Are you planning an intervention for your loved one struggling with an addiction? One of our April blogs was “A Guide to Staging an Intervention” and might also be a useful read for you, but in this blog, we are going to focus on writing an intervention letter and our top tips to do so successfully.
To stand face to face with someone you care deeply about at an intervention and tell them the pain and heartache their addiction and behaviour has caused you takes a lot of courage, dedication, and bravery. But have you considered writing an intervention letter? It can be a highly effective way of getting your message across to your loved one clearly.
The build up to an intervention can be a time full of uncertainty, desperately wondering how your loved one suffering from addiction will react to it and thinking about the exact words you want to say. With emotions running high, it sometimes can be a challenge to remember everything you want to say and make sure that all participants voices are heard. That is why many specialists recommend reading aloud an intervention letter to your loved one during an intervention. Intervention letters can be extremely powerful tools in helping those suffering from an addiction understand exactly how their family and loved ones lives are being impacted by their addiction. Intervention letters can act as a script for your intervention, making sure everything that was planned to be said is said, and combats the threat of an individual becoming overwhelmed or forgetting what they had planned to say.
Below are seven tips or guidelines for writing an effective intervention letter. Each point represents a section of the letter, some points are brief while others are intended to be longer. Together all seven tips provide a comprehensive template for a good intervention letter giving you the best chance of a positive outcome.
Begin your intervention with a brief heartfelt statement of love and concern that specifically states the nature of your relationship (e.g. older brother, employer, friend).
This should be the longest part of the letter. You should give detailed reasons why you love and care about the person, remembering when you were proud of them, when they were there for you, etc. Somewhat like a eulogy, you should communicate your gratitude to the person. This part of the letter can often include humour or a humorous anecdote.
It’s important to state your understanding of the disease of chemical dependency that you understand substance abuse is a disease. Differentiate it from a character or willpower issue. By discussing it more in a medical context, your loved one suffering from the addiction may feel less guilty. Talk about how you know the difference between who your loved one really is verses how they behave when they are using. Addiction has the power to make extraordinary people do not such extraordinary things. At this stage we would also recommend discussing the need for professional treatment.
It’s a good idea to include statements of specific, first-hand examples of your loved one’s problem behaviour when using, highlighting the consequences, both for the addicted person and for you. We would recommend having more than one specific example also. It’s important stay away from a judgmental or angry language. Let the facts speak for themselves. If you have no first-hand knowledge, talk about your feelings of concern, worry or other observations (e.g. what it’s doing to the children). Overall, we would recommend two to four facts, each described in no more than a sentence or two. Also try to stick to using ‘I’ statements rather than ‘You’ which can come across as critical.
Make a personal commitment to stand by the addicted person and to help him or her in any way possible and appropriate. It is important to remind your loved one of your concern and the positive feelings you have. At this point, you should again be discussing professional treatment and how this is the best option.
Make a direct request for your loved one suffering with an addiction to accept the treatment programme being suggested. Be specific about the treatment centre, it’s location, length of stay, etc. Ask that they make a commitment to contact the treatment centre today and follow through 100%.
It’s important to end on a positive note, showing faith in them to follow through, perhaps referring back to tip number two above.
We hope this guide and tips has helped you with your intervention letter and your intervention planning. The overriding advice we would give when writing an intervention letter is to take your time, and write it from the heart.
Don’t expect immediate results from the intervention. Nobody knows the amount of conversations you will need to have with your loved one before they accept that they need help. Some people might only be one, but others will be multiple conversations over time. The important thing is to never give up on your loved one no matter what as addiction treatment does work!
Please speak with Tabor Group if you would like to discuss the content of the letter further. Our Family Support Programme is designed to help concerned persons of the individual with substance use disorder. It has been our experience that when a family is affected by addiction, the entire family can benefit from support. Our Family Support Programme includes education, one-to-one support, peer support groups, telephone support, intervention advice and more. To contact the Family Support Programme, call us on 021 488 7110.