It can be hard to have a friend or loved one who is struggling with addiction. You’re tired of being lied to and questioning whether or not the person you thought they were is somewhere behind the darkness that they have brought into your life. But more than anything, you’re torn apart by watching someone you love slowly kill themselves. You’d kill to be able to help them yourself, but you’ve decided that it’s time for them to receive help from a professional.
The problem is that you’re not exactly certain how to approach the issue. You’ve never had to stage an intervention before, and you’re not sure how they’re supposed to work. You may be scared because you know that a successful intervention is paramount if they are to agree to seek the help that they so desperately need.
The most important thing to remember about a successful intervention is that it should tell the person how their actions have affected them and those around them, and what needs to happen from this point forward if things between you are to improve. Even with this basic guideline, it never hurts to have the steps broken down a little bit more. The following steps should guide you along in the process of staging a successful intervention so that your loved one might see how their addiction has hurt them and seek to get help for their substance use disorder.
1. Do Your Research Beforehand
The first step of staging a successful intervention is, to do a little research on addiction itself. There are a lot of online resources about drug and alcohol addiction, covering the basic mindset of the addict and how addiction affects the body and the mind. You want to know what you’re up against, and you aren’t helping anyone by planning an intervention without doing the research first.
You are also going to need to know what your options are. If you’re at the point where an intervention is needed, then you are likely looking at help from an addiction recovery treatment center. Look to see what’s in your area, although you might actually choose to have them go a bit further away in order to remove them from the area in which they have been using. There is no such thing as a geographical “cure,” but that doesn’t mean that there is no such thing as a geographical trigger. Decide whether or not you think it is okay for them to go to treatment close to home before making your decision.
Finally, you need to do some research regarding the person you are trying to help. What’s their daily schedule? When is the best time to hold your intervention? You should try to pick a time when they are likely to be sober, or at least when they have not used on that particular day. This will require a pretty thorough understanding of their daily habits. Everyone who is to participate in the intervention will need to clear their schedule to make sure that there are no distractions and that everyone can be there for the entire duration of the event.
2. Seek an Addiction Counselor
There are a number of licensed therapists who specialize primarily in addiction counseling. They will have some experience with what is required for a successful intervention, so their advice should be heeded with the utmost respect. It may cost a bit of money, but you might even consider having them present at the intervention. They might be able to help keep things calm, and ensure that none of the participating parties get too worked up and express their emotions in a way that might interfere with the success of what you’re doing.
And you might not fully understand it right now, but you’re going to need help controlling yourself every bit as much as the person upon whom you and the other participants are intervening. You might be planning this intervention out of love, but that doesn’t mean that you are harboring no resentments toward the person. You probably realize this to an extent, but you might not fully grasp just how badly they are affecting you. This will make it hard to deal with them in a calm and rational manner, which will be necessary for the staging of a successful intervention.
Now, while we specified an addiction counselor, there are some therapists whose specialties are even more specific than that. These people are known as interventionists, and they can be extraordinarily helpful if you happen to have any in your area. This is something that might take a little bit of research, but you can start by talking to any doctors you may know such as less specialized therapists or even your family physician. Many licensed professionals know of people in related fields, so it never hurts to ask for help. You might be embarrassed to ask someone about such a personal issue, but just remember how much good their advice may be able to do for you and the addict you are trying to help.
3. Figure Out Who Will Participate
This is one of the most important steps to the staging of a successful intervention. The people who are in the room at the time of the intervention will have a major impact on how things go and whether or not the addict is willing to listen to what they have to say. Immediate family members are obvious choices, as well as close friends who care about the person you are trying to help. You might also include any of the person’s professional colleagues, and any religious figures in the person’s life if they have strong religious beliefs. If they are in a relationship, then the object of their affection should be present. And don’t forget about the interventionist, if you have chosen to enlist such help.
You need to make sure that each of the people in the room at the time of the intervention are people who truly care about the person’s well-being and want to see them get better. Having someone in the room who doesn’t see drugs or alcohol as a problem in the person’s life will not be conducive to a successful intervention. It is also important that everyone there is there because they want to see the person recover, not simply because they’re seizing an opportunity to express their anger at the person in question.
There are some friends and family members who you might choose to exclude from the intervention for their own well-being as opposed to the addict’s. If the person has a history of domestic violence, for instance, then it might not be a great idea for the victim of their transgressions to be in the room. It will be hurtful for them, and it may anger the person who is receiving the intervention. If the addict has young children, it may also be wise to exclude them. They might be emotionally fragile, and they will not understand what is happening fully enough to help. They also might be prone to attachment, and may not want to see their mother or father shipped off to a recovery center.
4. Be Prepared to Lay Down the Law
As has been mentioned above, the fact that you are considering an intervention likely means that you are considering asking the person you care about to receive professional help. This is the goal, and meeting this goal is how you will establish whether or not you have staged a successful intervention. But what you might not know from seeing fictional interventions on television sitcoms is that there is much more to the process than sitting around and telling the person that they’ve hurt you and that you care about them.
One of the major things that you are going to have to discuss is what’s going to happen if the person does not agree to get the help they need to treat their addiction. This can be hard. You love this person, and the last thing you may want to do is tell them that they can no longer be a part of your life if your request is not met. But you may have to do just that if you want your intervention to be successful. You may even have to tell them that they cannot see their kids anymore if they continue to behave in such a hurtful manner. You also have to outline some of the changes you need to see in them if these things are to be avoided in the future. Rehabilitation is a start, but you may require more of them once their treatment is over.
You may want them to begin seeing a therapist, or you might even want to engage in couples or family therapy (depending upon your relationship with the person). You might ask them to begin going to recovery meetings, or even just ask them to do more around the house or as a parent if such things are applicable to the situation. If they are young, you may have to ask them to enroll in school when they are done, or get a job so that they can support themselves. You may consider asking them to move into a halfway house after they finish treatment, or at least move somewhere where you are not around to enable them. Try to paint a picture of the quality of life you imagine for them. It might just be the life they used to imagine for themselves before their addiction took hold.
5. Script Out What You’re Going to Say
If you have ever seen televised interventions in the past, whether real or fictional, then you have probably seen interventions in which each member of the intervention team read from a letter that they had written in advance. There is a reason for this. You need to carefully plan what you are going to say, to make sure that you do not get too off-topic or express your emotions in an angry or otherwise unhealthy manner. If you want to stage a successful intervention, you must adhere to the importance of your message: that you care about them and want them to get better.
Plotting out your message beforehand allows you to make sure that your concerns are not expressed through blaming or guilt trips. Remember that your message may not be well-received, and this threat is even more imminent if you trigger the addict’s defenses by coming at them in an argumentative way. You also need to plan the order in which each person will share their message, and who will express the harms they have committed if some of these harms have affected more than one person in the room. If you are enlisting the help of an interventionist, they can aid you in this process.
You also need to rehearse the whole thing, making sure to do so at a time and place where you will not be interrupted (especially not by the subject of the intervention). Remember that even the most successful intervention may not go according to plan, so your rehearsal should account for the manner in which the subject may respond to your letters. They might be willing to seek treatment, or they might be hostile, so plan for both. Their response might create a situation in which you have to improvise and cannot adhere to your script, so you need to be as prepared for this as possible.
6. Deliver Your Message Carefully
As mentioned above, the subject of the intervention may become hostile. If they are familiar with the setting of an intervention, this might begin from the moment they enter the room, before you have even had a chance to read your letters. And when they get angry or defensive, you might be tempted to do the same. After all, you have been hurt by this person, and you might feel that it is unfair for them to react so harshly. And while these feelings are not to be invalidated, this is why your first step began with research on addiction. You need to understand that this person is afflicted by something bigger than themselves, and they have trouble controlling their impulses.
Remember this at all times, as you need to focus on being supportive rather than confrontational. Do not focus too much on the consequences they will face if they do not seek treatment, but rather on the benefits they will experience if they are able to get their life together and begin a process of recovery. Bear in mind that you never truly know what another person is thinking or feeling. They may not believe themselves to have a problem, but there is also a chance that they already know that they are struggling and may actually want to receive help if they know that you are there for them during the process.
This applies to everyone who is present for the intervention. This has been mentioned above, but you need to make sure that everyone is there for the right reasons. Of course, just because you all care about the person you are trying to help does not mean that emotions will not run high and someone’s patience might be tried if the addict is not immediately willing to seek help. If things become too hostile, you might have to ask a member of your intervention team to leave the room and not return until they are calm. This is not an ideal situation, but it might be integral if you truly wish to carry out a successful intervention. Flared tempers might be inevitable, but they have to be handled properly.
7. Remember That It’s Not Over Yet
You might think that you’ve had a successful intervention once the person agrees to go to treatment, but bear in mind that no matter how much you may love this person, they have likely lied to you and to others in the past. This is why television shows like Intervention often see the subject taken to treatment as soon as they have agreed. You might not have the resources to transport a person that quickly, especially if you have decided to recommend a treatment center that is outside of your home state, but it is something that you should consider if possible. You need to know now if you are being lied to, and you don’t want to give them a chance to change their mind if their agreement was sincere.
In addition, you must remember that there is a reason addicts and alcoholics are generally described as being “in recovery” and not simply “recovered.” If you have staged a successful intervention and the person has agreed to go to treatment, then rehabilitation will do a lot for them. It will force them to spend some time sober so that they can detox a bit and allow their physical cravings to diminish while receiving therapy to work on their mental obsession. But relapse is a very real and powerful threat, which is why it was suggested earlier that you outline a few ground rules to be followed once the person’s time in treatment has been completed. And if they do relapse, you should be prepared to follow through with the consequences that you have set. It won’t be easy, but hopefully it will be enough to convince them to seek further treatment and figure out where they went wrong.
The process of staging a successful intervention can be emotionally trying, but you will ultimately be glad that you did it. The addict or alcoholic in your life now has a sense of how many people care about them, as well as how many people they have harmed. This will hopefully be enough to convince them to seek the help they need. Even if they are just going to placate you, they might find something they like in sobriety and choose to stay in recovery once they have experienced the fulfillment of working to find solutions to their addiction and its associated character defects. If so, this will mean the beginning of a happier and less stressful way of life for everyone involved.