Drug and alcohol addicts rarely make the choice to get clean on their own. They usually need support and guidance from their loved ones, which is why it’s important for families to come together and stage an intervention. Holding an intervention may not be easy, but it can be an extremely rewarding experience that moves you closer to your loved one.
Photo Credit: Geo Okretic
Interventions require proper planning with a professional interventionist, mediator, counselor or addiction specialist. The first step to a successful intervention is to create a script that you and others in your intervention will follow. The purpose of having a script is to reduce stress, maintain direction and keep the conversation flowing a bit more easily.
Below are six important things that should be included in your script.
1. Begin With an Affectionate Introduction
You need your loved one to be open right now. If you start the intervention with negativity, it can cause the addict to shut down completely. Even though your intentions for holding an intervention are good, your loved one is going to be caught off guard.
Emotions will be running high on both ends as well. Your loved one might feel threatened, and you likely have a lot of angry feelings. Living with an addict isn’t easy, and there are probably things your loved one has said and done that hurt you. However, now is not the time to release them.
Some of the best ways to start the intervention are by saying things like, “You are one of the most special people in my life.” Or, “I’ve always believed in you.” Show your loved one that you are concerned about their welfare and truly love and respect them.
2. Describe Specific Behaviors That Have Taken Place
It’s possible that your loved one might be in a place of denial, even when confronted by a room full of concerned family. In fact, denial is one of the main reasons why people delay getting treatment.
With this in mind, you must realize that generalizations are not enough to be convincing. Be prepared to describe specific instances that you have experienced firsthand. The reason for doing this is to present the addict with evidence that can’t be disputed. This might be enough to make your loved one see that they do have a problem that needs to be addressed.
Another reason for describing specific behaviors is that it encourages your loved one to think more critically about their actions. Addiction makes people selfish because all they can care about is getting their next high. If your loved one sees that their choices are hurting others they care about, they can be persuaded to take a new perspective.
Here are some incidents that you may want to bring up in the intervention:
- Times where your loved one drove under the influence.
- Problems with the law.
- Missing out on important family functions.
- Not helping out at home.
- Losing a job or dropping out of school.
It’s a good idea to be detailed about what occurred. Write down the dates of the incidents as well as the way it made you feel. Be careful not to blame, though. Talk about how you felt in the situation and use “I” statements.
For example, “When I got your text that you weren’t going to make it to another one of Johnny’s baseball games, it made me feel sad. Sad for myself because I often feel like a single mother, and sad for Johnny because he didn’t have his dad rooting for him in the stands.”
3. Point Out the Physical Changes That Can Happen
Some addicts are motivated to change based on the emotional damage they’ve caused others, but some need more than that. It might be that your loved one will be more affected by the physical changes that can occur with regular drug or alcohol abuse.
If you choose to bring up the physical complications of addiction, there are plenty of studies to back this up. Work with your interventionist to create a list of the specific consequences that can occur with your loved one’s abuse.
If your husband is abusing alcohol, for instance, some of the long term health effects include liver damage, pancreatitis and cancer. If he is using heroin, the effects will be different and include collapsed veins and infections in the blood vessels and valves.
4. Present the Addict With Their Treatment Options
Once everyone has had their turn to speak, it’s time to present your loved one with their options for treatment. In a successful intervention, your loved one will be taken to a treatment center right away and begin the recovery process. There is no time to pack bags, think the decision through or use one last time.
To be effective with this part of the intervention, you need to have a couple of things in place. First is the treatment center. Prior to staging the intervention, you should have looked into various treatment options for your loved one and spoken with the admissions department.
A treatment facility like The River Source wants to make sure that we can help your loved one and that our program is the right fit. We also want to ensure that a bed is available, and we can generally make these accommodations at the last minute. Our treatment center even provides transportation from the airport if needed.
Not only should you have a rehabilitation center picked out, but also have a general idea of what the recovery process will look like. This will ease some fears in your loved one and show them that you’ve done your homework. This way, they can’t argue with you. (Though they may still try!)
Some of the things to learn about the treatment center include:
- Where it’s located.
- What the treatment rooms look like.
- The types of therapies that are offered.
- The philosophy that is followed.
- How long treatment will last.
- The average success rates.
5. Show Unconditional Love and Support
You want to come to the intervention prepared with the necessary facts and statistics, but nothing is quite as persuasive as simply showing your unconditional love. Let the addict know that you remember the person they were and are confident that they can fully recover.
Photo Credit: Jack Moreh
Be careful not to place blame or guilt on anyone – the addict, yourself or someone else in the family. Rather, stick to affection, love and admiration for the person. Be strong about supporting their recovery and not their addiction.
Now is also a good time to explain how you plan to be there for your loved one. Will you be attending family counseling sessions? Participating in family education courses? Attending Al-Anon meetings? When your loved one returns home, how will you help them move forward in their recovery?
6. Establish Boundaries and Consequences
One last thing you should be prepared to do is establish boundaries. If your loved one refuses help, there needs to be consequences that follow. They can’t simply say no to treatment and return to doing what they always do. Addiction may not have been their choice, but refusing treatment is.
It might sound harsh to cut your loved one off from contact with the kids or money to pay their rent, but continuing to give them what they want while they abuse drugs and alcohol is enablement. Speak with your interventionist to identify behaviors that you will no longer accept in the home. If the rules are broken, have firm consequences in place that you plan on following through with.
The purpose for doing this is to show your loved one that their addiction is affecting their life in a negative way. Your hope is that your loved one will accept help at a later date. Different things work for different people, but here are a few suggestions from other families.
- Deny time with children in the family.
- Refuse to cover drug expenses.
- Ask the addict to leave the home.
- Refuse to call the addict into work.
- Refuse to bail the addict out of jail.
- Refuse to pay legal fees/fines that the addict incurs.
It’s risky to give ultimatums, so be prepared to follow through with them. Choose things that you know you can stick to. If your loved one does choose treatment, these boundaries still remain important. You will need to be strong and resilient as your loved one returns home.
Many recovery success stories start with an intervention. These small, intimate gatherings can be highly effective at persuading an addict to get the help they need, but it’s important that they are planned for correctly. Start by reaching out to a professional who will guide the process for you. By the time the intervention takes place, you will be more prepared to deliver a message that comes from a place of concern, love and commitment. And hopefully, your loved one will be ready to receive it.