Watching a loved one struggle with drug and/or alcohol addiction can be frightening and painful for friends and family members. They often have to sit and watch while their loved one ruins their life, and slowly loses themselves to addiction. One of the hardest emotions to manage is the feeling of helplessness. Fortunately for loved ones, they are not as helpless as they think. They have a significant amount of control but need to know how to use it effectively.
One way they can have an impact on this tragic situation is by staging an addiction intervention. Now, some of you may have seen this on TV or read about them online in other places. They can present the opportunity for high drama, but done right; they can give you a fighting chance of getting your loved one the help they desperately need.
An intervention, or addiction intervention, is where people, mainly the friends and family of the individual with the addiction, meet with them as a group. The goal of the intervention is to have the individual recognize their dependency on drugs or alcohol and to agree to get treatment for it. Those who are taking part in it will talk about their loved one’s destructive behavior and how it is affecting them. A mother would share how worried she was about her son’s failing health. A neighbor would share that they don’t see him outside barbecuing anymore and miss that time together. A son could say they were scared of being hit again when their dad is drunk. It is painful to listen to, but the focus is on the impact this individual has on the speakers and what they will do if the individual refuses help.
As you can tell, talking about someone’s behavior and the impact of drugs and alcohol can make things tense, and at times combative. One of the hallmarks of addiction is that the person with it will often deflect, manipulate or blame others for the problems when in reality it’s the addiction talking. A successful intervention can set the stage to save someone’s life. Here are seven tips to help make an addiction intervention successful, and increase the odds that your loved one will get the help they need.
- Get your team together. Pick the people that need to be there for this. An addiction intervention is just as much for the person with the substance use disorder, as it is for the loved ones. They need to do this as well, so be mindful of that.
Choose people that have things they need to say and people that you think the individual will be most likely to listen to. You do not need to limit this to friends and family members; you could include a pastor from church, a favorite teacher or someone else that they may look up to. Take the time to ask around and find the people that have something constructive to say, while also seeking the people you think may have the best chance of getting through to them. If, for example, you know that Uncle Joe believes that the individual is a lost cause and can’t be helped, then don’t invite Uncle Joe. Choose wisely, and this will make a strong start to your intervention.
- Pick the time and place. Not enough thought goes into the when and where of an alcohol intervention. People will typically do them as soon as possible. While you want to act quickly, you need to be thoughtful about when you do them, and where.
Scheduling a group of people to get together for anything can be difficult. Unfortunately, the main focus for an addiction intervention is what time and place will work best for the substance user. Ask yourself, when are they most likely to be sober? When will they be the healthiest, mentally and physically? If you are talking to someone already drunk or high, then they may not even know what you, or they, are saying. Pick the time and place when they are most coherent. If you can, pick the place where they feel most comfortable. Any little thing you can do to help this go smoothly is vital.
- Prepare. There is no such thing as over-preparing when it comes to staging an intervention. One of the principal tenets for how to do an intervention is that you must prepare, plan, and practice this. It will be intense when you are in the moment, and most likely emotions will be high. People often forget things or get confused during emotional moments. The intervention meeting is not one of those times to lose track of things you need to say.
Take the time to write down what you want to say. Having notes will ensure that you say everything you want to say, as well as gives you something tangible you can focus on while you are in the moment. Practice and rehearse what you are going to say until it sounds exactly right to you. Get together with your group, and have a speaking order set up, so everyone is prepared and ready for their turn.
- Find your limits. This one is a little more complicated. In an intervention, people will usually express their limits, what they are no longer able or willing to tolerate and the consequences for them. When you are writing your speech, think about what this person has done, and how you have felt about it. If there is anything that you find intolerable now, that would be something you define as your limit. Some people will say they will no longer cover when the substance abuser is drunk and wanting to call in sick to work. Be very clear. Typically limits are no longer drinking or using drugs, or the person must seek treatment right away.
The other side of limits is preparing consequences for what will happen if the limits are ignored. This can be a challenging thing to commit to. You have to come up with a consequence that is something you are prepared to do immediately, which will also make the person take notice of the change. For example, a mother would say that her adult son has to stop drinking and seek treatment immediately, or she will kick him out of the house. That is a limit and a consequence.
- Have help ready. When things go well, the individual will see how much addiction has harmed his life and those around him. They will agree that treatment is needed and that their life is out of control. Alternatively, at the very least, decide to seek treatment. Be ready for this moment.
Moving quickly when someone agrees to treatment is essential. If you wait until the next day, they may have already changed their minds, or just started using again. Addiction is powerful and can cause a person to change their minds overnight. Be ready and start the process off before you stage the intervention. Call the inpatient treatment facility ahead of time and ask questions about the process. Do your research. At Recovery Connection, our staff is available 24/7 and can be on hand to help with questions during the intervention. Insurance verification can be completed before the intervention for a smoother intake process. Call us at (866)-812-8231.
- Follow through. Things may not always go right, so you should be ready with the alternative. You have spent some time preparing up until now, so you should have your consequences prepared for the possibility that they refuse treatment or sobriety. Refusal is a possibility, so it is best to prepare and plan for it.
Your predetermined consequences must be used. One of the best pieces of advice on how to do an intervention is, do what you say you are going to! If you don’t, then nothing will change.
- Don’t give up. Addiction interventions are often seen as the last hope, but that is not always true. Don’t give up hope. That does not mean you have to keep supporting someone who is actively using. It means that people come to their conclusions and need for recovery in their own time. Your loved one may need more time before they hit bottom, or get sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. This happens often, and those people can and do recover from drug or alcohol addiction.
Interventions may seem quite dramatic, but with the right planning and practice, they can go pretty smoothly. This doesn’t guarantee that your loved one will enter inpatient treatment, but it does mean that you have done what you can do to make a difference in their life. These tips will give you the best odds of a successful outcome to an addiction intervention, and if you have further questions, or want to seek help for a drug or alcohol addiction, contact Recovery Connection at (866)-812-8231.