Interventions are simply conversations where those who love and trust your loved one discuss how to stop the cycle of addiction.
An intervention involves:
- 5-6 people impacted by the drug or alcohol use. Include anyone your loved one trusts that doesn’t use or drink with them. An interventionist is an ideal neutral party but comes with costs not covered by insurance.
- A pre-planned treatment option. The goal of the intervention is to go to treatment within 48 hours, ideally immediately after. Costs and logistics should be discussed with the treatment facility ahead of time.
- A focus on love and facts. While families are usually frustrated, leading with love and describing specific behaviors and consequences from the addiction keeps the person receptive instead of defensive. (more on what to say below)
When should we have the intervention?
While interventions are most common after a crisis like hospitalization or legal issues, you don’t have to wait for something bad to happen!
The intervention process ensures your love and desperation is heard. They cannot live in denial that they aren’t hurting you or that you don’t care about them.
Even if you’ve had an intervention before, you can always have another. People enter treatment after honest conversations with loved ones and with some external motivations.
What should I say at an intervention?
Most people prefer to write down their thoughts ahead of time to stay focused on the most important points.
1. Open with Affection
Leading with love and support helps them understand the conversation won’t be about judgment or yelling, but an expression of concern from those that love and respect them.
I have always believed in you…
You’re one of the most important people in my life….
I love you...
2. Describe Specific Behaviors
Denial is part of addiction. Evidence of behaviors you’ve seen firsthand helps them think more critically about their drug and alcohol use. Examples include:
- impaired driving
- skipped family functions
- missed work
- reduced contributions at home
Facts and statements that begin with “I” are most effective. Disprove the excuse “I’m not hurting anyone.” It doesn’t matter if they don’t want to be hurting you or if they don’t want you to care. You do!
I got the phone call that you were arrested for a DUI when I was putting Megan to bed on Friday. I was angry at the idea that driving like that could’ve killed a little girl like our Megan, and I was worried about your health and safety.
If your loved one is already in desperate shape (homeless, jobless, etc.) and understands the pain they cause you, you can skip this step.
3. Detail the Physical Consequences
Emotional and financial damage caused by addiction might not be enough. Research long-term effects and statistics and share the undeniable, objective information.
Six people die a day from alcohol poisoning. You know you have dangerously high blood pressure and drinking makes that worse. The more you drink, the more likely you are to become a statistic. And, I need you.
4. Outline Treatment Options
Discuss how treatment works and why it’s the best next step. To help ease their mind, talk about the specific facility and reassure them you will be there for them.
Proactively address excuses and use statistics about the effectiveness of treatment (even they haven’t had success in the past).
I want you to get the right treatment. JourneyPure has the highest accreditation, positive reviews and success rates double other rehabs. Journeypure will take care of the paperwork with your job, and your boss won’t know the specifics of your medical leave. I promise to support you during and after treatment. I care about you, and I want to see you happy and healthy. Will you please accept this offer of treatment?
As soon as your loved one agrees, nail down the specifics. The more your loved one feels committed to the plan, the better. Their buy-in will only decrease with time.
5. If treatment is refused, state consequences
More than 50% of interventions end successfully without talking about consequences. However, if treatment is refused, consequences may push them to say “yes.”
Consequences must be meaningful and enforced immediately. Consequences are not negotiable, so don’t engage in arguments or accept half agreements.
You need to be emotionally and operationally prepared to enforce the consequences.
If you said you’d kick them out of your house, you’re hoping a bed in treatment is more appealing than couch surfing or sleeping in their car. The reality is, you may have to call the police to follow through. As heart-wrenching as it may be, the consequences cannot be idle threats.
It may feel harsh to set consequences for someone who is struggling but keeping them comfortable in addiction gives them no motivation to change.
You control what behaviors you tolerate. You can choose to be more present for others that also need you. And, you can regain their respect.
- Older children choosing to live with grandparents
- A husband moving out of a shared house
- Parents cutting off all financial support (including paying rent or school)
Remember, the goal is to motivate them to seek treatment. That means making addiction more uncomfortable for them than it is for you, but not “punishing” them.
How can you keep the conversation on track?
- Each person should get the chance to share their love, feelings and observations about the drug or alcohol use, always ending with a request to get help.
- Your loved one should be asked to listen until one person is finished, then be given a chance to share their feelings.
As they talk, really listen and try to relate. Don’t accept excuses, but if they open up about their emotions, validate their feelings.
- “I understand you were hurt when grandpa died. You were very close. I also miss him.”
- NOT: “We’re not here to talk about grandpa, we’re here to talk about your drug use.“
Your loved one may say or do things that are frustrating but get through it as a team. Respectfully redirect team members that are unable to control their anger or use humor.
- “I understand you’re frustrated, but we’re here to come together and support John. Let’s move on to Lisa.“
If your loved one does these things, dig into it. Try to get them to figure out why they’re acting like that.
- “What specifically is making you so angry right now, John?“
How do I deal with their excuses?
You’ll likely face pushback. In their mind, every excuse is valid. Though, from the outside, it’s obvious nothing is more important for their health, family and future than ending addiction.
“I can’t go to rehab because I’ll lose my job”
They cannot lose their job for seeking treatment. It’s the law. (Though, they may lose their job for showing up high, drunk, hungover or late).
Their employer never has to know why they’re going on leave and many people receive full or partial salaries.
A quality facility (like JourneyPure ☺) will take care of the paperwork when they get here and answer any questions.
They can always get another job. They can’t get another life.
“I can’t go to rehab because I have the kids”
Addiction pushes everyone else aside to give drugs and alcohol the attention that loved ones deserve.
If children (or pets) need care during treatment, offer to take them in or figure out an arrangement.
Being high, drunk or withdrawing while responsible for children is dangerous. And, children are emotionally impacted when their parent isn’t there or isn’t’ fully there.
The sooner the addiction is addressed, the less damage it will cause to vulnerable children. They already know that.
“I can’t leave my boyfriend” or “My girlfriend needs me”
Spouses that aren’t dealing with their own issues are usually on board with treatment.
If the significant other is blocking treatment, ask:
- “Why wouldn’t someone you love support you in getting the help you need?”
- “Why are you so afraid of leaving them for a few weeks?”
“It isn’t the right time” or “I will later.”
The reality is, there’s never a “right” or convenient time to go to rehab. The best time to go is now. Addiction only gets worse over time.
As frustrating as this vague excuse is, understand that it comes from fear.
You can ask what things they intend to take care of, but the most effective stance is to firmly let them know they can take care of anything after treatment. Change happens based on action, not stalling.
“I can stop on my own” or “I’ve got this under control”
If they could stop, they would have before you felt compelled to hold an intervention.
Point out times they’ve said this before and ask what would be different. Empathize that change is scary, but don’t buy into the idea that addiction has an easier fix.
“Rehab doesn’t work”
They may think treatment is stupid, pointless or ineffective. Maybe they’ve seen others relapse or relapsed themselves after treatment.
They may convince themselves that they’re beyond help. But, what do they have to lose?
Treatment is the only way to stop the chaos. And, it does work! There are millions of success stories to prove it.
“I’ll only come if I can (insert any number of reasons).”
Let them know that it’s time to start playing by the rules of professionals. If a facility has a specific policy against something, there’s a good reason why. This is not a negotiation.
What happens after the intervention?
Hopefully, your next step is to begin healing during and after treatment. But, if you did not get the results you were hoping for, here are the 4 things you should do.
1. Stay Supported
Even if they walked away in angry denial, your expressions of care and concern are always helpful.
Now, shift focus to your own support. You’re going to need it to enforce consequences, take care of yourself and move forward productively.
The right thing to do may go against your instincts. Attend support groups or private therapy and stay connected with the rest of the intervention team.
2. Enforce Consequences
When you follow through on consequences, your loved one may plead or demand that you change your mind. Stand firm and don’t allow their bullying or emotional manipulation deter you.
- If you give in, they lose respect and may take more advantage of you, while continuing to live in addiction.
- If they feel the consequences, it becomes clearer that addiction isn’t the best path. You’re part of the solution instead of stuck in the chaos.
3. Continue the Conversation
Don’t stop talking about treatment and your feelings just because the intervention is over.
Tell them about your own meetings and progress to show you’re serious, trying to understand and being proactive.
If denial is the issue, film their behavior to see for themselves. Don’t worry about upsetting them by bringing up the topic. They want to pretend it’s not a big deal and they’re not hurting you.
The more you break down that isolation and excuse, the better. That said, the tone should still be loving.
4. Hold Another Intervention
After a serious consequence (like arrest or job loss) or after several months, try again. See if anything could be improved. Were they high? Did you lose focus because of things said in hurt or anger?
If you skipped an interventionist before, get one this time. It costs money, but it could also be the difference you’re looking for. Or, get free advice from a non-profit group, therapist, treatment center or religious leader.
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