Drug abuse and addiction are complex problems that can affect the individual’s health, relationships and life, and they can also greatly affect the health and lives of their family members and friends. Concern for their loved one’s situation, fear for their loved one’s future, anger over their loved one’s actions and more can thoroughly take over and ruin the lives of a drug addict’s family members and friends.
Many individuals feel that if they simply sit down with their loved one and have a heart-to-heart conversation with them, they will be able to recover. And actually it’s true that many individuals have had great success with getting their loved one the treatment they need by doing exactly this. However, in other cases, a drug abuser or addict may be so trapped within their drug problems that they are entirely unwilling to even discuss their drug use, and family members and friends need to do more. This is where interventions come in.
Interventions are well-organized, carefully planned meetings where family members and friends, and usually a professional interventionist or addiction specialist, confront the drug abuser or addict about their drug problems. The purpose of this meeting is to help the drug abuser or addict recognize the relationship between their drug use and the destruction it is causing in their life, and agree to get rehabilitation treatment.
In order to achieve this goal, family members and friends will provide specific examples of the destructive behaviors the individual is participating in and how it is affecting their own and others’ lives, provide the individual with a prearranged treatment plan that has exactly defined steps and goals, and lists out exactly what consequences will be enforced if the individual refuses to participate in treatment and continues their drug use instead.
The point is not to make empty threats, but to help the individual see that their continued drug use will not be tolerated, but they will be fully supported throughout the recovery process. That said, an intervention can be highly successful, especially if well-prepared.
Planning an Intervention
The first step to planning a successful intervention is for the family members and friends who are concerned about their loved one’s drug problems to thoroughly educate themselves about drugs, addiction and successful recovery. Sometimes, much of the conflicting emotions family members and friends struggle through are caused by a lack of understanding about what their loved one is dealing with. By better understanding drugs, addiction and what must occur to achieve full and lasting recovery, family members and friends are better able to support and encourage their loved one through the entire process.
Once family members and friends have educated themselves about drugs, they need to determine who will be part of the intervention team. It is very valuable at this point to get help from a professional interventionist or addiction specialist, as they may have information that family members and friends aren’t considering. As a general rule, intervention teams should consist of no fewer than two individuals and no more than eight individuals so as to show the proper amount of support without overwhelming the drug abuser or addict.
Furthermore, while there is no way to prevent any emotion from occurring during an intervention, those individuals who are particularly emotional should consider whether this will make it difficult for them to keep a level head throughout the meeting. If so, it may be best for them to simply write a letter to their loved one that can be read during the meeting in their absence.
Once formed, the intervention team needs to gather information about their loved one’s specific drug problems, and research appropriate treatment solutions. It can happen that a drug abuser or addict acknowledges their problem and their need for help during an intervention meeting, but then claim that a lack of good treatment options is the reason they aren’t participating in treatment.
By researching treatment options beforehand and making arrangements as needed, family members and friends will be able to smoothly move their loved one from intervention into treatment without any delay.
The intervention team then needs to plan out the exact meeting process, which includes deciding who will speak, in what order, and what exactly will be said. It is best to use specific examples when speaking with the drug abuser or addict, because they may very well be blind to their own condition and actions and general statements won’t serve to change this. Specific examples, however, draw the individual’s attention to things that may help them realize the truth in their situation and begin to reach out for help. It is also important that the intervention team outline the exact consequences that will be discussed with the drug abuser or addict.
These consequences are intended to demonstrate to the individual that continued drug use will not be tolerated or supported, and may include withdrawing financial support, asking them to leave the family home or even ending their contact with their children.
Once a basic meeting outline has been established, the intervention team should rehearse the actual intervention until they feel certain about how it will go. Rehearsals can be an opportunity for family members and friends to predict what denials and arguments may be presented, and how they will respond.
An intervention location and time then needs to be determined, and this should be done just as carefully as the rest of the planning. An intervention that occurs in a location the drug abuser feels is threatening or uncomfortable may not go as well as intended, while an intervention that occurs at a time that is inconvenient may be interrupted before it comes to fruition. It is also very important to select a time when the individual is least likely to be under the influence of drug substances.
Once the intervention is fully planned for, a member of the intervention team should invite the drug abuser or addict to the intervention, without telling them what it is. Due to their own struggles with denial, many drug abusers and addicts will deliberately avoid an intervention they know is forthcoming, even if they recognize deep down that they have a problem and they need help. When the individual arrives to the meeting, it should proceed as planned.
At the conclusion of the meeting, if the individual has agreed to enroll in rehabilitation treatment, he should be moved quickly into said treatment and supported and encouraged throughout the entire recovery process.
It can happen that an individual participates in a very well-planned and carried out intervention meeting and still refuses to enroll in treatment. If this occurs it is very important that the members of the intervention team remain hopeful, while immediately enforcing the consequences they had laid out during the meeting.
In some cases, the individual simply needs to go out on his own for a little in order to recognize that what was said during the meeting was true, and that he doesn’t want to continue to live under the thumb of drug addiction. He may then reach out for the help and support that was offered to him during the intervention, and successfully move onto the path of full recovery.