There are few things more painful than watching a loved one’s life being destroyed by addiction. When efforts to help are either unsuccessful or, even worse, inadvertently enable the addiction, it’s natural to feel helpless and at a loss as to what to do next.
Do you give up on trying to help and hope that at some point they “hit bottom” and decide to turn their life around? Do you keep doing what little you can to help them stay fed and housed while trying to turn a blind eye to the substance use? Do you try an intervention?
You’ve probably seen addiction interventions on TV or heard about them from friends, but do they really work? And what does it take to make an intervention successful?
Proper Preparation Is Key to a Successful Intervention
You’ve already taken the correct first step: looking up information on how to host a successful intervention. Doing your homework ahead of time will greatly increase the chances of your intervention being a success. In this article, we’ll answer your questions about how to do an intervention, and we’ll share a valuable resource with more tips on what to do next.
What Is an Intervention?
In the context of addiction, an intervention is when a person (or group of people) confronts a person about his or her addiction while providing support and encouragement to seek professional help, usually by enrolling in an addiction treatment program.
There are several different intervention formats:
- One-on-One – discussion between the concerned person (usually a close friend or family member) and the addicted person
- Doctor Consultation – where a medical professional whom the addicted person respects encourages the patient to seek treatment
- Family Intervention – in which supportive and loving family and friends meet as a group to encourage the user to agree to check into rehab
- Professional Intervention – a group intervention led by a professional interventionist
Do Interventions Really Work?
Yes, interventions do work. However, they don’t always work on the first try. Don’t let this discourage you. Keep trying.
The right approach at just the right time allows your message to get through – so you can get a “yes” to treatment from your loved one.
Here are some best practices that we cover in detail in our free guide, How to Get a Loved One into Rehab:
- Approach the User out of Love – Talk about the facts of the situation without judgment or condemnation.
- Treat Rehab Like a Solution, Not a Punishment – Treatment should be presented as a doorway to a better life, not as a consequence of their decisions or circumstances.
- Research Treatment Centers in Advance and Go in with a Plan – Carefully plan what you’re going to say, how you’ll say it, and when and where, so as to not go off track. Have a treatment center lined up that is a good fit for your loved one and has a spot available with payment options that work for your situation.
- Once Committed, Don’t Wait to Get the Loved One into Treatment – After they say “yes,” get them on a plane, bus, train or car as soon as possible so that they don’t have time to change their mind. This is why you should have the treatment center planned out ahead of time.
- Remember That Recovery Doesn’t End with Rehab – A residential addiction treatment program will address the acute symptoms and causes of addiction and get them on the right path. They will need your continued support as they work to rebuild a happy and prosperous life.
Should I Wait Until They ‘Hit Bottom’?
You may have heard stories, or seen in movies, where a person’s life gets so bad that they have a wake-up call and make a commitment to turning their life around.
While this sort of situation may happen for some of the challenges that people face in life, it is rarely what happens for people who are addicted.
Overcoming addiction is almost never a matter of willpower. Addicts already know they are hurting themselves and are terrified, but they can’t stop. They need assistance from others who have the necessary knowledge and expertise to help them quit.
Also, it’s simply not necessary to wait until a person’s life is “bad enough” to warrant help. If they are suffering, now is the best time to get help.
Don’t let a fear of your loved one saying “no” stop you from intervening. Be prepared to attempt intervention multiple times if needed. Your loved one’s life is worth it!
Are Intervention and Rehab Really Necessary? Can They Get Better on Their Own?
While there are rare stories where people have simply decided to quit and done so (and those are usually with tobacco addiction), these cases are very few and far between. The majority of people who suffer from addiction either 1) get treatment, 2) go to jail, or 3) die. Do you want to roll the dice and hope that your loved one is in the very small minority of people who can quit through willpower alone?
Also, some people experience life-threatening withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to quit “cold turkey” on their own. This is why it is highly advisable to enroll in a treatment program that offers medically supervised detox. Not only is medical staff on hand to deal with any such symptoms, but they can also help alleviate the discomfort of withdrawal pains safely.
Finally, keep in mind that a quality addiction treatment program, like the one here at Elevate, will not only help your loved one detox from the addictive substance, but will also help with counseling to get to the root of unhappiness and pain that may have led them to substance use in the first place.
Our clients often leave treatment ready to rebuild relationships and move on – not only from drugs and alcohol, but from whatever else was causing the suffering. This makes treatment a very wise investment, even for people who have strong self-discipline and are managing to keep their life from falling apart completely.
How Can I Ensure That the Intervention Isn’t Uncomfortable and Awkward?
Unfortunately, this conversation probably will be awkward, at least to some degree. But given what’s on the line (the life of your loved one, the disruptions addiction is causing to your life and theirs), isn’t it worth some uncomfortable moments?
Thankfully, you can enlist the help of a doctor or professional interventionist to direct the intervention, if you don’t feel comfortable doing it on your own. See chapters 4 and 6 in our intervention guide for more specifics on these strategies.
A successful intervention involves approaching the user with compassion, respect and without judgment. Even if things get uncomfortable during your intervention, keep love in your heart and stay focused on your mission: getting a “yes” to rehab.
What If They Say ‘No’?
When faced with the facts about how addiction hurts people, it’s natural for an addicted person to get defensive. Most don’t hang their head in shame, apologize and agree to treatment. They argue. They blame. They throw your enabling, ignorance or judgmental attitude back at you with force. Your responsibility is to be the controlled voice of calm compassion in the situation.
Often, drugs and alcohol are used as a coping mechanism to deal with a deeper issue. When you suggest treatment, you are telling them to remove the only source of comfort they know.
Think of a “no” as a “not yet.” Just because they’re not ready in that moment to agree to treatment doesn’t mean they won’t be at a later date. Some people need time to process the discussion and make a decision. Others are moved to commit in the moment.
Remember this conversation is only one step on the road to complete recovery. Be in it for the long haul, because there is no quick fix to addiction.
What Do I Do When They Say ‘Yes’?
Be prepared to transport them immediately to a treatment center (or at least to the airport, train station, etc.). Don’t wait until next week or even the next day to get them on their way.
Any delay could give them a chance to reconsider and change their mind. This is why it’s important to have already picked out the treatment center before the intervention takes place. To learn about what to look for when selecting a treatment center, read this article.
What you should NOT do when they say “yes” is question if they’re serious or doing it for the right reasons. A yes is a yes. Take it and run with it. Issues of motivation and purpose can be sorted out during treatment.
What If I’ve Tried an Intervention Before That Wasn’t Successful?
Based on what they’ve seen in popular media, many families think that an intervention is simply sitting down with their loved one and telling them how much trouble their addiction is causing and that they need to check into rehab. But doing this without proper preparation will most likely result in the addicted person feeling attacked and defensive.
There are things you need to do to set the tone of the conversation so that your loved one is open to hearing what you have to say. This can be hard when you’re so emotionally involved in the situation, so we highly encourage you to read our free guide that goes into detail on how to do this.
How to Get a Loved One into Rehab
For more information on how to host a successful intervention, download our free guide that covers:
- The different types of intervention styles and when to use them
- Step-by-step information on what to research and prepare ahead of time
- What types of treatment centers are available and how to choose one
- What to expect after your loved one leaves treatment, and your role going forward