Every friend and family member of a person addicted to a substance will be very much aware of the power of addiction. They will be mindful of the conflict, damage and unhappiness it creates for the individual and their loved ones. It can be devastating watching a loved one struggle with addiction, giving feelings of complete hopelessness, helplessness and desperation.
You may feel as if you have no control and can do nothing to change the situation, but don’t give up, you can help your loved one. An intervention can help your loved one if carried out efficiently and at the right time.
An intervention is a structured, well-organised conversation between a person suffering with an addiction and a loved one. The purpose of an intervention is to conquer an addicted person’s denial about their addiction, so they can identify the damage they are causing to both themselves and their loved ones. They allow loved ones reach out to the person suffering from addiction in an effort to help them start their recovery journey. Usually the following steps are followed in an intervention:
Ultimately, the main aim of an intervention is for the individual suffering from addiction to listen to their loved one’s concerns and to accept they need to get professional help. But you may ask, what are the best ways I can get this result? Below is a guide which if followed will give you the best possible chance of reaching out to a loved one suffering from addiction and getting them the help that they need.
It is essential to carefully choose the people you want to participate in the intervention with you. It may be obvious, but ensure that individuals who aren’t close to or have a good relationship with the individual suffering from addiction are not present for the intervention. It needs to be a conversation with people they are close to, who they love, trust and have a meaningful relationship with. In addition to this, select people that will be helpful and encouraging rather than emotional or negative. After all, an intervention is a conversation that needs to be motivating to be a success. If the intervention is successful, you can then engage the entire family to help with the recovery journey.
So now you have chosen who you want to be at the intervention with you, but we recommend also giving careful consideration to the order in which individuals speak during the intervention. Having the right person speak at the right time can make all the difference in the world for a successful outcome. Sometimes someone closest to your loved one such as a child, partner or parent should either begin the intervention or alternatively speak near the end at a moment when the individual suffering from addiction is most moved after hearing what everyone has to say. Another technique which can be effective is an individual from outside the immediate family speaking, such as a friend. Your loved one may be tired of his immediate family speaking to them about their addiction. When it comes from someone outside the immediate family, it may make a greater impact.
We would definitely recommend holding the intervention when your loved one is sober / clean or as near to being sober / clean as possible. Staging an intervention when they are drunk or high etc., is never a good idea. You want them to remember everything that is being said, and for them to be able to think with a clear head. This is undoubtedly the safer option for everyone and gives you the best possible chance for a successful outcome.
In terms of specific times of day to hold your intervention, the morning can be best. This is when your loved one will hopefully be at their most sober for the day and will help with your communication. Alternatively, it can be effective to stage an intervention after some major incident. For example, if your loved one has been arrested or injured in some way, it can be a good time to speak to them as they may be more willing to discuss their problems.
The words you use during the intervention is important, but so is your tone and body language while delivering your lines. Try your best to use an open and warm tone and body language while maintaining eye contact. Avoid crossing your arms and legs and tilt your body to your loved one.
Interventions can be extremely emotional and can at times get quite heated. But it’s pivotal that you keep a cool head and try your best to ensure your loved one does too. If they do become upset and begin to argue or change the subject completely, resist your temptation to get angry and try to stay as calm as possible.
You want to choose a location for your intervention where your loved one will feel content and comfortable. Although the family home is one of the most common locations selected, it’s not somewhere we would recommend you to stage your intervention. It’s a lot easier for your loved one to storm off to a bedroom as soon as your intervention begins if it is staged at your family home. It may well also be the location of previous conversations you have had on their addiction issues which were all negative experiences, and these memories may be refreshed in their minds once you begin your intervention. We would recommend staging the intervention in a neutral space where it is a lot more difficult for the person suffering from the addiction to walk out.
Holding a rehearsal of your intervention with everyone who will be attending and speaking at it can be vital for its success. Emotions are guaranteed to run high during the intervention and you may forget to say important things you had planned to say. Practicing the intervention in advance can reduce the risk of this happening and help speakers feel more confident and clearer on the day. It can also be good to rehearse potential questions or comments your loved one might say in response, in order to be prepared and help deal with any scenario you are presented with on the day.
You have spent time preparing what everyone is going to say and in what order, so no matter how tempted you are, it’s important to stick to the script. Ad libbing or improvising during the intervention can upset other speakers and what they were going to say and it can undo the practice and preparations of everyone.
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!
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.