Watching a loved one struggle with addiction is never easy. Unfortunately, addicts can have a hard time admitting that they’re addicted. Denial is a very real and very common part of struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. Even when addicts regularly suffer consequences as the result of their behaviors, they often imagine themselves as being totally in control. Staging an intervention is an excellent way to cut through this denial.
An intervention is a chance for friends and family members to put enabling behaviors to a stop, and to set firm boundaries for their relationships going forward. An intervention is also an opportunity to get your loved one to recognize the need for help, and to accept it. However, to ensure the best possible outcome for an intervention, it’s important to understand the goals of this process and to plan it carefully.
Loving and living with an addict can be frustrating and emotionally draining. You probably have many choice words for your loved one if you’ve been lied to, stolen from, or repeatedly disappointed as the result of their addiction. Although many people are eager to offload their frustration during interventions, this isn’t the goal or purpose of these events.
Interventions are all about the health and well-being of the addicted individual. When family members and friends share how addiction has impacted their lives, they’re doing so with the intention of showing addicts that their decisions, actions, and behaviors are harmful.
Not only do interventions help addicts recognize that they have problems, but they also provide feasible solutions. As such, an intervention must go beyond getting everyone together to read personal statements. You’ll also need to have a solid plan for how you’ll help your loved one, including a way to get them into a treatment program.
When Is an Intervention Needed?
Interventions can be helpful anytime someone has an addiction but is living in denial. Interventions show people that they are actively destroying their lives and relationships and that they have the power to put their destructive behaviors to a stop. Interventions can also be helpful for people who are considering the need for addiction treatment, but who aren’t sufficiently motivated to act.
How to Stage an Effective Intervention
There is a right and a wrong way to stage an effective intervention. Without the right guidance, you may make critical missteps that put your loved one at increased risk of self-harm, overdose, or isolation. Therefore, many people opt to work with addiction recovery counselors, professional interventionists, or friends, and family members who’ve staged interventions before. During your loved one’s intervention, you’ll want to:
- Provide strong, clear examples of how addiction is harming their life
- Offer a feasible, actionable plan for getting help
- Establish firm boundaries for all impacted relationships
- State the consequences that will be faced if treatment is refused
Following interventions, addicts often know that they’ll no longer receive monetary support from family members. They may be required to find new living situations if they don’t commit to seeking treatment. During the intervention process, it’s best to have the participation of all enabling people in an addict’s life. When addicts no longer have people willing to support or even tolerate their addictions, committing to treatment becomes increasingly appealing.
Recruit Help from Family, Friends, and/or Professionals
Working with an addiction professional, counselor, or intervention specialist is often the best way to successfully stage an intervention. With knowledgeable guidance, you can avoid making potentially harmful missteps. You can also get tips on who to include in this effort and which family members or friends to avoid. Having certain people present on the day of your intervention can be more hurtful than helpful.
Form Your Intervention Team
An effective intervention team will include all the people who enable the addict, and everyone else who’s physically or emotionally impacted by their addiction. Everyone on your intervention team should be aware of the goals of this effort, and of the things that they should avoid saying and doing.
It’s a bad idea to have people present who are overly angry or frustrated with the individual, or with whom your loved one has active contention. You want to establish a comfortable mood for this meeting, not one that’s likely to lead to an angry outburst or send your loved one stalking away. Your intervention team should all have important roles in the life of the person you’re attempting to help.
Research and Discuss
Most addicts have an incredibly low sense of self-worth. Contrary to what many people think, they are already dealing with overwhelming amounts of guilt, grief, and shame. This remains true even when they have unrealistic ideas about their ability to control or curb their addictions.
Thus, despite all the negative emotions and experiences that a person’s addiction has caused, their intervention should largely be a positive experience. Not only are interventions a chance to offer help, but they’re also an excellent opportunity to remind people that they’re worth receiving it.
Given the delicate nature of these conversations, it’s important to plan each statement carefully. Everyone should be versed in what not to say. Although you may be eager to schedule an intervention for a friend or family member right away, strategic planning is essential for ensuring that you get the outcome you want.
Develop a Formal Plan
When encouraging addicts to seek help, it’s important to have a formal plan ready and waiting in case they accept it. The motivation and encouragement that an intervention provides can be incredibly short-lived if immediate action isn’t taken. This is one of the best parts of working with addiction counselors and intervention specialists.
These professionals can show you how to navigate the early admissions process, and how to streamline a loved one’s entry into detox and addiction treatment. Before the day of your intervention, you’ll want to have a list of treatment facilities, a general understanding of how treatment costs will be covered, and a feasible timeline for getting rehab started among other things.
Choose a Time and Place for the Intervention
When choosing a time and place for the intervention, look for a location where you’ll have the best ability to hold your loved one’s attention. If you stage an intervention at home, there’s always the risk of having the individual retreat to a room or behind any other locked door. Avoidance is a common way for people to maintain their denial and continue in their destructive patterns. Make sure that your selected venue is accessible for everyone on your intervention team, sufficiently private, and capable of providing a comfortable atmosphere.
Write and Share Impact Statements
Impact statements are not about making people feel bad about themselves. These statements should be written to show addicts how their decisions are affecting others and themselves. It is important to include plenty of positive points and affirmations in these statements.
This is a great time to remind people of their best attributes and to show how these qualities have changed due to alcohol or drug abuse. Choose statements that are impactful in a positive way, rather than statements that might cause your family member to shut down.
Offer Help and Set Boundaries
Everyone should have the opportunity to share how they’ve been affected. However, one of the most important parts of this process is providing your loved one with a way out. Someone should list the different options for treatment and share the established plan for ensuring that this help is both accessible and received.
Setting boundaries is beneficial for everyone. Addicts learn that they will no longer have enablers in their lives, and everyone else can reclaim their right to live free from the trauma of addiction.
Have Reasonable Expectations
Although you may have watched several successful interventions on reality TV, these meetings don’t always work the way that people hope. Some people simply aren’t ready to commit to addiction treatment. Others need more time to think about their decisions. There are even people who can take months or even years to hit their personal rock bottoms before the need for treatment is recognized.
Although the goal is getting a person to accept help, if everyone on the intervention team can express their emotions and firmly set their boundaries, you’re on the right path. Often, when enabling family members move out of the way and firm boundaries are set everywhere else, the likelihood of addicts seeking or accepting help is greatly increased.
You may find that your loved one wishes to make their own treatment plans. Many people have very clear ideas about what type of treatment will work best for them. No matter what decision your loved one makes after your intervention is done, it is important to stick with the boundaries you’ve set. If your loved one does choose to accept help, get ready to be an active part of their support system. At Mississippi Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center, we offer a variety of counseling and support services for the family members of recovering addicts. Our options in family therapy help people heal from the trauma of addiction. They also prepare them to be reliable members of their loved ones’ ongoing support teams.