Interventions happen all the time. For some, it can be regarded as just plain interfering. For others, it’s critical help at exactly the right time, right when it’s needed the most.
It could be the United Nations’ peacekeeping forces intervening in some war-torn republic somewhere, or it could be a caring Mom intervening in the kids’ afternoon of bike-riding with their best two-wheeled buddies – with those ominous-sounding words… “You can only go if you wear your mask, and you best get your ass home in time for dinner.”
Friends and family often have no choice but to intervene in a loved one’s life when they realize that, these days, their loved one always seems a little high a little too often, or they’ve had a drink before breakfast again (if they do breakfast anymore, that is), or even that (and let’s be really blunt here) they’re actually starting to smell. And, no, not in a good way…
So, a question… What exactly is an addiction intervention?
Here’s your answer: An addiction intervention refers to a group of people, predominantly, family or friends, (but they can include, for example, addiction specialists to guide the process, or priests or other religious people known to the loved one) who are at the point where they need to take proactive steps to persuade a loved one to enter into structured treatment for their substance addiction (medically described as substance use disorder or SUD, for short).
If you’re thinking, “Well, that’s a bit over-the-top, isn’t it?,” often it’s the case that this is exactly what it takes with someone suffering from SUD, be it drugs or alcohol – a calm, friendly, yet utterly determined discussion that leads to a specific objective being achieved – professional addiction treatment.
An analogy for you: A drug addict or alcoholic in desperate need of treatment is a lot like a guy standing right on the top of a burning skyscraper. A rescue helicopter finally arrives, hovers above the guy, and then drops a rope ladder down. “Climb up!,” the man leaning out of the helicopter shouts. However, the guy on top of the burning skyscraper… well, he just sits back down on the roof, and replies, “Can you give me a couple of weeks to think about it?”
Addiction is medically described by clinicians as “a chronic, relapsing brain disorder characterized by compulsive drug-seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain. It is considered both a complex brain disorder and a mental illness.” In other words, because addiction changes the way the brain functions, substance addicts rarely seek professional treatment on their own.
Interventions are effective – according to the National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence, over 90% of people who are the subject of an addiction intervention go on to receive the treatment they need. With a high success rate like that, you can easily see the appeal.
Here are your “4 Vital Steps to Staging a Loved One’s Successful Intervention”:
1. Support, Respect & Compassion
A successful addiction intervention consists of the subject (the loved one) attending a meeting, arranged by their loved ones – family friends, and others. It is essential that those convening the meeting demonstrate 100% support, respect and compassion. Without it, you are not going to achieve what you want for the individual concerned.
Remember, those at the meeting are not there for their own needs, but for the desperate need of the addicted subject. Therefore, the primary objective of the meeting should always be to firmly convey that the subject needs professional addiction treatment – there is no other way for them to get well.
If you’re concerned about the cost of treatment, understand that you may be covered for the treatment by your family health insurance plan, you may have to pay part or all, and you may even manage to get your loved one addiction recovery for free. However, at this point in time, that’s not the issue – forget cost, as any discussion about it is for a later day.
2. Prepare (and then Prepare again)
Prior to staging the addiction intervention, it is important that you take the time to prepare and ready yourself, your friends and the family for this meeting. The more you “rehearse” the meeting, the better it will go. Always keep in mind the following steps to your preparation:
- Only include individuals with whom your loved one has a close relationship
- Ask all attending to consider and reflect on what they want to share with their loved one – how their addiction is affecting them, others around them, the family itself, and so on
- This is not the place for criticism – remember, 100% support, respect and compassion
- The meeting will be intense and emotional. Prepare to be met with possible anger, frustration or resistance. Do not lose sight of your objective – the subject’s agreement to treatment
3. Keep to Your Plan
You may choose to have a plan or an “intervention script” for the meeting. Stick to it. Do not deviate from your primary aim – the treatment! There are actually a number of “addiction intervention models” (such as the Johnson Model of Intervention) that are recommended by addiction professionals. Feel free to research these online and find the one that will suit the subject’s situation the best.
However, no matter which method you choose, it is important to understand that this step can be a critical component of recovery. The primary reason interventions fail is simple: sadly, the people who called the meeting do not follow up afterwards… Therefore, you must have the courage to proceed with the intervention knowing that it may not work, and you may have to face consequences, eg. the addict cutting off communication with you afterwards, if that happens.
And that brings us to this:
4. Never Give Up
To be short and to the point, just read the subtitle above again. Yes, that’s it. Never. Give. Up.
So, don’t be frustrated if you don’t see immediate results with your own addiction intervention. Families and friends need to remember that addiction treatment works, and those people who need that treatment can be persuaded by their loved ones to make the changes they need to make. We wish you well.