In the past, people with loved ones who struggled with addiction were told that the person must hit “rock bottom” before healing could begin. Often, this meant that family members and friends of people with a severe addiction to drugs and alcohol were asked to simply stand aside and let the addiction take its course. This is nonsense—there is nothing inevitable about addiction, especially with a planned addiction intervention.
Holding an intervention is often the best way for family members to deal with any addiction problem. If done right, the addicted person might get the motivation needed to stick to a treatment program. In addition, the family will learn a significant amount about the disease, which might help them provide help throughout their loved one’s journey to sobriety.
Michael’s House has been bringing hope and healing to individuals struggling with addiction and their families for over thirty years. Call 760.548.4032 to learn more about addiction intervention.
Planning an Addiction Intervention
Holding a proper intervention means more than simply talking to your addicted loved one about the problem and pleading for them to change. An intervention is a highly structured, formalized conversation that typically follows a specific format. Putting together something this complex often means spending weeks in the planning stages. Families can certainly do this planning independently, without the help of a paid professional—an intervention specialist.
However, it is a good idea to use an intervention specialist if the addicted person has the following:
- Resistance to recovery
- Denial of the problem
- A violent history or a history of becoming defensive or angry
- Suicidal tendencies
- A deep sense of denial
- Mental health concerns1
Communication is key, and a sense of empathy and lack of censure is also vital. If mental health plays a role in the addiction, effective communication is all the more critical. Family members who use supportive, positive language are more effective than family members who express hostility or anger at every turn.2 Revising years of habits begins during the planning stages. It is essential to prepare to remain calm during the actual intervention.
The planning phase is when the family chooses a treatment program for their loved one. An intervention specialist may be able to provide advice on what types of treatment would be best, but often, the family must consult with their health insurance providers to see what services are covered and when they can begin. Programs like the one at Michael’s House can quickly verify your insurance coverage over the phone to help with this process.
Once family members have done their research and thought a bit about the language they’ll use in the intervention, they may want to write a letter to share with their loved one during the intervention. These are powerful documents that will form the basis of the intervention. In a typical letter, the family members will:
- Open with a statement of love and support.
- Describe one situation in which the addict’s behavior caused pain or harm.
- Describe the course that the addiction will take.
- Explain how treatment works and why it is important.
- Urge the addict to enter treatment.
In some cases, family members write down the consequences that will occur if the addicted person refuses to change. Some intervention specialists ask the family to place those consequences in the main body of the letter, and others ask family members to write consequences on a separate sheet of paper and hold them back in case the addicted person doesn’t respond to the intervention.
Where to Have the Intervention
The location of your loved one’s treatment intervention should be a safe, convenient space. While your loved one won’t know that the intervention is scheduled, the location for the event should be somewhere that your loved one comes to often. Also, since you will need to wait until your loved one is sober before you begin, the location should be somewhere you can wait a while. In the same way, an alcohol treatment intervention can be highly emotional, so the location should be somewhere appropriate.
The Big Day
When your loved one arrives at the location, the intervention specialist or the head of the family tells the addicted person why the meeting has been called, and the family begins to read their letters aloud. At the end of each letter, the family will ask the addicted person to enter a specific treatment program for addiction. The intervention is over as soon as your loved one agrees to enter treatment.
It’s important to note that while many interventions are successful, others are not. People often move through a series of steps before they make significant changes in their lives.
Most clinicians recognize five main stages of change, which include:
- Precontemplation- “I’m fine; I don’t need to change anything.”
- Contemplation- “I might have a problem. I might do something about it one day.” Or “I have a problem, but I’m too stressed out/busy to change it now.”
- Determination- “I am ready to make a change, although I don’t have a solid plan to make that change happen.”
- Action- “I have called a treatment center, and I am in the process of taking steps to change.”
- Maintenance- “I work hard to maintain my sobriety.”
A failed intervention might simply mean the person is not in the “Determination” or “Action” stage of change but may be receptive in the future.
The Importance of Accountability
Sometimes, consequences can help addicts see the need for treatment. Family members might read the last pages of their intervention letters, all in a row, notifying the addict of the consequences of a refusal. Some addicts might be motivated to enter treatment when they learn that they’ll have no access to their children, home, or money without treatment. Some addicts, however, will still not be moved. In this case, only the threat of jail might sway them. Families can point out that their loved one could go to jail if they continue to break the law in specific ways.
Reach Out to Michael's House for Addiction Intervention
At Michael’s House, we have over thirty years of treating addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. We can provide guidance for holding an intervention for addiction and work to ensure everything is set up for when your loved one accepts that they need treatment. Call 760.548.4032 or contact us online for more information.