When you’re concerned about a friend or loved one who’s struggling with an addiction to alcohol or drugs, it can be hard to know what to do.
Understanding how to help someone with substance use disorder can be challenging.
Perhaps you’ve tried having one or more heart-to-heart conversations with them and strongly encouraged them to get help at an addiction treatment center.
You may have also stressed the importance of speaking with a physician about their addiction.
If this person has ignored your pleas or downplayed their relationship with substances, it may be time to take stage an intervention to get your loved one into recovery before the situation becomes much more serious.
There have been 700,000 overdose deaths due to drug or alcohol use in the United States since 2000.
You don’t want your loved one to become another statistic, but what can you do if that person doesn’t believe a problem even exists, or thinks they can handle a substance use disorder on their own?
People who have become addicted to substances are often in denial or are confused about their condition.
They can’t recognize how their behavior is negatively affecting themselves and those around them.
You may clearly see what is happening, but the person in need refuses to or simply cannot understand how difficult their actions have become to their own safety.
They also might be oblivious as to how it’s affecting their relationships with friends, family, and co-workers.
For these reasons, someone suffering from addiction will quite often refuse to seek treatment and ignore your pleas to seek out options for recovery.
Helping Someone Who Doesn’t Want help
When you’ve tried talking to your loved one about their substance use issues and get a negative response, it’s frustrating to watch them continue to engage in addictive behaviors. You know that something must be done to inspire this person to take action and seek help.
Staging an intervention may be what is necessary to drive the truth home that changes need to be made before the situation gets worse. At this point, you should consider staging an intervention to strongly motivate a move to recovery.
What Is an Intervention?
An intervention is an organized procedure that’s best-planned in conjunction with a doctor or an addiction specialist and carried out by the family and friends of the person needing help.
The people who care about someone suffering from addiction gather as one to confront your loved one about their addictive behavior and its consequences.
The ultimate goal is to convince them to accept treatment immediately.
The success rate of a properly held intervention is between 80 and 90 percent. Of the 15-20% of those confronted during an intervention who do not enter treatment that same day, roughly half of them do so within 7-14 days afterward.
During an intervention, the following actions occur:
- Participants give specific instances in which destructive behaviors have impacted your loved one, their family, and their friends
- The group presents a pre-arranged treatment plan that is complete with direct steps, goals, and instructions
- Each person makes it clear what they will do if your loved one refuses to enter and abide by a treatment recovery plan
Planning an Intervention
1. Decide who should be part of the intervention
Remember that you want to help your loved one, not make them feel like they’re being attacked, so choose this group carefully.
Speak privately to the people who are closest to the person who is suffering, even if you strongly dislike some of them. These will be the persons who your loved one holds dear and respects their opinions. Be sure the participants are people who really matter in your loved one’s life.
Try to keep the number of participants small rather than having a large group that will overwhelm the person in need.
2. Prepare well in advance of taking any action
It’s best to speak with a professional, such as a counselor or addiction professional, to give you advice on how to plan and stage an intervention. Keep in mind that an intervention can cause many different emotions to rise up, ranging from anger to deep resentment. With enough preparation, you can make a powerful impact that won’t scare your loved one away or make them lose trust in everyone who is there.
3. Gather and share as much information as possible about the loved one’s issues with substances
Research the substances being used, the person’s present condition, and all available treatment programs. Once this is done, you can begin to make arrangements to enroll your loved one in a specific recovery program ahead of the planned intervention. Arrangements can be made in advance to admit your loved one immediately following an intervention.
4. Set the guidelines for what will happen and when
You can’t simply wing a successful intervention. You and the group must decide who will have the most positive impact on your loved one. This set of friends and family will stage the intervention.
You must set a firm date, time, and place for the intervention to occur. Be sure that a location is a place where your loved one will feel comfortable. Don’t choose a setting that is unfamiliar to them. Instead, stage an intervention in a spot where the person in need of help feels most at ease, such as at home or in the home a close friend or family member.
Each person should have prepared a short speech that’s been well-rehearsed. The idea is to inform the person suffering from substance use disorder of the ways in which they are hurting themselves and those close to them. The group can speak in turns, but if your loved one is showing signs of rejecting the situation, speeches may not be appropriate. The speeches may feel forced or too formal, so keep them concise, sticking to the main points, and speak from a place of love.
Each person who speaks should remember to include the following points:
- Keep it short.
- Speak quickly before you lose your loved one’s attention
- Your words and voice should keep your warmth and love for this person central to everything you’re telling them
- Don’t forget to include the ultimatums in your speech, should the person you care about refuse to accept treatment. Understanding the direct consequences of not seeking treatment is often the prime motivation to move forward and accept help.
The ultimate message from the group to your loved one must be clear, quick, consistent, and based on facts and solutions instead of exhibiting strong emotions.
5. Delivering ultimatums
The consequences set out before your loved one, should they refuse to accept treatment, must be specific and clear. For example, one consequence of refusing treatment can be that they must move out of your home. Another might be the loss of a close, trusted friend. The ultimatums and consequences are given as an extra shove towards getting the help that is necessary.
When a Professional Interventionist Is Needed
Staging an intervention can be extremely rewarding when it provides your loved one with the clarity they need to seek help for substance use disorder.
You might not feel confident, however, that you have the skills or the energy to successfully stage an intervention. We at Burning Tree strongly recommend using a professional interventionist.
A trained interventionist is experienced and passionate about helping those suffering from addiction, though their professional titles may differ.
They are often educated as social workers, psychologists, drug abuse counselors, addiction specialists, and psychiatrists.
Sometimes a situation is severe enough that, without professional intervention, your loved one may end up in a hospital or suffer various kinds of injuries due to an addiction.
A professional interventionist may be preferred or even necessary, especially in certain situations. Strongly consider using an interventionist if your loved one:
Becomes violent when cornered or verbally attacked. Even though intervention is performed with love and care at its center, your loved one may react violently, particularly if they are in a withdrawal phase or focusing on the next fix.
Suffers from an underlying mental health condition, aside from substance use disorder. Someone with mental illness can react in illogical or violent ways to an intervention situation.3 They may become impulsive or destructive in light of the stress of intervention and behave in unexpected ways.
Has suicidal tendencies. If your loved one has a history of thinking about, threatening to, or has attempted suicide, it’s best to have a professional interventionist present to redirect emotions and encourage positivity.
Has already been through treatment and has relapsed. Think of addiction as a chronic condition that can need tweaks in the medications and types of treatment employed as things change.
If your loved one has undergone treatment and is now relapsed, a different type of program may be in order, required more advanced settings and therapies.
A professional interventionist will be better able to help facilitate an intervention, helping your loved one better understand the nature of addiction.
Family and close friends aren’t sure what to say when speaking their turn. You and probably others who will participate in intervention have likely had conversations with your loved one before about going into treatment for substance use disorder.
Those talks obviously haven’t worked out. Perhaps the right words weren’t used to get through, or the person who’s suffering from addiction quickly lost patience and walked away.
An interventionist gives everyone a new way to look at the situation and new vocabulary to work with, making a lot of difference in the success of an intervention.
A Successful Intervention
An intervention is a success when a person suffering from a substance use disorder agrees to enter treatment. He or she clearly understands that the people in their life truly care about their health and well-being. They are able to see that help is necessary to achieve sobriety.
Most importantly, following a successful intervention, your loved one has a strong desire to stop using substances, even if this desire is directly related to the ultimatums delivered in the intervention.
If a person in need reacts positively to the staged intervention, he or she will immediately be transported to the pre-arranged treatment center to being the work of addiction recovery.
In a well-chosen treatment center, your loved one will have access to a variety of holistic therapies, including yoga, meditation, and fitness exercises. As family members and significant others, you should be involved in your loved one’s recovery. The professional staff will help you develop the strategies necessary to forge better relationships and resolve relationship issues that can contribute to addiction development.
Lasting sobriety is the main goal of addiction recovery. Personalized relapse prevention plans and aftercare programs are essential to long-term recovery. Aftercare plans may include group therapy, individual counseling sessions, or continued participation in a peer support group, like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.
Positive Life Changes
When you care deeply about someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, your help can have a life-changing effect for the better. Staging an intervention can be challenging, nerve-racking, and is often the last resort to get your loved one to accept the help they need.
Whether you decide to go forward and stage the intervention using the steps and advice listed here or with the assistance of a professional interventionist, know that you are doing all that you can to help someone make positive life changes.
One of the most important planning steps for intervention is choosing the best and most appropriate type of treatment program for your loved one’s needs.
Choose carefully, and keep in mind that lasting sobriety should always include a personalized aftercare and relapse prevention plan.