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Calling for families to act

March 1, 2007
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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If the government's anti-drug efforts have constituted a “War on Drugs,” then the authors of a compelling new book would contend that authorities have conducted bombing raids when they should have been engaged in hand-to-hand combat on the ground.

Andrew T. Wainwright, executive director of the national intervention network Addiction Intervention Resources, Inc., says the government's bureaucratic and distant approach to eliminating drug problems from communities has ignored the area where genuine accomplishments can take place—in each household affected by addiction. He and AIR president and CEO Robert Poznanovich argue in It's Not Okay to Be a Cannibal (Hazelden Publishing) that families hold the true power to effect change and win back their addicted loved ones.

Wainwright, who was raised amid the power culture of Washington, D.C., knows a little about how families can assert their leverage at the most opportune time. When his life began to come apart because of a heroin addiction, his mother stepped in and refused to give any ground in helping her son.

“She would go to any length she had to in order to get me the help I needed, and damn the consequences,” Wainwright recalls. And Wainwright's opportunity to travel halfway across the country to enter treatment wasn't presented as an option in some hazy “either/or” proposition. “If I had had an open door to walk through and $5 in my pocket, I may have made a different choice,” he says.

Wainwright describes the new book as a frank and direct call to action for families, and he credits Hazelden for its willingness to publish a book that uses what he calls the “urban vernacular” to empower families. This is in contrast to books that have urged families to take a more cautious approach in working with the addicted loved one.

His first message to family members is not to wait when they detect a problem. “If you know something's going on, it's your responsibility to do something about it,” he says. The book lists a Family's Bill of Rights (and Responsibilities), with statements such as, “You have the right to peace in your own home. If there is a disrupting force, you have the right to remove it.”

Wainwright sees the book as a potentially useful tool for family programs in that it explains the mechanics of intervention and how families can overcome hesitancy over using this aggressive approach. It is refreshing to see family dynamics receiving much attention among professionals these days; the healthy response we have received to coverage of family issues spurred us to launch “The Family Factor” as a regular column feature in the magazine this year. The new book from Wainwright and Poznanovich offers important guidance for families, with the added credibility of coming from two authors who have firsthand knowledge of families’ pivotal role in fighting the war at home.

On another note, look for expanded coverage in upcoming issues that will help commemorate the 35th anniversary of NAADAC, The Association for Addiction Professionals. Culminating with dedicated anniversary coverage in our July/August issue this year, we will use NAADAC's milestone as the backdrop for an exploration of both the rich history of this field and a glimpse at the challenges ahead.

Gary A. Enos, Editor