When someone is trapped in addiction every facet of their life is affected. It’s hard to watch the life of someone you love come unraveled piece by piece. Family members often start out by trying to ignore the problem and simply love the person back into health. When that fails, they may confront the addict directly. Many times this doesn’t change the situation and, in fact, sometimes makes things worse. There is a point where the best thing a concerned person can do is to ask for outside help. The addict refuses to see the danger they are in and may even blame family members or others for any current difficulties. Before things completely fall apart, families can plan an intervention. An intervention is a collective effort to convince the addict that treatment is needed. Intervention teams may include family members, church leaders, co-workers and close friends. Anyone who is closely connected and who has demonstrated loving concern in the past can make an effective interventionist. Do not choose people about whom the person feels negatively. As a team these people will confront the addict with:
- Specific examples of negative behavior and how that behavior affects not only the addict, but the people around them
- A carefully laid out treatment plan
- Definite consequences the addict can expect from each team member should they refuse to seek treatment.
Since a group confrontation is a serious step, how do you know when an intervention is appropriate? Intervention is appropriate whenever a person is in denial about the seriousness of the problem or for those who said “no” to treatment when confronted by an individual. People addicted to alcohol, prescription drugs, illegal drugs or gambling may need several people in their lives to present a united front of action before they find the will to look for help. People caught up in these behaviors (or any compulsive behavior such as an eating disorder) may not want help or even feel like they need help. However, by joining forces, the intervention team is giving that person a chance to break free and put an end to the cycle of destruction. It’s best to begin the intervention process by consulting a qualified counselor or addiction expert. The idea of intervention usually begins with a friend or family member, but an experienced counselor can help put the team together and keep things from getting off-track. Especially if there is worry that the person may react angrily or with violence, having a professional on hand is invaluable. The next step is for team members (usually four to six people) to learn all that they can about the addiction and possible treatments. Often, the group chooses what they think will be the most effective treatment option and makes arrangements for admission. The team meets together to rehearse the intervention. It’s best to write down what will be said because when emotions run high it will be difficult to say what needs to be said in the most effective way. This is not a time for hurtful words, attacks or accusations. Each team member should write down and be prepared to state how they will respond to a refusal of treatment. On an appointed day the loved one is brought to an agreed upon location. This should be scheduled during a time when the person is not likely to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. They do not know what is going on until they arrive and are confronted by a group of people important to them. The team outlines problem behavior, the results of behavior and the proposed treatment. They also outline the consequences of saying “no” to treatment. Finally, it’s important to emphasize love for the person and the belief that change is possible throughout the discussion. If you have planned and rehearsed your intervention thoroughly then you will be prepared to ask for an immediate decision regarding treatment. This is not a chance to think things over for several days, but an opportunity to make a choice in the moment for or against seeking help. If the person says yes, then you have already prepared the way for them to enter treatment immediately. If the person says no, then you must all be prepared to follow through with the consequences you said would ensue. An intervention is not a guarantee for a desired outcome. It is the best chance a person has to make changes with the loving help of others before it’s too late.