When heart-to-heart conversations, empty ultimatums, and continued self-destruction due to addiction fail to motivate change, a formal addiction intervention may be necessary to get your loved one the help they need. Here we will discuss what an intervention is, when it is needed and detail the steps necessary to successfully perform an intervention.
What is an Intervention?
Denial is a major aspect of addiction, and those suffering from severe substance abuse problems are often unable to accept and acknowledge their problem and the impact it has on themselves and others. An intervention is a carefully planned process resulting in a meeting between the addict and loved ones, with the end goal of getting the addict into an appropriate treatment programme. It involves collaboration between family and friends and consultation with an addiction specialist or interventionist to develop a plan of action for the individual to get help.
During the intervention, the individual is confronted with facts about how their addiction is destructive to themselves and others. The addict is then offered a prearranged treatment plan and the consequences if treatment is refused.
Throughout the planning process it is important to remember that it is, at its core, an expression of love for someone who is suffering. Keeping this in mind will help you be as compassionate as possible. However, it is important to be prepared for this expression of love to be painful, and all enabling behaviours will have to stop.
How to Stage an Intervention
An alcohol or drug intervention is necessary when it is apparent to those who care about the addict that his or her behaviour is severely destructive, they have hit ‘rock bottom’, and/or previous attempts and consequences have failed to get them into treatment.
In cases where it appears that the addict is potentially close to death, immediate action should be taken. However, there are more ideal times for a mediation to take place when possible. For example, an ideal time for an alcohol intervention would be immediately after an individual has been arrested for a DUI, has lost their job or apartment, or broken up with their significant other due to their drug or alcohol addiction. Once it becomes apparent that the addict is in dire need of intervention, do not put it off. Start following the steps below to prepare and perform a successful intervention:
1. Make a plan
Gather information about the individual’s using habits and consult with a professional therapist, addiction counsellor, or interventionist to help you determine addiction treatment options and plan the intervention. Research and prearrange a treatment centre that the person will ideally enter immediately following the meeting. The process and intervention itself can be highly emotional for everyone involved so planning ahead and preparing what you will say can help keep it from escalating. It is OK to cry and show emotion, but expressing intense anger and resentment towards the addict will be counterproductive.
2. Form a team
The team is comprised of the individuals who will personally participate in the intervention – typically a small group of family and close friends who genuinely care about the person’s wellbeing. It is important that the team includes people the addict trusts and who are willing to offer continued support throughout treatment and recovery.
Choose participants wisely, those whose motives are out of true love and concern for the addict, not those who could be looking for an opportunity to pile on the blame for wrong-doings. Also beware of those who could potentially disrupt the meeting by taking the addict’s side and suggesting maybe they do not need treatment after all, as this will do more harm than good.
It is recommended that an addiction specialist or interventionist is also present to lead the meeting and help support the entire process. If the individual has a history of becoming violent or threatening suicide, then it is imperative that a professional is present.
3. Determine consequences
The team will determine the consequences to be set forth if the individual decides to refuse treatment. This may include no longer offering financial support, a place to say, or limiting contact with children. It is important that all members are ready to uphold their consequences no matter how hard it might be.
4. Have a rehearsal
Before the actual intervention takes place, it is a good idea to hold a rehearsal where each person involved practises expressing their concerns for the addict’s wellbeing and presenting the proposed treatment plan. Each person will give examples of how the addiction has caused turmoil emotionally, financially, and physically for the addict and also themselves, while emphasising the importance of addiction treatment for the individual. Do your best to portray feelings of hope and reassurance that you will be there for them through the recovery process in an effort to encourage them to accept treatment (but make sure this is truly your intent).
5. Hold the intervention
Everyone must agree on a place and time to hold the intervention. It should be held somewhere where the addict is comfortable and ideally at a time when he or she is sober – or most sober—generally in the early morning or just after they wake. Do not let the person know what is happening until they arrive at the meeting. This means that one (or more) members must find a way to get the addict to the meeting place without rousing suspicion.
Once the addict arrives they may figure out what is happening, and they may get angry. It is important to sit them down somewhere comfortable and let them know you just want to speak to him/her for a few moments. Each member will then re-enact the rehearsal, letting their loved one
know how they have been hurt by the addict’s behaviour, and how it has also ruined the addict’s own life in various ways. Each person will individually tell the addict what the consequences are if they do not go to treatment.
Once everyone has said their piece, it is time to go over the suggested treatment in detail. It is important to have all details lined up to get the person directly into treatment, including packed bags and transportation to a pre-booked inpatient addiction treatment centre, as the window of opportunity following the meeting is typically very short.
6. Follow up
The initial confrontation is only the beginning of a long journey. It is important that those involved are prepared to support the addict through the difficult transition into treatment and then recovery.
If the addict refuses treatment, it is absolutely imperative that you follow through with the ultimatums you gave them during the intervention. This will be painful, but if you do not follow through, the addict sees empty threats, and will begin to justify their own behaviour.
However, keep in mind that this does not mean the meeting has failed completely. Seeds have been planted and there may be a more ideal opportunity to hold a second mediation.
Remember that an intervention is held out of love and concern for someone who is struggling with a very real disease. Consulting a professional for advice and guidance is necessary, and holding on to hope that the person can recover is imperative throughout the process.