If someone you love is struggling with a drug, alcohol, gambling, or other addiction, having a family intervention may entice the person to get help.
People with addiction problems are often in denial. If you have tried having heart-to-heart talks to no avail, the next step is to gather together your forces and stage an intervention.
If you think your loved one is suicidal or may react with violence to an intervention, you may want to consult a specialist. The first place to look is the Association of Intervention Specialists. They have earned credentials to become interventionists. Keep in mind that studies show that only about 10 percent of cases will need a professional interventionist. If you know how to conduct an intervention and do it properly, that is all you need to help you loved one.
What exactly is an intervention?
An intervention is when family and friends of the person struggling with an addiction get together and confront the person. The intervention team should include four to six people. Choose the team wisely. Do not include anyone whom your loved one dislikes, anyone who may not be able to control what he/she says or their emotions, anyone who has unmanaged mental health problem or unmanaged addiction problems, or anyone who you think may sabotage your efforts. Remember—this may be your only opportunity at getting your loved one into treatment; it is necessary to get this right the first time.
Preparing for the Intervention
- Research your loved one’s addiction so that you have a better understanding of it. Ask yourselves these questions: 1) What substances is the person abusing? 2) How long has this been going on? 3) Did something recently happen that made their addiction worsen? 4) Have they had an intervention before? 5) Have they been in treatment for this problem before?
- Make sure everyone in the intervention team has the same information about the person’s addiction. It is important for everyone to be on the same page.
- Plan the best time possible for an intervention. For instance, if the person is an alcoholic and you know that they begin drinking right after work, the evening may not be a good time. You don’t want them to be drunk when the intervention takes place. The morning may not be a good time either, if they are usually hung over.
- Have a rehearsal with the intervention team. A rehearsal is important because these types of interventions can become very emotional. During the rehearsal, decide where everyone will sit and the order of speaking (who will open discussion, etc.). A rehearsal is important so that there is no fumbling around during the real intervention, and so your loved one knows that you mean business.
- Members of the intervention team should take time to write down how the loved one’s addiction has affected/hurt them. Everyone should also write down the boundaries they plan to set and share them with the group before the actual intervention. For example, if a spouse has been making excuses to the children or to her partner’s place of employment, she will stop doing so. If a parent has been paying for their teenager’s phone bill, they can have all rights to check the phone. If you are a friend who has constantly been lending money, stop. You might even decide that the person must find a different place to live unless they agree to get help. Every situation is different and personal.
- Do some research on drug treatment centers or places you can recommend for your loved one to get help. Be prepared to take them to a facility if they are ready. Again, be prepared: 1) make phone calls before the intervention to find out which treatment centers take their insurance and have an opening; 2) find out the locations and times of 12-step meetings in the area; 3) if your loved one has children, have a plan in order for someone to watch their children.
The Outline for an Intervention
- Show up on time.
- Let each person speak, sharing how the person’s actions have affected their lives. Make sure each member also explains how much they love the person and how much they want things to get better.
- Be prepared for the meeting to get emotional. The loved one will feel like everyone has ganged up on him/her and may lash out. Try to stay calm, and remember that this is for their own good. People suffering from addiction are often unaware of how their behavior is hurting everyone around them. This is your chance to speak from the heart and open the lines of communication.
- It is okay to express emotion, but do not let the meeting turn into a yelling match.
- After everyone has spoken, present the treatment plan.
- Be prepared for your loved one to cry, express anger, or to laugh at you. Stay serious and don’t back down.
- The meeting should end with concrete steps. Be prepared to take them to a drug treatment facility, or to begin treatment of some sort.
- Be prepared for them to refuse treatment. This does not mean that the intervention was pointless. Now that the issue is out in the open, this is the time for each member to share what consequences will incur if the behavior continues.
- Enforce boundaries. As you go forward, each member needs to do the best they can to stick with the boundaries. It may be extremely difficult. Remember, enabling a person to continue what they have been doing will not help them in the long run. If drugs or alcohol are the problem, sticking to consequences may just save your loved one’s life.
However the intervention turns out, remember that you are trying to help them.
Even if they refuse treatment right now, it is not a waste. You have planted a seed that may eventually bear fruit.