• How to Go about an Intervention
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    How to Go about an Intervention

    Interventions have probably been around for some time, but have recently become more popular due to reality TV shows like “Dr. Drew” and “Intervention” that tackle the topics of addiction, rehab and sober recovery. Although shows like this may be a source of pure entertainment for some people, for me they can be an emotional roller coaster. I initially watched these shows as an addict in active addiction, and the show that dealt with interventions brought me many mixed emotions. Holding an intervention can be extremely motivating and helpful to an addict, because it can potentially get that person the help she or he needs. However, an intervention can also drive the addict in the opposite direction.

    Have a Plan

    Having a clear plan of action is key to a successful intervention. Many addicts tend to be quite impulsive–if they decide to accept treatment when the group intervention “discussion” is over, but help takes too long to arrive–they may change their minds. For those instigating the intervention, advance planning and coordination is crucial. Checking to make sure the chosen rehabilitation center is open for new patients is something that should be confirmed in advance. That rehab center needs to be ready for action. An intervention may appear to be a spontaneous action, and the addict’s agreement to attend treatment may also seem to be spontaneous, but many details must be in place for the intervention to be carried out with success–admitting the addict to the rehabilitation facility for treatment.

    Detailing Explanations: How Much to Share?

    If you are the one considering staging an intervention, you are going to have to explain to the addict why you are doing an intervention. Before you explain, it can be helpful to write down the way you feel and how the addict’s behavior has affected you. Most likely, the addict in your life has affected you negatively, but is important that your writing is not an essay of all the addict’s poor qualities. It is most helpful to be direct in your writing, with an eye to explaining how the addict’s behavior has been hurtful to you, and also to themselves. Remaining sincere helps to make your writing, and your explanation, more effective.

    When hearing your explanation or reading what you have written, the addict may feel overwhelmed–it’s a terrible feeling to know how much you are hurting everyone around you. If the addict feels too overwhelmed by this, or is bombarded by too much sharing from the group doing the intervention,  it may cause the person to run away. Drugs and alcohol are the only solutions some addicts have for dealing with their feelings and behaviors, so getting into a big discussion with loved ones about these issues is likely to be extremely difficult. So, using firm but kind words in your explanation can make the difference.

    Avoid False Threats and Empty Promises

    Avoid making false threats to help ensure that your point is being made. It is counterproductive to give ultimatums that have no validity or that you do not plan on following through with (oftentimes the addict knows you won’t follow through on empty threats or ultimatums). Promising to cut off all contact or discontinue paying for rent and food is a good plan of action if you intend to stay true to your word. Telling an addict that you will make sure none of the family will ever speak to them again may end up being a false threat, and therefore ineffective, as you can’t control everyone the addict is in contact with. Sometimes in the heat of the moment we make threats that we will be unable to keep.  The key here is to clearly outline real outcomes or consequences that will result if the addict continues to use. If you know you choose to only cut off rent, but not other types of support, be sure to specify this.

    Choosing Appropriate Intervention Group Members

    This may seem like a “no-brainer” but choosing who to have at the intervention can be harder than it seems. There are a lot of people in the addict’s life, some more important than others. Consider who has been around the addict to see it all, and who is still around picking up the mess that’s been made.  Who will be there after it’s all said and done. Your Great-Aunt Sally may have had her necklace stolen and pawned for drug money, but hearing her three page tirade or demand for an apology may be more harmful than helpful.

    Accepting the Outcome of the Intervention

    Be prepared to accept the outcome, whatever it may be. Staying positive before and after an intervention will definitely show in your attitude because you want the addict to know that there is still hope for them. Even in the lowest depths of addiction do we still have a fighting chance if we have no will to get sober. If the intervention does not end the way everyone had hoped–with the addict entering a rehabilitation program for treatment–stay positive. If the addict sat and listened to what everyone had to say, there is reason to hope. It may take some time for what was said to sink in on a personal level.

    An intervention can be a tricky but important process. It may seem like an immediate necessity to help an addict who is in danger to get sober. However, making sure that everything is the way it should be and well planned is also vital to its success. If you plan on holding an intervention or have already done so without success, just remember to be consistent with your word. If an addict refuses to comply and you have refused to pay their rent or threatened to call the police, make sure you follow through on your promise, as your follow-through may save their life. It may take time for someone to swallow their pride and finally ask for help to get sober, so if an intervention doesn’t work the first time, it isn’t your fault. Worrying about what you can’t control will only be a source of stress for you. You can offer the lifeline, but it is up to the person who is drowning to grab it.


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