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Because of the emotionally charged nature of addictions and interventions, friends and family are often concerned about whether or not their efforts will “work.” It is important to understand the ins and outs of the reasons, impacts, and choices that are available when considering an intervention for someone who suffers from addiction to drugs or alcohol.
If your loved one is suffering from dependence on a substance in ways that are disruptive to their (and other people’s) day-to-day life, then it is time to take action. We can provide you with information that helps you to create a plan of action that will communicate love and strength to the person in your life who is suffering.
Interventions Usually Share Several Characteristics:
- A group of family members and friends convene to talk with the addict about his or her problem.
- The meeting is usually a surprise to the addict, and this is often what evokes an emotion-laden response.
Those present share the following:
- How have they been personally affected by the person’s addiction?
- Why do they strongly believe the addict should immediately get treatment?
- What are the consequences if treatment is not pursued?
Top 10 Tips When Planning An Intervention
If it is time to plan an intervention, here are ten important things to keep in mind:
Give Up The “Rock Bottom” Myth
There is a belief floating around that a person has to hit “rock bottom” before an intervention or treatment plan becomes effective. The truth is that many addicts are enabled so consistently by their family members and friends that “rock bottom” never actually comes.
Instead, the person continues to use, knowing that people will be there to fix their mistakes, make excuses for the commitments they fail to keep and find ways to pick up the slack when the addict engages in irresponsible behavior.
Over time, the trust and patience of family and friends deteriorate, as well as the health of the user. If you wait for a crisis, it may be too late. The sooner you get help, the better.
Be Mindful Of When The Intervention Is Planned
If possible, plan the intervention during a time when the addict is less likely to be high, drunk, or stressed.
Drugs and alcohol impair the brain in ways that affect emotions and memory, so speaking to a person when they are more likely to regulate their responses (and remember what takes place) is a wise decision.
Pay attention to their behavioral patterns, as they can often be predictable. Try to remove yourself and your own emotions from the observation, taking note of the visible triggers that tend to lead to using.
Have A Professional Present
The psychological and social dynamics of addiction can be very complex. For this reason, an intervention specialist or mental health professional should be present. Not only will they offer a neutral perspective that will support everyone through the process, but their expertise will supplement the comments that the addict may perceive as biased.
The professional can facilitate the discussion, especially in the event that something unpredictable takes place. While events may be alarming to those present, the professional should have the ability to remain calm and offer insight about the next course of action.
Select The Right Intervention Model
Crisis Intervention: As its name implies, the crisis intervention is scheduled in response to a crisis that emerges in the life of the addict.
This is a form of direct intervention that takes place when a mental breakdown, suicidal threat/attempt, or some other crisis takes place.
Because crises are not planned, these types of interventions must be pulled together on short notice, so it is important to get the help of a professional and to gather a group of supportive family and friends who are able to show their support and concern.
Confrontational Method of Intervention: This intervention method is planned by an interventionist based on research-supported assertions that directness and a strong confrontational style can have a measurable impact on the rate of success for those working toward addiction recovery.
While this style was known for its negative emphasis on the behaviors of the addict and the punishments that would take place. As a result, this began to change around the late 1990s when therapists began to realize that addicts needed to be handled with more care.
Johnson Model of Intervention: This confrontation style is unique in that there is a heavy focus on educating the addict’s caregiver(s) in order to increase the likelihood of success in recovery.
Several meetings are held by the caregiver and other members of the patient’s network in order to carefully plan how the actual intervention will take place. Patients who have educated caregivers are more likely to enjoy better long-term outcomes than those who do not.
Be Prepared For The Addict’s Treatment
Ideally, the person who is the focus of the intervention will accept the offers for treatment and begin very shortly thereafter. Do your research ahead of time, and be ready to communicate options.
If there are children that need to be cared for, have a plan in place for them already. Know the location, length, and method of treatment so that your loved one will know that a great deal of thought has been put into their health and well-being. Have their bag packed so that if they agree to treatment, the intervention specialist can escort them there right away.
Be Prepared For The Addict’s Refusal
No one can fully predict a person’s response, so it is important to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Each person, after articulating the consequences that will take place if the addict refuses treatment, should be ready to act on their threats. If not, the group will have failed to hold their loved one accountable, which is one of the most damaging enabling patterns that friends and family practice.
Making threats and not following through is a classic example of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” Words lose their power. And each unmet threat makes it more and more difficult for those affected by the addict’s behaviors to make an actual change themselves.
Address The Behavior, Not The Person
Addicts often experience a great deal of shame around their disease, which can serve as an additional trigger to use more.
Focusing on their behavior will empower them to believe that there is hope for recovery.
In contrast, attacking the person may result in them feeling like you are asking that they change the fundamentals of who they are – a tall order for even the strongest among us. So, instead of saying something like, “You’re a monster! You’ve got to get this under control!” One might say, “When you’re high, you sleep a lot, you’re constantly shaking, you don’t show up at work, and your speech is slurred.”
Write What You Will Say Ahead Of Time
The intervention itself will probably be overwhelming. Listening to long-winded, unplanned rants from well-meaning relatives will be even more overwhelming for the person you wish to support.
Keep your comments concise and specific by thinking through them in advance and writing them down so that you do not forget what to say in the heat of the moment.
When Talking, Be Specific To Them
Those who suffer from addiction often fail to see the extent to which their behaviors harm those around them. Because of this, it is imperative that the people involved in the intervention process speak as specifically as possible about the actions taken by their loved ones, as well as the emotional and physical toll it has taken on them.
For example, instead of saying, “When you drink, it scares us,” one might say the following:
“Last week, when I got home from work, I knew that you had been drinking. I didn’t know what to say to you because I feared that you would start yelling at me. When you got up and left the house, I was terrified that you would hurt yourself or someone else. I cried for hours, hoping that you were okay. I’m always terrified that something awful will happen when you drink like that. If you don’t get help, I’m moving out. I love you, but I can’t keep living like this.”
Don’t Underestimate The Power Of Strong Social Support
In addition to shame, addicts experience feelings of isolation and the sense that people around them are constantly condemning them for their sickness.
A research study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), a sector of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), published the following:
- “Among substance users, lower levels of social support prospectively predict relapse…”
- “Empirical evidence has linked social support to increased health, happiness and longevity…”
- “In the addiction field, recovery-oriented support may foster greater self-efficacy toward ongoing abstinence…”
The study goes on to say that social support from those who are in favor of the addict’s recovery becomes even more important as they get sober because of the strong potential for lost friendships amongst other users.
Giving up a substance often means giving up some of the relationships that were built around the substance, so social support becomes incredibly vital for those seeking abstinence.
Help Is Here When Your Ready
Interventions can be powerful tools for ushering someone from the lonely, dismal space of addiction into a more spacious and hopeful chapter of life.
At Family First Intervention, we support the family unit, as it is one that is deeply affected by addiction and strongly positioned to help loved ones out of it.
Call us now with any questions. We have a team of experts who understand the complexities of addiction and the need for personalized treatment.