for the business.
The typical approach alcoholism intervention is to hospitalize the alcoholic for “de-tox” a process that can be very dangerous, depending on the seriousness of the disease.
After de-tox, the next step may be for the alcoholic to enter a residential rehab center – programs that will run from 30-90 days and with costs that vary with each facility.
The third step, after rehab, is getting involved in a support program such as Alcoholics Anonymous and/or with a therapist who specializes in dealing with addiction.
The approach used by Family Business Experts includes those three steps – but offers much more – a more holistic approach. We have the expertise to deal with the alcoholic plus dealing with the dynamics of the family business.
According to top family business advisor Don Schwerzler, "Most simply stated, we “quarterback” the process for dealing with alcoholism in a family business."
Schwerzler has been studying and advising family businesses for more than 40 years and he is the founder Family Business Institute and an internationally recognized family business expert. Don posed some questions for Bill Corbett, our family business expert in alcoholism intervention.
Bill served in Vietnam with the USMC. After his military service, Bill developed a very successful career as a family business entrepreneur. Today, the best “success story” for Bill is that he has been sober for more than 33 years. As a recovering alcoholic, Bill has guided and helped more than 400 men and woman dealing with alcoholism intervention – with an astonishing high success rate.
DON: What is the most important issue that a family member should address when a loved one is dealing with alcoholism intervention?
BILL: The fast response is generally focused on the alcoholic - to get the alcoholic to stop drinking! One of my primary concerns is for the non-drinking family members of the alcoholic. Family members can get as sick as the alcoholic – emotionally, physically and spiritually.
DON: That is a very interesting observation! So you focus on the family – and their ability to be part of the treatment team?
BILL: Yes, that helps to disengage the fantasy that many family members have – “There is nothing wrong with me, she/he’s the problem. If she/he would just quit drinking, everything would be okay.”
DON: Can you elaborate on that point?
BILL: For example, in many marriages, alcohol is but a symptom. The alcoholic needs to do some work to find the things that have kept him/her from stopping the drinking. The alcoholic is addicted to the alcohol and the spouse is addicted to the alcoholic. A quick test, without judgment, is to ask the non-drinking spouse to look back at the beginning of their relationship and how they visualized the future. Today, is it very different from that? Have you compromised your values, beliefs and perhaps your integrity? Do you have to count on your wife/husband’s behavior to determine whether you have a good day or a bad day?
DON: That makes good sense – In your example, the wife can reflect on what the “dream” was at the beginning of the relationship and perhaps how the dream has turned into a nightmare.
BILL: Yes – routine recommendations at this point include getting involved with a therapist who specializes in addiction and/or with Alanon (a 12 step program for the family and friends of alcoholics). To help the alcoholic, the spouse must identify and stop his/her unhealthy behavior in the relationship with the alcoholic.
DON: What is the next step in your “quarterbacking” process?
BILL: It is a concurrent strategy – getting help for everyone in the equation! After de-tox, decisions have to be made – which residential rehab facility is best for the person dealing with alcoholism. There are many facilities to choose from and they are located all over the country. We help the family choose which facility is best suited to meet the needs of their family.
DON: What about running the business while the alcoholic is in rehab – you mentioned those programs could be 1-3 months in duration.
BILL: That is where our approach is so different – we are able to not only help the family run the business, help make decisions – and if needed, we can actually provide interim management while the alcoholic is getting well at rehab. Everything we do is specifically tailored to a specific family business. Every family business is unique and complex it its own way – including dealing with alcoholism intervention. “One size fits all” solutions never work for family businesses.
DON: You make it sound so easy. Can it really be that simple?
BILL: Simple yes, but never easy. That is why we are called in to help. When they are drinking, alcoholics lie. Let me repeat, when they are drinking, alcoholics lie. They create all sorts of drama – excuses for them not taking responsibility for their drinking – for not stopping drinking and getting well. The emotionalism associated with alcoholism is so destructive – so debilitating and frustrating. One family business client recently posed the question so eloquently, “How am I going to get the life I want when I can’t control the actions of my alcoholic wife?
DON: Wow – what a powerful call for help.
BILL: That’s a great question because you get the part about not being able to control someone else. What you can control is what you do, think, act on and plan for. My job is to work with the family members to create a solution that will include boundaries that don’t allow his wife’s actions to hurt him or the business anymore. I know how to do that.
Our approach is based on many years of experience dealing with alcoholism intervention.
Our support can be the difference in the initial results of alcoholism intervention - and lasting choices!
Our most successful clients are successful because their family members were willing to do these four things:
1. Recognize that there is a huge problem that is not going to go away without intervention
2. Be willing to reach out and ask for help
3. Co-author the solution
4. Do the implementation
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