An intervention is when friends and family come together to confront a loved one who is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction. Those assembled talk to the individual about how the drug or alcohol abuse is affecting them and ask the substance abuser to seek treatment.
According to Dr. Jeffrey Baxter, chief medical officer at Spectrum Health Systems, “If their safety or your own is at risk, it’s definitely time to act.” If your loved one is spending significant portions of their income on drugs or alcohol, or is driving under the influence, you may want to stage an intervention before the downward spiral continues.
To ensure that you stage a healthy and successful intervention, follow the tips below.
Make a Plan
A hasty, last minute intervention is unlikely to be successful. Instead, it’s important to thoroughly plan in advance.
If you have the means, you can contact an expert, like an interventionist or addiction counselor, to help you plan and mediate the intervention. If your family is religious, you may also ask your pastor or minister to help mediate.
Do research into your loved one’s condition to avoid being misinformed during the intervention. Talk to your doctor or visit reputable sources like the Mayo Clinic.
Decide who should be part of the intervention, and contact each individual. Generally, an intimate group is more effective. Together, set a date, time, and location for the intervention. Work together to rehearse a consistent and structured message.
Make sure that each person on the intervention team plans (or better yet, writes down) what they plan to say. Be prepared to mention specific examples of how the individual’s drug or alcohol abuse is negatively impacting you.
Make Arrangements with a Rehab Center
Another aspect of planning in advance is making arrangements with a rehab center. If the subject of your intervention does agree to seek help, you should already have a bed lined up in a rehab center. Don’t give him weeks, days, or even hours to change his mind.
You also don’t want the individual to attempt to “cure” themselves, as many addicts and alcoholics suffer severe withdrawal symptoms when they suddenly stop using.
Bring Up Consequences
Plan to lay down some consequences during the intervention. Make it clear that everyone on the intervention team cares for the substance abuser deeply, but that there will be consequences if he doesn’t agree to seek treatment.
Consequences could include a wife telling her husband she will leave if he doesn’t stop using, or that she will lock the door at a certain time each night if he’s out abusing drugs or alcohol. Each person on the intervention team should be prepared to say how their behavior toward the substance abuser will change if he refuses treatment.
Be prepared to immediately put these consequences into effect if the substance abuser refuses to seek treatment. If you don’t do so, you lose credibility and won’t be taken seriously.
Don’t Attack the Substance Abuser
During the intervention, it’s very likely that the substance abuser will get defensive. You need to avoid berating or insulting him.
Try to calmly and directly explain how the addiction has impacted you, using “I” statements instead of “you” statements.
You want the atmosphere to remain positive and focused on helping the subject of the intervention, not attacking him.
On the day of the scheduled intervention, the intervention team will gather at the predetermined location. Without revealing the reason, you’ll ask the substance abuser to meet you there.
Once he arrives, you’ll take turns explaining how his addiction has affected you or made you feel. You will present the substance abuser with a treatment plan, and each member of the intervention team will state what changes they will make if the substance abuser refuses treatment.
If he agrees, you should already have a bed lined up in a rehab center, and he should be taken there immediately. If he refuses, each member of the team must immediately put their stated consequences in place.
A healthy and successful intervention won’t solve the problem overnight, but it is a very significant first step toward recovery for your loved one.