A Guide to Staging an Addiction Intervention

No one sets out with their end goal of becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol. However, that’s the risk we all take when experimenting with these drugs. Although some of us are at greater risk than others to develop an addiction, it can happen to anyone who dabbles with these unnatural substances that shouldn’t be put in our bodies. 

For some of us, the experimentation will begin in high school and end there, while for others, it will start in high school and continue to college and gradually worsen. For others they started drinking in college when they had a taste of freedom and were away from their families for the first time in their adult lives.  

Alcohol use disorders (AUDs) typically start with the occasional drinks at a party on the weekends that might have been paired with cocaine or other drugs. The occasional alcoholic beverage isn’t necessarily a bad thing and doesn’t often result in injury. However, there are some exceptions to that, including binge drinking that leads to alcohol poisoning or someone gets behind the wheel of their vehicle and drives under the influence. 

For others who develop an opiate addiction, it usually begins when they had a sports-related injury or were involved in a car accident, resulting in their doctor prescribing them potent painkillers like hydrocodone or oxycodone. At first, when they followed their doctor’s orders, the medication was a useful means of treating their pain. Still, as they developed a tolerance and needed more for the effects, they developed a chemical dependency without knowing it, leading to addiction.

These are two very different scenarios that ultimately lead to the same road, so what do they have in common? They both began innocently, which is how addiction starts. They could be the occasional drinker who developed a full-blown addiction and can’t go a few hours without getting the shakes and developing withdrawal symptoms, or the person who used the medication for pain and turned into a heroin addict.

No one drinks alcohol or uses drugs, intending to become addicted. Still, a significant percentage of those who use drugs will eventually abuse them and develop a substance use disorder. Unfortunately, even if someone is aware that addiction is destroying their lives, they’ll continue using despite the consequences. It could mean losing their job, destroying their relationship with their significant other, parents, children, or friends, spending all their money to get more drugs, or becoming homeless because they’ve been kicked out. 

The only time a person will consider help is when they’ve reached rock bottom, and it takes an entire village to get them to accept help. One such method that’s extremely beneficial for a person to say yes and get help for their substance use disorder is staging an intervention. Although it may sound easy to orchestrate, it takes quite a bit of work to make it happen. Fortunately, this guide was written to help you understand the ins and outs of addiction, how to stage an intervention, and what you can do to make the person accept help.

Addiction is a severe disease, and you have to be ready for the person to say no. Some people would rather have nothing in their lives if it means they can continue using drugs or alcohol. During an intervention, you’ll have to come up with a bottom line that you can’t give in to. If you tell the person they’re going to be kicked out if they don’t accept the help, you must follow through and kick them out. There is no wiggle room, and if you’ve made it to the point of staging an intervention, things have reached the bottom and are affecting the family unit. 

Below we’ll provide you an in-depth look at how to stage an intervention. 

What Warrants an Intervention?

If you’ve been dealing with someone’s addiction, you know that watching them deteriorate is difficult. Sometimes, it might be as simple as a direct, heart-to-heart conversation that jumpstarts the road to recovery. Still, as you know, addiction has a stronghold on the person, and a simple discussion won’t be enough to get them sober. You’ll need a more focused approach and join forces with others to take action – this can be a formal intervention. 

The following are examples of addiction that warrant an intervention:

  • Street drug abuse
  • Prescription drug abuse
  • Alcoholism
  • Compulsive gambling
  • Compulsive eating

 

Sometimes, it’s more than just drugs or alcohol a person will need help with. Those struggling with the disease are in denial and don’t want help because, in their minds, they don’t need any help. They won’t recognize the adverse effects their behavior has on themselves and those around them. 

Interventions give your loved one a structured opportunity to make changes before their lives spiral even further out of control. It’s designed to motivate the individual to seek help immediately. 

What is an Intervention?

According to the Mayo Clinic, an intervention is a carefully planned process that may be done by family and friends, in consultation with a doctor or professional such as a licensed alcohol and drug counselor, or directed by an intervention professional (interventionist). In some cases, it’ll involve a member of the person’s faith or others who want the struggling individual to get the help they need.

During an intervention, these people will gather in a group and confront the individual about the consequences of their drug or alcohol consumption and how it’s destroying their life and the lives of the people around them. After the group speaks to the individual about how they feel, how their lives have been affected, they’ll ask them to accept treatment. The intervention will look like this:

  • The group will offer specific examples of the destructive behaviors and impact their addiction has on everyone’s lives.
  • Provide a prearranged treatment plan complete with goals, guidelines, and clear steps toward recovery.
  • Addresses their bottom line of what each person will do if the individual refuses to accept the help they’re getting offered.

How Does an Intervention Work?

The following steps will offer you insight into how an intervention works.

Make a Plan

A friend or family member will propose the intervention idea and create a group. You should always consult with an addiction professional, psychologist, professional counselor, social worker, mental health counselor, or an interventionist before organizing an effective intervention. These are highly charged situations that will stir up anger, which may lead to the person feeling betrayed and becoming resentful. 

Gather Information

You must learn the extent of the person’s addiction and information about their situation so that you can properly research treatment programs. For example, if they’re dealing with co-occurring mental health disorders, a treatment facility that doesn’t specialize in mental health and only focuses on drug addiction won’t work. You must find as much information as possible otherwise, the intervention and getting help will be useless if they aren’t enrolled in a specific program tailored around their needs.

Form the Intervention Team 

Once you’ve done the necessary research, you’ll need to put together the team and people who will ultimately participate in the intervention. Team members will set a date, location and work together to present a rehearsed, structured, and consistent plan. In most cases, friends of the team will keep the discussion laser-focused on the facts and share solutions instead of putting forth an emotional response. Don’t let the target of the intervention know anything until the day it happens. 

Determine the Consequences If They Say No

There is a significant possibility the individual will say no. If the person doesn’t accept treatment, each person on the intervention team must decide the actions they will take. For example, it could mean kicking them out of the house, not giving them money, not allowing them to see their children, or filing for divorce.

Make Sure to Write Notes on What to Say

Each team member must describe specific scenarios where the individual’s addiction caused issues, such as financial and emotional issues. Make sure to mention how their behavior has affected you while expressing care and the expectations that they’ll change. Your loved one will try to argue, but they can’t argue with facts or how you respond emotionally. 

Hold the Intervention Meeting

Without giving it away, you must get the individual to the meeting site. Members of the intervention team will express their feelings and concerns, and the individual will be presented with two options – get help or experience the consequences everyone has put forth. Each person will have an opportunity to say what they need to say. Remember, don’t threaten consequences unless you’re ready to follow through with them. 

Follow Up Afterward

Involving family members, friends, and their spouse is crucial in helping the person with addiction follow-through, stay in treatment, and avoid relapsing. It might include changing patterns of everyday living to prevent destructive behaviors. Try to participate in counseling and even seek out your own therapist for support. 

Remember, relapse is a part of the journey, so be ready to take action if this happens. 

Reach Out to An Addiction Professional

Before any of this can occur, you must reach out to a licensed alcohol and drug counselor, a social worker, an interventionist, or someone who can assist you in organizing an effective intervention. Without their guidance, you’ll waste everyone’s time, and likely won’t succeed. A professional in this field can help suggest the best approach and tell you which treatment will work best.

Interventions are routinely conducted without a professional on hand, but having that expertise can prove invaluable when going through with this delicate matter. In some cases, interventions will occur at a professional’s office. Depending on the circumstances, having the professional involved in the intervention might be the best option. It can help keep the intervention on track, especially if your loved one exhibits the following:

  • A history of violence
  • Has a history of severe mental illness
  • Has suicidal behavior or recently talked about hurting themselves
  • If they’re taking several mood-altering substances, which could make their actions unpredictable during the intervention

If you believe the individual could react violently or self-destruct, you must mention this to the intervention professional so that they can plan accordingly. 

Who Should Be On the Team?

Intervention teams typically consist of four to six people that are vital in the person’s life. These can either be people they respect, love or are dependent upon. For example, this could be their best friend, relative, or someone from their faith. The intervention professional will help you determine the appropriate members for the team.

Keep in mind; this is a delicate situation that requires precision when putting it together. You shouldn’t include any of the following people that could sabotage this potential opportunity for them to seek help.

  • Someone who could ruin the intervention – for example, a drug buddy that doesn’t want them to get sober.
  • A person the individual has a known disdain for
  • Anyone that has an unmanaged substance abuse problem or mental health issue
  • Someone that can’t limit what they say or goes off-script

If you feel that it’s essential to have someone involved but fear they may cause problems during the intervention, it may be in your best interest to have them write a short letter read by someone else at the intervention.

How to Ensure the Intervention Goes Smoothly

You must remember that the individual in question’s addiction will involve intense emotions. The process of organizing an intervention and the intervention itself is likely to cause anger and conflict. Both the person going through the intervention and those who planned it are likely to feel resentment because of what might be said. To help ensure an intervention goes smoothly, read the following advice:

    • Never hold an intervention without planning: An intervention may take weeks of planning for it to be effective and cover all bases. With that said, don’t make it too elaborate because it can add additional challenges to get everyone to follow suit.
    • Plan the time you want the intervention to take place: Another way to ensure the intervention is effective is to plan it when you know the individual won’t be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Unfortunately, when someone is under the influence, they’ll be numb to others’ feelings and lack empathy. It’ll make it much harder to get them to commit. However, when they’re sober, you’ll have a better chance to connect with them and get through to their heart. This gives you a better chance of them agreeing to go to treatment. 
  • Do your research: Make sure to do your homework and learn about the person’s addiction or substance abuse issues. By having a good understanding of what they’re going through, it’ll allow you to connect with them at that moment. Sometimes, all the person needs to hear is your support and that someone understands what they’re going through. 
  • Appoint someone as a mediator: In order to communicate well and stay on track, you should appoint one person as a liaison. Having this one point of contact for the intervention team members will help the operation run smoothly 
  • Share information with everyone: Remember, communication is key. Each member of the intervention team must have access to the same information, so they’re all on the same page. Make sure to hold meetings or conference calls to discuss updates and ensure everyone is presented as a united team.
  • Practice makes perfect: As was mentioned above, you must plan the intervention out, meaning you must rehearse how everything will go down. This includes where people will sit, what they’ll say, and making sure it goes without a hitch. 
  • Don’t let your emotions get the best of you: Everyone is going to be very emotional during the intervention. Everyone’s lives have been affected by alcohol and drugs, and things have the ability to get out of control quickly. Make sure that cooler heads prevail, don’t get confrontational, and remain respectful. Don’t call any names or let any pent-up anger come out and accuse the person of anything.
  • Don’t lose focus: When emotions get involved, it’s easy for the plan to get derailed, which is why you should have a professional interventionist on hand. With that said, you must stay on track to ensure something positive comes from all of this. You must be prepared to remain calm, even when the individual accuses you of something or blames others for their actions. Remember, getting them the help they need is the objective, and keeping your cool will help get you the outcome you seek.   
  • Don’t give them time to decide – an immediate decision is necessary: They’ll likely ask you for some extra time to decide, but you can’t give them any more time to determine whether or not they want to accept treatment. Don’t allow them an extra minute – they must decide then and there, or you’ll follow through with their consequences. When they ask for time, it’s likely an excuse to go out and engage in a dangerous drug or alcohol binge. Unfortunately, this could be deadly. If they believe they’re going away to treatment, they may use more drugs or alcohol than usual “for one last time,” which can lead to an overdose. Make sure they agree to the plan in front of everyone at the intervention.

What Happens If They Say No?

No matter how much time and effort you put into the intervention, there is a chance the person in question says no. This is the reality of drug and alcohol addiction, and you must be prepared for this outcome. Not all interventions are successful, no matter how badly you want them to be. The individual could refuse their gift of help. You must be prepared for them to erupt in anger and plead that they don’t need help. You must also be ready for them to say you’ve betrayed them, and they’ll resent you forever for this. Remember,  it’s the addiction talking, not them. 

You have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. If the person doesn’t accept this gift, you have to follow through with the consequences you set forth during the intervention. They may not like them, and it’s likely you won’t either, but it’s the only leverage you have left at this point if you have any hope of them getting help. 

It’s common to be subjected to threats and violence because of their substance abuse issues. You don’t have control over their behavior – the drugs and alcohol do. What you do have control over is the ability to take yourself away from that situation. 

Even if the intervention wasn’t successful, you must focus on living a normal life. Talk with the others involved about not enabling the person anymore. Hopefully, cutting the individual off and following through will help them one day get help, but now it’s time to fix the damage caused by their addiction. 

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