When a loved one is in crisis, true and heartfelt communication on any subject is a difficult endeavor. Though honest and real discussion may be more important in this moment than any other, a family member may be least likely to receive advice and accept help when in the throes of addiction.
The fact is that one of the characteristics of addiction is the urge to maintain the status quo and continue the flow of drug and alcohol use at any cost. This can make any discussion that would invite change in the form of abstinence a nonstarter when attempted informally.
For this reason, a structured, formal discussion about addiction and the need for treatment, or an addiction intervention, has become the go-to tool for families who are ready to create positive change in their lives and help a loved one living with addiction to connect with treatment. Here is how it is done.
It is essential that you avoid jumping into an intervention and instead do everything possible to bolster your loved one’s chance of entering treatment. This starts with meeting with a few professional interventionists, over the phone or in person, and considering the option to hire one to assist you in the process.
A professional family mediator, or interventionist, is not necessary to stage an intervention, but someone with experience who is familiar with the process and knows how to handle unforeseen challenges that arise may be better equipped to facilitate the staging of an intervention and increase the chances that your loved one will agree to enter treatment.
Should you choose not to hire a professional family mediator, you will need to:
- Study and learn as much as possible about the process of staging an intervention and what you need to do as facilitator of the event, aiding participants in understanding their roles, and in helping your loved one get to treatment.
- Determine who will run the intervention if you will not.
- Find a drug rehab for your loved one and complete the enrollment process so that the first day falls on the day of the intervention.
- Choose who will take part in the intervention and who will best help in other ways.
- Pack a bag for your loved one to bring to rehab and secure travel arrangements, if necessary.
- Determine who will bring your loved one to the intervention.
- Avoid sharing the plans for the intervention with your loved one who is struggling with addiction until the event begins.
Take the time to plan and prepare not only yourself but also others who will take part, and hold a planning meeting prior to the intervention. Here you can:
- Emphasize that this is to be a positive event – no anger, blaming, or judgment of any kind – with the goal of connecting the person with treatment and nothing else.
- Help everyone to understand that addiction is a medical disorder, and for that reason, it is not a moral issue that can be blamed on the individual but an illness that requires intensive medical treatment.
- Let everyone know that they will have the opportunity to speak for about five minutes, sharing a personal story about how the person’s addiction has hurt them, asking for the individual to agree to get help, and making it clear what will change in terms of supporting the person in active addiction emotionally or financially.
- Give everyone time to write out what they will say and share it with the group, if they like.
- Offer the opportunity for participants to ask questions to better understand what to expect and how to handle different issues.
- Plan out the details, and prepare everyone for the fact that it may be necessary to wait until the person is sober before starting.
You will need to determine whether or not you are the right person to run the intervention, if you choose not to hire a professional interventionist. If you find that you are overwhelmed with fear or anger and will not be able to maintain an even tone throughout the intervention, it may be better to choose someone else to take charge. Though these feelings are absolutely normal, it is important that the entire focus is not on anything but helping the person to say “yes” to treatment right away.
Throughout the intervention, if you do choose to take charge, you will need to:
- Stay calm.
- Indicate who should speak first, and thank each person after they share.
- Continually redirect the topic of conversation to the fact that the person is living with an addiction and immediate treatment is necessary
- Do not allow for “negotiation.” Often, the person living with addiction will attempt to justify postponing treatment to attempt at-home detox or quitting on their own – or to handle this or that detail. It is important that they understand that they will have to leave immediately for treatment, as in the minute the intervention ends.
- Plan what it is that you will change in your life in terms of how you support your loved one if treatment is refused and state that clearly, without threatening.
After All Is Said and Done
The hope is that your loved one will hear the stories of everyone who attends, realize that all are genuinely concerned and hoping that healing will come through treatment, and agree to go to rehab right away. If not, you will need to follow through on the changes you indicated would occur. This can mean removing any support that allows your loved one to continue engaging in addictive drug and alcohol use with minimal consequences. Depending on the role you play in your loved one’s life, it could include:
- Filing for separation if you are married
- Moving out if you live together
- Withdrawing financial support
- Stopping any behavior that covers for your loved one when drug use causes them to behave in a way that could get them in trouble
Is your loved one living with an addiction? Is it time to start planning an intervention and help them to get into treatment today?