Watching your loved one being consumed by their addiction is a situation no one would wish on their worst enemy. You may be feeling scared, hurt, helpless, angry, worried, and many other emotions as the person you care about gives up everything they have, figuratively and literally, to satisfy their addiction.
What can you do? How can you help? Sometimes, it takes more than a simple conversation to make the addicted person understand just how detrimental their behavior is, not only to their life but to the lives of everyone else around them. You need to approach the issue head-on, and it could help to have other people on your side who are willing to address the same problems.
Holding an intervention is a good option if you see no other way of getting through to the addict. It will force the person struggling with addiction to stop, listen to what their loved ones have to say, and perhaps finally understand just how deep they’ve fallen into the rabbit hole of their disorder.
What is an Intervention?
An intervention is a process carefully planned out by families and friends of an addicted person. This process is often guided by intervention professionals (interventionists), and it involves confronting the addict about their damaging behavior.
It doesn’t matter what the source of the addiction is – an intervention is effective for those suffering from substance use disorders (alcoholism and drug addiction), eating disorders, and other addictions, such as compulsive gambling.
The goal of the intervention is for the people with addictive behaviors to finally realize what they’re doing, how it affects their close friends and family, and accept treatment, such as joining an inpatient rehab program.
How to Organize an Intervention
Staging an intervention shouldn’t be a spur of the moment thing. It takes planning and research, as well as predicting and preparing for potential negative outcomes. Not every intervention is successful; covering all your bases increases your chances of a positive result.
To help you in this daunting process, here is an intervention guide you can follow:
- Consult a specialist
Talking to a mental health counselor, a psychologist, a professional interventionist, a social worker, or an addiction professional is a good idea. They have experience and expertise in interventions, and you won’t feel like you’re floundering in the dark as much as you otherwise would.
While consulting an intervention specialist is not a must, you should turn to them if the addicted person also suffers from a co-occurring disorder, such as a mental illness of some kind (bipolar disorders, borderline personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other similar conditions). A professional will help you choose the best course of action in the case of a dual diagnosis.
- Form an intervention team
An intervention team is a group of people who will be directly involved in the intervention. A specialist may or may not be a part of this team, depending on how you think the addicted person will react to a stranger’s presence in such an emotionally charged event.
Choose people who are close to the addicted person and who have their best interests at heart. Friends and family members are the norm, but you should exclude anyone suffering from their own unmanaged addiction or a serious mental illness.
Obviously, don’t let the addicted person know what you’re doing until the intervention starts.
- Gather information
Addiction research is a key component of an intervention. Learn about the intricacies of the addiction your loved one is struggling with. Use a treatment locator to find good treatment programs, rehab centers, and maybe mental health treatment facilities that will be beneficial. You can even reach out to a treatment facility and tentatively arrange for the addict to enter a program, should they choose to accept help.
- Make a plan
Choose the time and place for the intervention. Pick a private, formal setting somewhere other than the addicted person’s home, which will prevent them from locking themselves in a bedroom or a bathroom if they start getting angry. Consider a therapist’s or an interventionist’s office, a community center, or even a church if it applies. Go with the time when your loved one is most likely to be sober.
- Decide on the consequences
If the intervention fails, and the addict refuses substance abuse treatment, they need to face serious consequences. No one likes to think about this, but you need to talk about what those consequences would be. The addict may lose visitation rights with their children, get their car taken away, or be asked to move out of their home until they agree to enter an addiction center. No matter the result of the intervention, life can’t continue as it used to.
- Write an intervention letter
An intervention letter contains everything you want to say to the person with the addiction. The letter is an opportunity for you to express your feelings and concerns, and you should focus on the facts and your emotional responses. Talk about how their addiction affects you, the moments that hurt you the most, and why you think your loved one should seek addiction treatment. Emphasize how much you care for them and how you want them to overcome this.
- Practice, practice, practice
Rehearsal is another aspect of addiction intervention that you shouldn’t skip. During rehearsals, you need to figure out who will sit where and what the order of speaking will be. Everyone involved must participate in the rehearsals. If the addicted person hears from their child first, they may be more inclined to face the truth. If they’re close to their spouse, maybe the spouse could speak when they’re at their most vulnerable, near the end of the intervention.
Fine-tune the intervention script until you feel like you have a chance at breaking through. Once the time comes, try to stick as close to that script as possible.
- Hold an intervention
When you’re confident in what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it, it’s time to finally stage an intervention. During the intervention, it is vital that everyone is calm and collected. Tempers might flare, and you may get the urge to respond in anger or frustration. However, that will only undermine the purpose of the intervention. Instead of being argumentative, reach for compassion and kindness.
Use open, warm body language, such as not crossing your arms or legs while sitting. Don’t stray from the main subject – again, stick to the intervention script.
- Follow up
If your loved one agrees to enter a substance abuse and mental health treatment program, addiction recovery begins. This requires a whole new level of support and possibly looking into outpatient programs or regularly visiting treatment centers, along with Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous groups. Preventing relapse and encouraging the recovering addict through their treatment process is equally as important as an intervention. Be there for your loved one every step of the way; they will need a strong support system to keep them moving forward.
On the other hand, if the addicted person doesn’t accept help, the intervention team should follow up on the consequences they agreed on beforehand. It will be a difficult process, but once the addict realizes there’s no turning back, they may change their mind about drug or alcohol rehab.
Successful interventions end with the addicted person accepting that they have a problem and committing to sober living. Success rates of interventions vary depending on the type of person and the type of addiction, but there are some essential things to keep in mind during the entire process.
- The point of an intervention letter isn’t to vent about things that happened in the past. While you should talk about your feelings and list examples of when you got hurt, always remember that an intervention is for the person who needs help and only for them.
- There is no place for shaming, lashing out, or abusing the addicted person. Interventions should focus on education and expressing love.
- Agree not to enable addictive behavior any longer. No matter what happens at the end of the intervention, you should encourage positive change and build a more balanced life for the addicted person and everyone affected.
No matter how well you prepare, there is no guarantee that an intervention will be successful. Manage your expectations as you go through all of the steps we talked about here. Be meticulous in your planning, concentrate on love and kindness, and be strong. An intervention is emotionally taxing, but if successful, it will significantly improve everyone’s life.
Statistically, interventions assisted by a specialist are more likely to succeed; loved ones can often feel too close or too raw to organize an event that complex. If you would like some help in staging an intervention for someone you care about, please don’t hesitate to call us at (619) 630-7844 or visit our website for more information.