In the past, people who lived with addicts were told that the person must hit “rock bottom” before healing could begin. Often, this meant that family members and friends of people with a serious addiction to drugs and alcohol were asked to simply stand aside and let the addiction take its course. They were told that anything they did to influence the course of the disease would be hopeless at best and harmful at worse.

Now, researchers know that standing aside in this manner can be harmful to everyone involved. Drug and alcohol abuse can take a serious toll on the health and well-being of the addict. And family members who are forced to watch the addiction play out also face serious consequences. According to a study published in the journal Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, living with someone who has a substance abuse problem can cause long-term stress, which can put the family members at risk for health problems of their own.

Holding an intervention is often the best way for family members to deal with the addiction problem. If done right, the addict might get the motivation needed to stick to a treatment program. In addition, the family will learn a significant amount about the disease, which might help them provide help throughout the addict’s journey to sobriety.

According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s a good idea to use an intervention specialist if the addict has:

  • A violent history
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • A deep sense of denial
  • Mental illness

During the planning stages, the family members learn all they can about the addiction. The intervention specialist may provide these lessons, or the family might read books as a group and meet to discuss what they have learned. This education might seem trivial, but in fact, it’s quite important. The family is beginning a journey here, and each member must know exactly what they are fighting and how the disease might manifest itself throughout the journey.

Some family members might need to learn entirely new ways of communicating with the addict. Often, the addict has repeatedly broken promises or hurt feelings, and the family members may have years and years of anger built up and ready to fly out at any moment. These expressions of anger and hostility might be cathartic in the moment, but they’re certainly not helpful and they can drive the addict back to the addiction. If the person has a mental illness as well as an addiction, this new method of talking is all the more important.

Writing Letters

Once family members have done their research and thought a bit about the language they’ll use in the intervention, they begin writing a series of letters directly to the addict. These are powerful documents that will form the basis of the intervention. In a typical letter, the family members will:

  • Open with a statement of love and support.
  • Describe one situation in which the addict’s behavior caused pain or harm.
  • Describe the course that the addiction will take.
  • Explain how treatment works and why it is important.
  • Urge the addict to enter treatment.

In some cases, family members write down consequences that will befall the addict if he or she will not change. Some intervention specialists ask the family to place those consequences in the main body of the letter, and others ask family members to write consequences on a separate sheet of paper, and hold them back in case the addict doesn’t respond to the intervention.

As a study in Addiction points out, families can help the addict change the course of the disease. The family members then read these letters out loud, and revise them to make sure they’re effective and supportive. It’s hard to overstate how important these letters are in the intervention. Each family member will read the letters aloud to the addict, and those letters must be powerful in order to convince the addict to accept treatment. These letters can do the trick. They must be written carefully, so the family is sure to have the most impact.

The Big Day

When the addict arrives at the location, the weeks of planning pay off. The intervention specialist or the head of the family tells the addict why the meeting has been called, and the family begins to read their letters aloud. At the end of each letter, the addict is asked to enter a treatment program for addiction. As soon as the addict agrees to enter treatment, the intervention is over.

It’s important to note that while many interventions are successful, others are not. According to an article published by the Cancer Prevention Research Center, people move through a series of steps before they make big changes in their lives. The study suggests that of people who are addicted to nicotine, only 20 percent are actually ready to make a change at any given moment.

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If these people were approached with an intervention, one assumes they would be ready to move past the addiction. However, if people in other stages were approached, they may be less likely to make immediate changes. The intervention could, however, make them open to later conversations about their addiction. In other words, if people are so deep within their addictions that they cannot see the need for change, an intervention might not motivate them to change right now. But it could motivate them to change when the family approaches them again.

Sometimes, consequences can help addicts see the need for treatment. Family members might read the last pages of their intervention letters, all in a row, notifying the addict of the consequences of a refusal. Some addicts might be motivated to enter treatment when they learn that they’ll have no access to their children, home or money without treatment. Some addicts, however, will still not be moved. According to a study published in the journal Substance Abuse and Misuse, addicts were only swayed when they were told to get treatment or go to jail. Since families can’t place their loved ones in jail, they don’t have this option. They can, however, point out that the person could go to jail if he or she continues to break the law in specific ways. This might sway some addicts to submit to treatment.

Once the addict agrees to enter a treatment program, the family members should deliver that person to the program right away. The family has reached a breakthrough, and it’s important to capitalize on that breakthrough while it’s fresh in the addict’s mind. By now, the family has notified the treatment program that the addict is coming, and the family has paid all entrance fees required. There are no barriers to begin treatment. The family can then begin their own therapeutic process, participating in counseling sessions of their own to help the addict on the road to recovery.

its important to understand when an intervention is necessary for your addicted loved one. if you or a loved one is in immediate crisis, legal trouble, health issues, family trauma, safety issues or money problems- then there should be an intervention. facing your loved one in this situation can save their life from addiction and mental health and its the first, yet the greatest, step that needs to be taken. the reason profession involvement in the intervention process is whats most important is because they can provide you with the resources you need pre and post intervention. they are educated in this area and can handle the situation in order to help your family overall.

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