Many people once believed that the best way to help a loved one with a substance abuse problem was to wait until he or she hit a state that could be referred to as “rock bottom.” Unfortunately, this implies that addiction is somehow different from other severe health conditions. For example, no one would ever tell someone with diabetes or cancer to wait to get treatment.
The medical community now considers the notion that an addict has to hit their lowest point to be archaic, risky, and very unhelpful. Instead, most professionals have adopted the more constructive view that addiction should be treated as a chronic disease and that an intervention, if needed, should occur as soon as possible.
For this reason, people are increasingly understanding and compassionate toward those who are battling an addiction. Loved ones are beginning to realize that the addict direly needs help, versus further suffering by allowing them to wait.
An alcohol or drug intervention is a process in which loved ones and intervention specialists can reveal to a person in the throes of addiction the adverse effects that their behavior has had on themselves and other important people in their lives.
Most often, the families of those struggling with an addiction will organize and perform an alcohol or drug intervention. Still, any person with a genuine and loving relationship with the individual can and should participate whenever possible. In addition to family members, these persons may include significant others, friends, co-workers, religious leaders, etc.
It is highly recommended that those planning to stage an intervention use the services of a person trained to facilitate this process. A professional can provide participants with the information they need to conduct a safe, thorough intervention that has the most potential for success.
The Purpose of an Alcohol or Drug Intervention
The ultimate goal of an intervention is to help the person with an addiction to undergo professional treatment. Ideally, it often takes the form or an inpatient or partial-hospitalization program, but less severe problems may benefit just as much from an intensive outpatient program.
It’s important to remember that the intention of an intervention is not to “gang up” on the loved one who needs help, but instead to show him or her how destructive their addiction really is and to persuade them to get help. Once a person begins to comprehend how their substance abuse problem affects the lives of others, he or she may be moved to seek treatment. An intervention can be used as a final warning, in a way, that loved ones are now refusing to enable or support the person’s addiction and related troubling behaviors.
How Does an Intervention Work?
An alcohol or drug intervention should be performed in a safe, comfortable environment with the participation of anyone who has a personal stake in the situation. Adults and older children and adolescents may wish to participate, but very young children and toddlers, who can’t be active in conversation or who may become distressed, should not be there. Regardless of who is involved in the intervention, however, each person must receive sufficient training before attempting to participate.
In most instances, the person for whom the intervention is being staged has hurt friends and family members physically, emotionally, or financially. For this reason, best intentions are often not enough, and negative emotions such as anger and resentment are apt to surface and hijack the process if the people involved are not prepared to deal with them and relay them constructively. If an unhealthy conflict occurs, it will likely do more harm than good and could undermind the entire process altogether.
Moreover, an intervention is not an appropriate time to address the hurt and anger each person feels. Instead, it is an opportunity to reassure the person that he or she is loved and supported. Each participating member should compose, in advance, thoughts and feelings they wish to express to the addicted person to ensure that the intervention doesn’t get off track. They should also have their comments endorsed by other participants and the interventionist who is directing the process.
These thoughts can include any of the following:
- How the individual has been personally and negatively affected by the loved one’s addiction and behavior
- Changes the person has seen in the addicted individual’s personality, honesty, and self-control
- The overall impact that the addicted person’s actions have had on the relationship
- A prepared statement that exudes unconditional love for the addict, and stress that the person intervening is committed to no longer enabling the addict to destroy his or herself
The last step in staging an intervention is to ensure there is a bed available and waiting in a reputable, accredited rehab facility so the struggling addict or alcoholic can immediately enter treatment.
Signs an Intervention Is Necessary
The following are a few common warning signs to look for if you suspect that someone you love is grappling with a substance use disorder:
- Loss of interest in activities and hobbies once considered important or enjoyable
- Being late for or absenteeism at work or school, and unsatisfactory performance, academically or professionally
- Financial problems, such as repeatedly asking to borrow money, and incurring debt or not paying bills
- Altered sleep patterns, such as staying up for long periods or sleeping excessively
- Bloodshot eyes, bad breath, shakiness, and notable changes in weight
- Abnormal or erratic behaviors, impulsivity or uncharacteristic moodiness
- Having repeated conflicts with family members, friends, or co-workers
- Neglect of loved ones in favor of a new social group that approves of and promotes substance abuse
What If the Intervention Fails?
The most impactful moment that can occur during an intervention is when the person with the problem understands that his or her loved ones will no longer enable the addiction. Many people suffering from addiction profess their desire to get treatment but do so primarily to manipulate others into continuing to help sustain their substance abuse habit for as long as possible.
You will know an intervention is likely to be unsuccessful if the person at the center of it promises to seek help “soon” or agrees to go under the provision that he or she is provided with money or a place to stay “for a while.” In other words, an intervention has failed if the subject is using any form of manipulation to convince loved ones that he or she is motivated to get help, and ultimately declines to follow through.
It is essential that if the person refuses to enter a rehab program that the intervention participants remain committed to their promises and refuse to enable the person’s addictive behavior. Often, it takes more than one intervention attempt to convince an addict that time is of the essence. The important thing is to remain strong in the face of the person’s addiction and continue to reassure them they are loved and emotionally supported even though you are withholding other means of assistance.
Getting Treatment for Addiction
Staging an intervention is a time when loves ones of addicts and alcoholics can commit to the process of getting them into treatment. But remember, for the person suffering, intervention is just the first step to recovery. The bulk of their work still lies ahead through therapy, counseling, improved means of coping, relapse prevention strategies, and an enormous amount of steadfast faith and resolve.
Midwood Addiction Treatment offers programs in formats that include partial-hospitalization, intensive outpatient treatment, and outpatient detox. We use a comprehensive approach to addiction that makes use of evidence-based therapies beneficial for the recovery process, which are conducted by caring addiction specialists with compassion, understanding, and expertise.
If you or someone you love is suffering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol, contact us to discuss treatment options and find out how we can help!