Watching a loved one struggle with substance abuse can be a heart-wrenching endeavor.
No matter how obvious the effects of addiction are to you, there is a good chance that your loved one is unable to see the problem.
At the same time, people who suffer from substance abuse definitely have moments where they truly want to get out of the cycle. Unfortunately, addiction is a strong disease that impairs judgment and critical thinking. In many cases, an intervention is the best way to ensure that a person sees they need help.
What Is an Intervention?
An intervention is when a group of friends, family, and/or specialists intervenes in the life of a person suffering from substance abuse in order to initiate a plan of action for the person to receive help.
Oftentimes, each person involved in the intervention will address specific ways that the person has harmed them or affected their life because of substance abuse. For instance, a child might tell her mother how substance abuse is the cause of her feeling neglected.
Examples of addictions that may warrant an intervention include:
When Is an Intervention Necessary?
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, an intervention is necessary when a person fails to realize their substance use has spiraled out of control. This can include:
- Personal, social, financial, and professional difficulties
- Inability to control use despite negative outcomes
- Denial of their own predicament
- Remains unreceptive to family in relation to their addictive behavior
Who Should Be Involved in an Intervention?
Because interventions are emotionally charged, it’s often recommended to have an intervention specialist or counselor to guide the meeting and help facilitate care if the person accepts that they need help.
The NCADD recommends that families and friends seek the support of addiction professionals when their loved one:
- Shows signs of depression or suicidal thoughts
- Is under the influence of several substances
- Has a history of violence or severe mental health issues
How Do You Plan an Intervention?
It is critical to understand the intense emotional upsurge that an intervention can incite. You don’t want your loved one to feel attacked. The best intervention is one that is planned to convey a message of love and support.
Here are some tips suggested by Mayo Clinic for planning an intervention:
- Don’t plan an intervention on the spur of the moment.
- Try to choose a time when your loved one is least likely to be under the influence.
- Educate yourself on the substance/s you suspect your loved one is using.
- Stage a rehearsal to practice what you want to say.
- Share information with everyone involved about the issue.
- Anticipate objections so that you are ready to respond in a thoughtful manner.
- Stay on track.
- Ask for an immediate decision in whether your loved one is going to receive help.
What Causes an Intervention to Fail?
There are many factors that can cause an intervention to fail. Because interventions are a last-ditch effort to help a person suffering from substance abuse, at the time of intervention, your loved one is most likely deeply entrenched in their addiction.
While some interventions are bound to fail no matter what, this approach has a strong success rate. According to NCADD, 90 percent of people who experience an intervention will make a commitment to seek help.
Intervention failure could be the result of:
- Sub-par planning
- Approaching a loved one is a place where they feel vulnerable
- Approaching a loved one at a time when he or she is high, drunk, or experiencing withdrawal symptoms
- Staging an intervention when you are under the influence
- Staging an intervention with an overwhelming amount of people before having one on one conversations
- Focusing on the problem rather than the solution
- Having an inadequate understanding of addiction
- Speaking to a loved one from a place of judgment, anger, blame, and/or shame
- Not establishing an immediate care plan or giving too many options
One thing to keep in mind is that you cannot save someone who doesn’t want to be saved. It’s important that you do not beat yourself up if an intervention or treatment fails. According to an article in Psychology Today, “If an addict seeks treatment without being fully committed to a life of sobriety—as some might do in response to the overwhelming peer pressure of an intervention—he or she may actually be less likely to get better.”
However, you can increase chances of success. The best way to ensure a successful intervention is to acquire help from a trusted mental health professional or intervention specialist in order to stage both an intervention and treatment plan suited best for your loved one.