Addicts and alcoholics frequently believe that they are not hurting anyone but themselves. This is far from the truth. While addicts and alcoholics are abusing substances to avoid feeling their feelings, family members and close friends are experiencing a world of hurt and pain. Every day they watch their loved one slip further and further away from them and deteriorate before their eyes.
Families live with unacceptable behavior such as having money or possessions stolen to support a drug habit, or they may live continually on edge, dealing with unpredictable mood swings and waiting for the next outburst.
For many families, a breaking point is reached in which they feel the addict’s life is at risk or the family members can no longer continue to live with the constant stress and disruption caused by addiction. They may decide to conduct an intervention.
What Is an Intervention?
An intervention is a gathering of concerned family and friends for the purpose of confronting the addict about the consequences of addiction and asking him or her to get help. It is carefully planned and directed by an intervention specialist or addiction professional. It is done in a non-threatening way.
Loved ones prepare what they are going to say ahead of time, and at the time of the intervention they provide specific examples of how the addictive behavior has affected them. They offer a specific treatment plan and clearly state what actions they will take if the addict or alcoholic refuses to get help.
An intervention isn’t done impulsively. It has to be carefully planned. The intervention itself is likely to be very emotional for all participants, and family members have to be prepared to respond to volatile reactions. The addict is likely to feel a sense of betrayal or anger.
An intervention typically gets started when one family member reaches a breaking point and asks for help from an addiction professional or counselor. Family members who will participate research treatment options and may initiate a plan to enroll their loved one. Participants set a date and location for the intervention.
The Importance of Secrecy
One of the most important keys to a successful intervention is secrecy. The addict should know nothing about the planned intervention until the actual event, and on that day he will think he is going to a different type of event.
The reason surprise is such an important factor is that the addict shouldn’t have time to prepare a rebuttal or a way to escape from participating.
Successful interventions require thorough preparation. Family members or friends should carefully gather information on specific incidents that have caused them emotional or financial harm.
The preparation should also include consequences that will be enforced if the addict or alcoholic refuses to get help. For example, if you have been providing financial support or giving them a free place to live, you may let them know you won’t continue to do this if they are unwilling to commit to recovery. You must be prepared to follow through on any consequences you state at the intervention.
Participants should get together and discuss what they are going to say and come to a unified decision on which treatment options will be offered. It may be as simple as requiring them to attend 12-step meetings, or it may involve going into a treatment facility. It should also be decided who will sit where, who will speak first, etc. There should be a rehearsal intervention where you can anticipate what your loved one might say and what you will say in return.
Deciding to Recover
Although a large number of interventions are successful, some are not. Going through an intervention will be very emotional, and family members should be ready to take steps to recover themselves by getting involved in Al-Anon or other support groups for people who are affected by addiction.
Whether or not the addict or alcoholic agrees to get help, it’s important for people who love addicts or alcoholics to learn how to set boundaries and remain firm about not enabling the alcoholic or addict. The healthier the behavior of everyone in the family, the more likely the addict or alcoholic will eventually recover.