One of the most challenging aspects of drug or alcohol addiction is that the addicted person is often unable to understand that they have a problem. Although there are some substances that can create dependence after a single use, most addictions develop over time. The early signs are easy to miss because they can be attributed to other things. Stress, for example, has many symptoms in common with addiction: changes in eating or sleeping patterns, social withdrawal, declining performance at work or school, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, and many more.
And so, when you express concern to someone about these symptoms, they can convincingly tell you that they’re stressed. In many cases, they’re not setting out to lie – they really do feel stressed. Stress and addiction often exist in the same space.
By the time the addiction is apparent to close friends and family members, the addicted person could already be in urgent need of help, and they could still be in complete denial of the problem. Most people would agree that it’s difficult to help someone who doesn’t think there’s a problem.
In these circumstances, some families choose an intervention. This is a meeting of sorts, where friends and family members gather together to tell their loved ones how the addiction is impacting them. The goal is to help the addicted person get to the point of acknowledging the problem and then accept help.
What Is an Intervention?
An intervention is a process whereby a carefully selected group of friends and family members prepare statements to read to the addicted person. These statements contain the following:
- Examples of how the addicted person’s behaviour has impacted them
- A request for the addicted person to accept the help that is being offered
- What the consequences will be if the addicted person refuses treatment
Interventions are generally associated with facilitators, and many interventions are conducted by a neutral party, such as a doctor, addiction specialist, or professional interventionist. However, with careful planning, interventions can be run by the loved ones who are present.
In most cases, it is advisable for families to use a trained intervention specialist. There are several benefits to this, including the following:
- The family gets help with the planning process and guidance on how to write their statements
- The presence of a neutral party means the addicted person is more likely to stay, if only for the sake of decorum
- The intervention specialist is trained in managing conflicts that may arise during the meeting
- Everyone – the addicted person and the loved ones – may feel safer in the presence of an intervention specialist, and therefore more apt to say what they want to say
- During the information gathering phase, the interventionist can advise the family on treatment options that are likely to be a good fit
- Most professional interventionists are able to transport the addicted person to the treatment facility if the offer of help is accepted
Steps to A Successful Intervention
Like many things in life, interventions can be done in several ways. The first thing you have to decide is whether or not to use the services of an intervention specialist. If you do, it is best to get that person on board as early in the process as possible so they can guide you through the remaining steps.
Step 1: Planning
If you feel that your addicted loved one could benefit from an intervention, your first step is to assemble a planning group. This could include an addiction specialist, a social worker, or a trusted leader of your faith. It is at this stage of the process that you would enlist the services of an interventionist.
It may be tempting to skip this step, especially if you are doing the intervention yourself, but it is important to go through this planning step. Once you have your planning group in place, you can assign a task to each person so that no one gets overwhelmed and nothing gets overlooked.
Step 2: Information Gathering
Now that you have your planning team in place, you can start the process of finding out whatever you can about the addiction and available treatments. You will want to know the extent of your loved one’s substance use problem and how addiction to the particular substance typically unfolds. You will need to research available treatment options and find out what funds are available to pay for them. Once you have a shortlist of facilities, you will have to reach out to them to ask about waitlists, admission procedures, and so on. Essentially, you need to know everything about the treatment plans you are offering before the intervention happens. There will be no time to do this kind of discovery after the intervention.
At the same time, there is logistical planning that has to be done. Someone in the planning group should be given the task of coordinating schedules to ensure that everyone – including the addicted person – will be available. A venue may need to be booked, and transportation may need to be arranged.
Step 3: Assemble The Intervention Team
Now it is time for the planning group to reach out to people who they think should be invited to participate in the actual intervention. There is no right or wrong number of people – this will be driven largely by what you think is best for the person with the addiction. If there are too few people, the message may not be taken seriously. If there are too many people, the addicted person could feel overwhelmed and ganged up on.
Step 4: Prepare The Statements
Each member of the intervention team will now write a speech. This will include examples of how they have been affected by the addiction, a request for the addicted person to accept help, and what will happen if they don’t. It is important that these consequences be something that the intervention team member is willing to follow through on. This may involve some additional planning – for example, if your consequence is to end a relationship with the person, you may have to make alternative living arrangements.
Step 5: Have The Intervention Meeting
Gather the intervention team at the chosen venue at the scheduled time. Once everyone is there, bring in the addicted person without telling them why they are there. The intervention team members then read their prepared statements in a predetermined order, without deviating from their script. Whoever is facilitating the meeting, be it an intervention professional or a family friend, should be prepared to mediate any heated moments that may crop up.
Step 6: Follow Up
You will need two follow-through plans: one that will be set into motion if your loved one accepts help, and one if they do not. In an ideal world, your loved one will accept help and be taken to a treatment centre. You may be involved in that process through family counselling, and you may want to seek support for yourself. If your loved one does not accept help, you will need to immediately act on the consequences you laid out during the intervention.
The Intervention Rehab Approach
At Intervention Rehab, we understand that as the loved one of someone with an addiction, you may be experiencing your own traumas and challenges. We are here to support you and your loved one through this difficult time by guiding you through an intervention that will lead your loved one to a place they can get the help they need. Contact us today for more information.