“In case you are a family member reading this, please don’t let the stigma of addiction stop you from acting. Don’t put the addiction on a shelf and let it be only the addict’s problem. It’s is everybody’s job in the family to step into a solution. It is not a “go to treatment, get better, come home” situation for the addict alone to master. Every addict or alcoholic affects 5-8 people in their lives—maybe that’s you. And it’s you, the family, that needs a healing process as well.” Read Patty P’s story here, or find other stories of recovery at HeroesInRecovery.com.
Planning an Intervention
Holding a proper intervention means more than simply talking to your addicted loved one about the problem and pleading for him or her to change. An intervention is a highly structured, formalized conversation that typically follows a specific format. Putting together something this complex often means spending weeks in the planning stages. Families can certainly do this planning on their own, without the help of a paid professional.Many families may find that it’s simply too difficult (or too risky) to plan and hold an intervention without help. It helps to have an experienced person on-hand to help in case of an emergency, or simply to help things run smoothly. Often, families only have one or a few opportunities to stage an effective intervention, so the help of a supporter can go a long way.
It is a good idea to use an intervention specialist if the addicted person has:
- Resistance to recovery
- Denial of the problem
- A violent history or a history of becoming defensive or angry
- Suicidal tendencies
- A deep sense of denial
- Mental health concerns2
- 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.
Rehearsing for the InterventionNext, the family chooses a spot for the intervention, and they settle on a date and time. Often, the intervention is held in a neutral location, such as a church or a conference room. Having an intervention in the family home might be convenient, but it’s just as convenient for the addict to simply walk away into a back bedroom when the conversation gets tough. Holding an intervention in a neutral spot makes escape a bit less likely. The time chosen should correspond to the time when the addict is least likely to be impaired. This might mean that the family holds the intervention in the morning, when the addict isn’t likely to have used. Once the time, date and location have been chosen, the family runs through a series of rehearsals. They read their letters aloud, and determine who will speak first. The intervention specialist also provides guidance on what to do if the addict chooses to yell, become violent or leave the conversation. These rehearsals allow the family to be fully prepared
Where to Have the InterventionThe location of your loved one’s treatment intervention should be a safe, convenient space. While your loved one won’t know that the intervention is scheduled, the location for the event should be somewhere that your loved one comes to often. Home locations are usually easiest and more comfortable for you and your family. Also, since you will need to wait until your loved one is sober before you begin, the location should be somewhere that you can wait a while. In the same way, an alcohol treatment intervention can be highly emotional, so the location should be somewhere appropriate.
The Big DayWhen your loved one arrives at the location, the weeks of planning pay off. The intervention specialist or the head of the family tells the addicted person why the meeting has been called, and the family begins to read their letters aloud. At the end of each letter, the family will ask the addicted personto enter a specific treatment program for addiction. As soon as your loved one agrees to enter treatment, the intervention is over. It’s important to note that while many interventions are successful, others are not. People often move through a series of steps before they make big changes in their lives. Most clinicians recognize five main stages of change, which include:
- Precontemplation- “I’m fine; I don’t need to change anything.”
- Contemplation- “I might have a problem. I might do something about it one day.” Or “I have a problem but I’m too stressed out/busy to change it now.”
- Determination- “I am ready to make a change, although I don’t have a solid plan to make that change happen.”
- Action- “I have called a treatment center and I am in the process of taking steps to change.”
- Maintenance- “I work hard to maintain my sobriety.”
The Importance of AccountabilitySometimes, 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.
Sources 1 Orford, J. et. al. Family members affected by a close relative’s addiction: The stress-strain-coping-support model. Drugs. 2010. 2 Mayo Clinic. Intervention: Help a Loved One Overcome Addiction. 27 Jul 2017. 3 Falloon, I. Family Interventions for Mental Disorders: Efficacy and Effectiveness. World Psychiatry.2001. 4 Gold, M. Stages of Change. PsychCentral. 2016.
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