Your loved one is struggling with substance abuse or a similar type of disorder, and you are struggling with how to help them. You watch them slowly wasting away, their addiction grabbing a firm hold of their life to the point where they stop caring about personal relationships, their goals and purpose, or anything else. It all becomes about the next fix.
Getting an addicted person to accept they have a problem and making them see just how badly their behavior affects their loved ones is easier said than done. Often, regular conversations just don’t cut it. Some people refuse to see what the issue is. Some laugh it off, saying that it’s not a big deal. Some get angry and defensive and don’t hesitate to lash out. Others may promise to do better, but the addiction often proves to be too strong to overcome on their own.
The truth is that the person struggling with addiction will need a lot of support if they wish to renounce their old habits and improve their way of life. The first step in that process is for them to accept that they have a problem and agree to receive treatment for substance abuse.
One of the most effective ways of convincing the addicted person to accept addiction treatment is to stage an intervention.
What is an Intervention?
Intervention is a process, a carefully planned event in which the addict’s friends and family talk to them about their harmful behaviors with the ultimate goal of persuading the addict to undergo substance abuse treatment. It is essentially a staged scene – a controlled environment where the addict’s loved ones confront them about their addiction.
Interventions are common in any type of addiction – prescription opioids and other medical drugs, street drug addictions, alcohol abuse, even gambling. Often, they’re an effective way to get someone to seek treatment for an eating disorder as well.
A substance abuse intervention has two outcomes: either the addicted person accepts treatment (such as entering inpatient rehab), or they refuse it. In both cases, their previous way of life – using seemingly without any consequences – comes to an end.
How to Stage an Intervention
One thing you should know about interventions is that they shouldn’t be impulsive. They take meticulous planning and organizing, and they sometimes even take weeks to put together. There is a lot to consider in holding an intervention, and we’re going to guide you through the most important steps.
- Consulting a specialist
Before you do anything, take a moment to decide whether you’d like the help of a professional interventionist, mental health professional, social worker, psychologist, or a health care provider. A specialist isn’t required, but you will soon learn that arranging an intervention may entail a lot more than you’re capable of handling at the moment. See below for more details on when you should consider including an interventionist.
- Putting together an intervention team
An intervention team is a group of people who will be present for the intervention. They will hold speeches, talk to the addicted person, and hopefully manage to convince them to seek therapy for substance abuse. These people should be someone the addicted person is close to – their friends and family. When deciding who should be involved, avoid those who don’t have a good relationship with the addicted person, as well as people who are struggling with their own unmanaged substance dependency or a serious mental illness.
Choose the people who are most likely to leave an impact on the addict so they understand the gravity of their behavior.
- Gathering information
Put some time into researching the specific substance abuse disorder your loved one is suffering from. Every addiction is a little different, and you need to collect as much information as possible to know what you’re dealing with. If the addicted person is suffering from a mental illness at the same time, look into that as well.
At this stage, you could also familiarize yourself with different treatment programs. Learn about inpatient and outpatient facilities, rehab centers, and continuing care. Then, choose a treatment facility that sounds like a good fit for your loved one. You may even reach out to them to arrange a meeting if the intervention is successful.
- Making a plan
Details like the time and date of the intervention are important. Everyone on the intervention team has to be available and present, and the setting should be private and comfortable, yet not too comfortable at the same time. The addicted person’s home may not be the prime choice because they could easily seclude themselves or even slip out if they get upset.
An interventionist could help you choose the best place, such as their office, a community center room, or even a church.
- Choosing the consequences
During the intervention, the addicted person is faced with a choice – either go to a treatment center or suffer the consequences. They need to know that their loved ones are at their limits and that their behavior will no longer be accepted. Before the intervention begins, you should work with the intervention team (and possibly a specialist) to come up with these consequences. They can be anything from taking away the addict’s car and telling them to move out of the home to revoking their visitation rights with their children.
The idea of drastic consequences like these is an unpleasant but a necessary one. The addict needs to understand that they simply can’t go on like they used to. If they at first decide not to change their ways, serious repercussions may force them to change their mind later on.
- Coming up with what you’re going to say
A big part of an intervention are the speeches of the intervention team. Intervention letters are common, where each member of the team writes what they want to say on a piece of paper to read at the intervention.
It can be difficult to find the right words. Perhaps you feel like you’ve already said everything there is to say. But it wouldn’t hurt to repeat it and perhaps offer concrete examples of how and why your loved one’s addictive behavior has hurt you. Remember to write from a place of love and kindness – after all, you’re doing all of this because you want the addicted person to get better. Stick to facts and your emotions, without needlessly veering into anger or venting. There is no room for placing blame here. Just cold hard facts that the addicted person won’t be able to avoid.
There is a reason an intervention is ‘staged.’ The more you plan everything out, right down to the speaking order of those in the intervention team, the less chance there is of the intervention devolving into confrontation and anger. It is incredibly easy to get carried away by your emotions in the heat of the moment. The true challenge lies in remaining composed and sticking to your original plan.
Rehearse as many times as you need to until you’re confident you can pull it off right. Think about who will be sitting where and make back-up plans in case things start to go wrong.
- Holding the intervention
When the time comes, follow the intervention script as closely as you can. Even with such careful organization, your loved one may still feel ambushed or like everyone is pointing fingers at them, so keep this in mind: an intervention is about love and care. Always, always lead with kindness, and try to leave your frustrations at the door before the intervention begins.
Instruct everyone to use open body language, to avoid crossing their arms and legs and to keep their voices level. Again, it is about the facts and the real state of things; it’s not a moment to hash out past hurts.
- Following up
A successful intervention marks the beginning of recovery. This is an entirely new process that requires a different approach to support and lifestyle changes when your loved one comes out of the recovery center. You will need to educate yourself on relapse prevention, outpatient treatment plans and programs (such as twelve-step groups), and other ways of helping the recovering addict in their new sober life.
If the intervention fails, and the addicted person refuses treatment, there should be no hesitation in following up with the consequences the intervention team previously agreed on. It will be a painful moment for everyone, but returning to how it used to be is no longer an option.
When Should I Hire an Interventionist?
Given how complex staging interventions for substance abuse can be, hiring an interventionist is a good option no matter the circumstances. Intervention professionals will work closely with the addicted person’s family and friends, analyze the situation, and suggest the best course of action. They will also know whether an intervention is a good path to go down, depending on a multitude of variables. Overall, interventions guided by specialists have more chance of succeeding than those without.
However, there are several cases in which an interventionist could prove to be invaluable. If any of these apply to you and your loved one who has a drug or alcohol addiction, it would be advisable to consult with a professional before you start planning an intervention.
- Dual diagnosis
It is not uncommon that those who struggle with substance abuse also suffer from a co-existing mental illness. If your loved one is simultaneously having substance abuse and mental health issues, it could be difficult to find the right treatment that helps them tackle both problems. It could even be difficult to find the right way to address these issues.
An interventionist will point you in the direction of the right treatment providers, educate you on how specific mental illnesses work, and what you can do at the intervention and even outside of it to help your loved one get through it.
- Violent history
Substance abuse statistics say that most substance users are not violent. However, addiction brings out the worst in people. If your loved one had a habit of reacting angrily to unfavorable situations, drinking alcohol or taking drugs could enhance that reaction and make them lash out.
If you suspect that they could turn violent during an intervention, a specialist will be useful. They will provide you with techniques to prevent confrontation and mediate the situation so that it doesn’t escalate. An interventionist will also help you find the right words in your intervention letter that appropriately convey your concern but don’t sound inflammatory in any way.
- History of suicide attempts
It is all too easy for someone suffering from a substance abuse disorder to feel like there’s nothing left to live for after an intervention. They have just spent a certain amount of time surrounded by those closest to them, listening to all the ways they’ve inadvertently hurt them – for some it can be both eye-opening and a source of great distress.
Interventionists know how to soften the blow of an intervention if your loved one has a history of or even mentions suicide. Some specialists also provide a watch service, where they keep an eye on your loved one until they’re safely in a treatment center, as a suicide prevention of sorts. Make sure to talk this through with an interventionist if it is a serious concern.
- Previous unsuccessful recovery
Freeing oneself from substance abuse and dependence doesn’t have to be a straightforward process. While there are people who go through the detox process once and fully commit to sober living from there on out, others are not so fortunate. If your loved one has already tried treatment but has still returned to their old addictive lifestyle, calling in an interventionist will increase the chances of success this time.
An interventionist will take a closer look at your loved one’s history of treatment and recovery. If previous attempts weren’t successful, they will suggest a new alcohol and drug addiction treatment. For example, if your loved one went to outpatient rehab, perhaps an inpatient one will work better. Maybe they could also try a sober living community before they return home. Different treatment settings could lead to better results later on.
- Complicated family relationships
An intervention is an emotionally charged scene. Substance abuse issues concern not only the abuser but also everyone around them – their friends and family. It is normal to be feeling off-kilter, to question whether you should really do this, to wonder whether it will work or if your pleas will fall on deaf ears once again. You care for your loved one, but some anger or resentfulness is expected in such circumstances.
Aside from arranging an intervention, a specialist is also in charge of helping the family members and friends deal with their own emotions. A professional can help sort through their feelings and focus on what’s important for a good outcome. They will coach the intervention team through their speech and encourage constructive conversation.
- Not knowing what to say
Lastly, you don’t need a serious, seemingly unsolvable problem to call an interventionist. It can be something as ‘simple’ as not knowing what to say. If this isn’t the first time you’re talking to your loved one about their substance abuse – or maybe not even your first intervention – it’s natural to struggle with your words.
With an interventionist’s assistance, you will learn what could motivate your loved one to take action against their addiction. They will offer a new perspective to the intervention team – maybe even a way of looking at the issue that you haven’t previously considered.
Just The Beginning
After a successful intervention, many feel that the hard part is over. Indeed, an intervention requires a lot in terms of time, effort, and emotional energy, and it is normal to feel relieved when your loved one is safely enrolled in a treatment program.
However, as we mentioned earlier, an intervention is only the first step towards a better life. Sober living requires dedication, constant work on oneself, and a significant change in the lifestyle. To ensure that there’s no need for another intervention, your loved one will have to regularly attend group meetings, possibly even therapy sessions, and touch base with their support system. Addiction recovery lasts a lifetime. You need to be prepared for a marathon race, and an intervention is only the first lap.
Of course, that’s no reason to give up. If you think your loved one could benefit from an intervention, start planning it as soon as possible. Take into account everything we talked about here, the steps to staging an intervention, and why you should seriously consider hiring an interventionist. Even if you feel like you can do it on your own, perhaps a simple phone call with someone with more experience can put you at ease and offer crucial insight.
Never hesitate to reach out for help when it comes to a matter as delicate as your loved one struggling to break free from addiction. We would be glad to give you a hand, so feel free to call us at (619) 630-7844 or visit our website.