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If a loved one is struggling with alcohol or drug abuse, you want to do everything you can to help them. But because the nature of addiction is so powerful, you may feel helpless and confused about how to proceed.
Many families have found that an intervention can be effective in reaching the alcoholic or addict, and convincing them to get treatment. Although there are no guarantees, and the process can be extremely emotional for everyone involved, interventions can provide hope to the whole family for a way out.
If you are considering seeking help for someone in your family with a drug or alcohol problem, you should research how to stage an intervention. Here are ten steps to take.
An intervention is when a group of family members confronts someone about their drug or alcohol problem, explaining how their behavior is affecting them, and laying out a plan for treatment. Participants are encouraged to give concrete examples of consequences if the person does not pursue treatment, such as “you will have to move out” or “you can’t see your nephew anymore.”
Interventions can be emotional and volatile. If family members get too angry or upset or use judgmental language, they can drive the addict further away.
Any family wishing to stage an intervention should seek guidance from a drug counselor or someone with experience in this area. Usually the intervention expert will be present during the event to guide the participants in a productive manner.
The group present for the intervention should be big enough to demonstrate how many people are affected by the addict’s behavior. However, the group should not be so big as to make it entirely overwhelming or chaotic.
You know your family dynamics better than anyone. Consider the personalities involved when you select the best people to be present.
Choose people about whom the addict or alcoholic cares deeply and will listen to. Invite people who will take the exercise seriously and can cope with the difficult family emotions which may surface.
During the intervention, each member of the group will read aloud what is called an ‘impact statement.” This describes how the addict’s behavior has affected them.
For example, a mother may describe how her son’s alcoholism caused him to crash the family car she needed for work and made her lose her job. A child may describe how frightened they are every night when their addicted parent comes home.
These statements should not be delivered with incriminating or angry language. They should be written with an emphasis on how much the family loves the addict and wants them to get the help they need.
Everyone involved in the intervention — except the addicted individual — should practice the session before the real thing. Rehearsing with a professional will help everyone know what to expect.
The professional interventionist may point out more effective ways to get your point across. He or she may also point out messages which could have an especially strong effect on the target. By knowing what to expect, you will all be better equipped to stay calm and keep the primary objective of recovery first in your mind.
Many addicts and alcoholics will react angrily when faced with an intervention. They may feel ganged up on and try to leave.
Addiction is a disease of denial, so it is likely they will not immediately admit you are all right and they need help.
They may counter by hurling accusations at you. They may have a litany of excuses for their behavior. They may make promises that they can handle it themselves.
A professional intervention leader can help you stay on message and on track when faced with the many deflections you may receive from an addict.
If the target of the intervention walks in and they are high or drunk, it is recommended that you postpone the event. The ideal outcome for an intervention is for the addict to agree to go to a treatment facility; if they are drunk or high they will not be admitted.
Adding drugs or booze to an already volatile situation can also be dangerous and could lead the addict to become violent.
You also want them to be clear-minded enough to understand what everyone is saying and to agree to treatment.
As explained above, when an addict is confronted with an intervention, they may lash out. They may argue, insult, and lie to the participants.
It’s important that everyone involved in the intervention stay calm. Even when the alcoholic says cruel things, the family members should not react. The focus needs to be on helping the person and reassuring them that you love them no matter what.
In the best-case scenario, an intervention will result in the addict agreeing to go for treatment at a rehab center. Therefore, you should make preparations for their intake before the intervention, so you can take them there right away. Many addicts and alcoholics may change their mind if given too much time to reconsider.
Have these conversations with your insurance company and rehabilitation facilities beforehand so that all of those matters are taken care of before the intervention occurs.
Sadly, not all interventions are immediately successful. Sometimes the target will refuse treatment, in which case it is up to the family to carry through on the consequences they warned of.
Even if the person agrees to go to treatment, everyone involved should understand this is only the beginning of getting well. Because addiction is a family disease, everyone in the family will need to work on their behavior in order to recover from this pernicious disease.
Do not be discouraged if your first attempt at intervention is not successful right away. You and your loved one are beginning a long process of recovery.
Even if your loved one uses again, know that you have given him or her a true demonstration of how much you love them and how you are wiling to help. It will be up to them to take your hand and accept that help.
If you want to know how to stage an intervention in order to help a family member, don’t do it alone. You want a professional involved to make sure everyone remains safe and that everyone is treated with respect and grace.
By joining together as a family to help your loved one, you can all find relief from the power of addiction.
For more information on addiction and recovery, check out our blog.
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