Addiction affects not only the person struggling with a substance use disorder, but their loved ones as well. An addiction intervention can provide the support and resources needed for an individual to agree to get help, but addiction intervention can be challenging for everyone involved. An addiction intervention with professional support can change the life of a loved one currently in the throes of addiction.
What is an Addiction Intervention?
An addiction intervention is a planned meeting conducted with the family, the individual struggling with addiction, and an intervention specialist. Since it can be difficult for someone struggling with addiction to see the true hardships of their substance abuse, having an honest conversation in the right setting can start their road to recovery. During the intervention, close friends and family members will gather and explain their concerns in an effort to reframe the addiction and emphasize its impacts.
An addiction intervention should focus on the consequences of substance abuse and encourage the individual struggling with addiction to seek professional help. The point isn’t to place blame, guilt, or judgment, but to provide support, resources, and encouragement so that someone struggling with addiction can move towards seeking treatment. If the addiction intervention goes well, the intervention specialist can help assist the individual as they transition into addiction recovery or rehab. This can be a daunting process, which is why it’s so important to have a community of support and a professional intervention specialist to address any concerns as they arise.
When to Consider Addiction Intervention
Approaching a family member in the midst of addiction is difficult, especially if they’re in denial. This resistance can cause frustration and resentment for friends family members, and discourage the support system from seeking help. Even if your loved one doesn’t ask for help directly, there are signs that a person struggling with addiction needs an intervention. Some signs include:
- Health issues or excessive weight loss
- Deteriorating physical appearance
- Excessively borrowing or stealing money
- Isolating themselves from friends or family
- Trouble at school or work
- Aggressive behavior
- Arrests or hospitalizations
- Secretive behavior or consistently being caught in lies
These are only a few issues to watch for when considering an addiction intervention. Each case of addiction is unique, and you may find other problems that contribute to your concerns. Any behavior that is physically harmful to the user can be considered a warning sign. For many people, the foundation of addiction is a mental illness or trauma¹, so look for depression, anxiety, or excessive anger along with the signs above.
10 Things to Know About Addiction Intervention
Work with an Intervention Specialist
Before you begin planning an addiction intervention in earnest, it’s essential to contact an intervention specialist to assist you in the process. An intervention specialist will have the knowledge and resources to stage the intervention efficiently; they are specially trained to oversee communication between the family members and the person struggling with addiction. An addiction interventionist provides an outside perspective to help the addicted person see the consequences of their addiction without guilt or shame. Staging an intervention without a specialist can be harmful to both the person struggling with addiction and their loved ones.
Build an Addiction Intervention Group
After you have contacted an intervention specialist, they will help you build an intervention group. Typically, intervention groups consist of close family and friends who share common concerns for the individual struggling with addiction. It’s important to choose people who won’t get overly emotional or resentful. You can include siblings, spouses, parents, adult children, coworkers, or close friends in the intervention group. If you choose to include adult children or elderly family members, make sure they are prepared for an emotionally charged situation.
Gather Information and Resources
Once you have an intervention group, the specialist will educate everyone on addiction and addiction recovery. The group will work with the specialist to understand how to approach their loved one constructively. The intervention group must work out an action plan for the intervention using compassion and educational insights provided by the specialist.
Choose Consequences and Stick to Them
The goal of an addiction intervention is to get your loved one into addiction treatment. The specialist will work with the group to create consequences to enforce if your loved one refuses treatment. Consequences can include withholding resources provided by family members or loved ones or even limiting contact. Enforcing consequences can seem harsh, but eliminating all enabling behavior will help your loved one understand the consequences of their actions.
Write An Impact Statement
Each member of the group should write an Impact Statement. An Impact Statement is where a family member or friends explain how their loved one’s addiction has personally impacted them. Working with the addiction intervention specialist is essential when writing an impact statement because they can help family members navigate the subject without causing harm to the individual struggling with addiction.
Practice Makes Perfect
An addiction intervention cannot happen on a whim — it must be planned and scripted to ensure the person struggling with addiction understands you’re there to help, not shame and blame. The addiction specialist will help members of the group decide on what to say. Each person should write down what they want to say before the intervention, then practice how the intervention will go before involving their loved one.
Choose the Right Environment
During an addiction intervention, it’s essential to choose a neutral environment that feels non-threatening — somewhere familiar and comfortable is ideal for an addiction intervention. Avoid staging the intervention at the home of the individual struggling with addiction because an intervention is an emotionally charged event that could cause them to leave or hide. A trusted family member’s home or another familiar, neutral location is ideal.
Speaking in generalities can lead to more denial. Instead, choose a particular example of when the actions and behaviors of the person struggling with addiction have negatively impacted you. Be specific about what you remember and how that made you feel. An intervention specialist can help you pinpoint the best memory to revisit in order to best convey your point.
Do Not Negotiate
An addiction intervention is not a negotiation. The goal is to center the facts and available resources and encourage your loved one to accept addiction treatment. Agreeing to give them time, money, or an opportunity to get away from the confrontation will almost guarantee they won’t get help. You have to remember that addiction is a disease that will cause your loved one to avoid treatment at all costs.
Be Prepared for Anything
Confronting a person who is actively struggling with addiction is unpredictable. They could lash out with anger, become overwhelmed by emotion, or run away. An addiction intervention specialist is trained in how to handle emotionally charged, tense situations. Their presence can encourage clear, compassionate communication between your loved one and the intervention team. If the situation becomes dangerous, call 911.
What to Avoid When Staging an Addiction Intervention
Avoid starting an addiction intervention when your loved one is intoxicated. The addiction intervention team should be prepared to wait for their loved ones to be as sober as possible. Usually, waiting until early in the morning or after a substance-related incident like an arrest or a hospitalization is ideal. Making sure the addicted person is (at least mostly) sober will help them understand the information presented to them and increase the chances of accepting help.
Guilt and Shame
Guilt and shame are highly negative emotions that can cause a lot of pain for someone struggling with addiction. Making them feel worse about themselves is not the purpose of the addiction intervention. The goal is to make your loved one feel supported enough by their close friends and family to accept treatment. Talking about how their activities have affected those they love is essential, but you must find a way to do this with compassion. An intervention specialist can help with this.
Labels can further the stigma around addiction and cause additional harm. Words like addict, alcoholic, or junkie can sound reproachful and cause someone struggling with addiction to become defensive during an intervention. Instead of defining your loved one by their addiction, use neutral terms. Make sure they know the group sees them for who they are, not their addiction. The goal is to be supportive, which should be conveyed through the language used.
Strong emotions can cause an addiction intervention to go off the rails quickly. Overly emotional friends and family members could push the person struggling with addiction away, or cause them to lash out on the ones they love most, making it difficult for them to stay emotionally balanced during an intervention. While a professional interventionist can help you navigate the intervention, it may be beneficial for friends and family to pursue individualized personal support with a therapist as well.
How to Find a Professional Interventionist
Working with a professional interventionist is vital for a successful addiction intervention. Here are a few ways to find a professional interventionist:
- Contact a social worker through a hospital, rehab program, or therapist
- Get a recommendation from a doctor or therapist
- Contact your health insurance provider to see if an intervention specialist is covered under your insurance
- Search for options through the Association of Intervention Specialists
All Points North Lodge partners with a network of well-established intervention providers. If your loved one may benefit from an intervention, our team will help you connect with a provider that can best address your needs. Call us at 855-510-4585 or through our online contact form for more information.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Common Comorbidities with Substance Use Disorders Research Report Part 1: The Connection between Substance Use Disorders and Mental Illness.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 13 Apr. 2021, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/common-comorbidities-substance-use-disorders/part-1-connection-between-substance-use-disorders-mental-illness.
- “How to Stage a Drug Intervention.” Healthy Life Recovery, 16 Oct. 2020, healthyliferecovery.com/addiction-intervention/.
- “Intervention: Help a Loved One Overcome Addiction.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 20 July 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/in-depth/intervention/art-20047451.
- “Staging an Intervention: Helping Addicts Make a Change.” Addiction Center, 15 June 2021, www.addictioncenter.com/treatment/stage-intervention/.