Case Study III - Meredith

CLIENT NAME: Meredith

AGE & GENDER: 37; Female

OCCUPATION: Stay at home mother / former attorney 

DIAGNOSIS: Alcoholic and pill addict  

TREATMENT: Residential treatment and intensive outpatient 

CURRENT STATUS: Sober  

Meredith grew up in an upper-middle class family on Long Island. She achieved excellent grades in high school, attended college at Syracuse University and law school at the American College of Law in Washington, D.C.. 

Graduating near the top of her class, Meredith was rewarded with a position in the Washington, D.C. office of a prestigious multinational law firm. She worked long hours and seldom had time for herself.  

Four years into her career Meredith met her husband, Brian, also a successful attorney at a prestigious Washington law firm. A couple of years after getting married they decided it was time to start building a family. Along with this decision came the understanding that Meredith would stay home to raise the children, while her husband continued working.

This arrangement suited both, for a few years, until Meredith started feeling left behind. Her husband continued climbing the rungs of success and traveling around the world, while Meredith held the less gratifying job of tending to the children and running errands.

When the children started school full time Meredith discovered a glass of wine at lunch would ease her feelings of boredom and quelle the resentment that had been simmering inside of her for sometime.  

Soon the single glass of wine at lunch turned into a second glass in the afternoon, and another while the children ate dinner. In the span of less than one year Meredith was drinking quite frequently and hiding the evidence. 

It wasn’t until Meredith’s husband received a call from the school that no one had picked up their children. Her husband rushed to the school and when he and their children got home they found Meredith passed out on the bed with an empty wine bottle on the nightstand. 

Meredith’s husband had suspected there was a problem, but the day’s events removed any doubt and he decided that action had to be taken. That evening he went online looking for solutions and through a series of phone calls was introduced to South Florida Intervention. 

I spoke with Brian for over an hour about his concerns and uncovered why he was reluctant to send his wife to treatment. He feared Meredith would feel betrayed, or be so angry at him their relationship would never be the same even if she stopped drinking. 

Having heard these concerns before I explained addiction is a brain disease, just like cancer or diabetes, and it was very rare for someone addicted to a substance to simply stop drinking or quit using without professional help. Intervening on an addicted family member is doing what is medically necessary.  I suggested that he wouldn’t hesitate to get her help if she were diagnosed with another disease and that addiction is no different.

I explained that Meredith’s initial reaction to the intervention, and having to go to treatment, may be anger stemmed from shame and embarrassment.  However, after being sober for a short time she would understand the necessity of his actions.

After meeting with Brian and Meredith’s family we began planning an intervention. We agreed our approach would consist of love and kindness bolstered with strong boundaries. We discussed consequences in the event that she refused treatment. 

On the afternoon of the intervention the family was prepared for what was to come. We worked closely together discussing treatment options and answering any anticipated objections Meredith would have.

When Meredith entered the room I stood up and introduced myself. I asked if she knew why her family was there that afternoon. “I suspect it has something to do with me forgetting to pick-up the kids from school,” she said. 

I didn’t directly respond to her answer though I indicated she was correct. I told Meredith everybody was there because they loved her and wanted her to get help for her drinking. 

The family read the intervention letters we prepared and Meredith cried during some and laughed during others. Each letter ended with a plea for her to accept help immediately.

When the circle was complete we sat and waited for Meredith’s response. After a minute of silence I asked her what she was thinking. 

Meredith said going to residential treatment is too big of a response for not picking up the kids one time at school. Not expecting her to accept treatment without a discussion I explained that forgetting the kids at school was part of a much larger picture. When I pressed her for more in depth history of her drinking her demeanor began softening. 

I told Meredith the details of her drinking are not a necessary part of this discussion as long as she agreed to accept treatment that day. I asked her if she knew what treatment entailed; what she imagined it would be like. In her mind treatment seemed like a punishment for her being an alcoholic. I pulled a colorful brochure of the treatment center from my bag for her to see.

Meredith was visibility relieved to see what appeared to be a cross between a small college campus and a summer camp. I assured her I had brought many professionals to this treatment center and that none of them ever regretted being there.

It took little more discussion for Meredith to accept treatment and overcome her fear of the unknown. Once she accepted, the feeling of relief filled the room. We arranged for her to see the children before leaving and explained to them mommy was going on a work trip and she would come home as soon as her work was done. We knew addressing the children would be difficult for Meredith, so we thought it out carefully. 

Meredith completed 30 days of residential treatment followed by 60 days of intensive outpatient treatment locally and individual therapy. She has been sober since completing treatment and attends AA meetings near her home in Washington, D.C.