It was once believed by many that the best way to help someone with a drug or alcohol problem was to wait until he or she hit “rock bottom.” However, this notion has been widely disregarded by the medical community which has concluded in recent years that addiction should be treated as a chronic disease and not a merely a moral shortcoming or series of unfavorable life choices.
For this reason, more compassion has been given toward those who suffer from addiction, and loved ones realize they need immediate help versus further punishment by letting them wait until the situation becomes absolutely dire. An intervention is a process in which loved ones, counselors, and intervention specialists can reveal to a person struggling with addiction the negative effects of the disease on his or her life, as well as the lives of those who love them.
Typically, the families of those suffering organize and perform interventions, but anyone with a sincere and loving relationship with the person can and should participate if possible. In addition to family members, these people may include significant others, friends and colleagues/co-workers, as well as religious leaders.
It is also strongly recommended to use the services of a person trained to stage drug and alcohol interventions. That professional can provide the family and other participants with the information they need to perform a safe, thorough intervention that has the most potential to be successful.
The Purpose of an Intervention
The immediate goal of an intervention is to help the person suffering from addiction to enter a rehab program. Ideally, this is often an inpatient facility but may also be a partial-hospitalization or intensive outpatient program.
The intention of this process is not to “gang up” on the person who needs help, but instead to show him or her how devastating their addiction truly is. Once the person understands how this problem impacts the lives of others, he or she may be motivated to seek treatment. An intervention can serve as a final warning, of sorts, that loved ones are now refusing to enable or support his or her addiction and related behaviors.
How Does an Intervention Work?
The intervention should be conducted in a safe environment with the participation of family members, friends, and others who have a personal stake in the outcome. Adults and older children and teens may wish to participate, but very young children who can’t actively engage in the conversation or who may become distressed should be absent. Regardless of who is involved, it is vital that each person receive sufficient training before attempting to participate in the intervention.
In most cases, the person for whom the intervention is staged has wronged friends and family members physically, emotionally, or financially. And because of this, best intentions may not be enough, and it can be easy for negative emotions such as anger and resentment to surface and hijack the intervention process. If this occurs, it will result in more harm than good and could thwart the process altogether.
Moreover, an intervention is not a suitable time to address the hurt and anger each individual feels. Instead, an intervention is an opportunity to reassure the person that he or she is loved. To ensure that the intervention doesn’t get off track, each member of the group should compose, in advance, thoughts they wish to express to the addicted person. They should also have their comments approved by other group members and the counselor/interventionist who is facilitating the process.
These thoughts may include any or all of the following:
- How the person has been personally and adversely affected by the individual’s addiction and behavior
- Changes the person has noticed in the addicted individual’s personality, integrity, and self-control
- The overall effect that the addicted person’s behavior has had on the relationship
- A statement of unconditional love for the addict and a commitment by the person intervening that he/she can no longer enable the addict to destroy him/herself
The last step in planning an intervention is to ensure there is room available and waiting in a reliable, trustworthy rehab facility so the addicted person can immediately enter treatment.
Signs an Intervention Is Needed
The following are a few common signs to look for if you believe someone you know is struggling with addiction:
- Lack of interest in activities and hobbies formerly considered important or enjoyable
- Being late for or missing work or school, poor performance academically or professionally
- Financial issues, like asking to borrow money or uncharacteristically racking up debt or not paying bills
- Sleep problems, such as insomnia or sleeping excessively
- Bloodshot eyes, bad breath, trembling/shaking, and noticeable weight loss or weight gain
- Abnormal behaviors, impulsivity or mood swings
- Having conflicts with family members or co-workers
- Neglect of friends in family in favor of a new social group that condones or promotes substance abuse
What If the Intervention Fails?
The most impactful moment of an intervention is typically the addicted person’s realization that loved ones will no longer enable his or her addiction. Many people suffering from addiction claim to want to get treatment but do so primarily as an attempt to manipulate others into continuing to help maintain their substance abuse habit, at least temporarily.
You will know an intervention has probably been unsuccessful if the subject promises to get help “soon” or agrees to enter rehab if he or she is given money or a place to stay “for a while.” In other words, using any type of manipulation to convince friends and family of his or her desire to seek help but then failing to follow through.
Ultimately, if he or she refuses to enter a rehab program, it is essential that those who participated in the intervention remain true to their promises and no longer enable the person’s addiction and behavior. It often takes more than one attempt at an intervention for it to stick. The important thing is to stay strong in the face of the person’s addiction and continue to assure them they are loved even though you are withholding means of support unless they agree to treatment.
Getting Treatment for Addiction
Staging an intervention is a time when families and friends can commit themselves to the process of getting their loved one into treatment. But remember, for the addicted person, intervention is only the first step to recovery. The majority of their work still lies ahead through therapy, counseling, skill-building, relapse prevention strategies, and a tremendous amount of unyielding resolve.
The goal of staging an intervention is to urge the addicted person to admit there is a problem and to receive help. Once this occurs, it is critical to get that person into rehab immediately and make arrangements beforehand to ensure the person is safely transferred into treatment without an interval in which they can change their mind.
Midwood Addiction Treatment offers treatment formats including partial-hospitalization, intensive outpatient treatment, and outpatient detox. We employ an integrated approach to addiction that includes evidence-based therapies vital to the recovery process, facilitated by compassionate addiction specialists with care and expertise.
If you or someone you love is addicted to drugs or alcohol, contact us as soon as possible to discuss treatment options!