Nobody with a substance abuse problem ever wants to hear the phrase, “You have a problem.” In fact, most addicts don’t think they have a problem at all. Those who do are apt to deny it – strongly.
But the reality is that hearing a friend or loved one utter those four simple words may save someone’s life. Of the millions of people battling addiction, the lucky ones who make it out alive often owe their second chance at life to the compassion and concern of someone in their lives who cared enough to talk about the elephant in the room.
In medical circles, that conversation is usually known as an intervention. An intervention involves pulling the addict into a safe and loving environment and explaining the severity of their abuse. People closest to the person show their love and express their honest feelings. When successful, a substance abuse intervention allows loved ones to suggest ways to find help and initiate the recovery process.
You may have seen an intervention – the TV show “Intervention” showcases a number of them – but the idea of staging one yourself still seems crazy. You may care about someone who struggles with addiction – most of us do, with or without knowing it – but feel the problem eventually will work itself out.
Or you may be the life preserver that keeps your son, daughter, father, mother or friend from ruining their family or their life.
If you take part in an intervention, it may be as daunting as anything you ever do. It’s emotional, and it’s difficult to be so honest with someone you love. The episode itself is also a defining moment in your relationship. And while it can be heart-wrenching, there’s no measure for the value of a successful intervention.
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Before considering an intervention, you should be confident a problem exists. This can be difficult because our culture has become more accepting of drinking and recreational drug use and doctors regularly prescribe opiate painkillers in spite of the risks they present.
Signs that your loved one needs professional treatment:
Obviously, if you observe or hear about substance use, that’s a key sign.
A successful intervention can come in many forms. One method may be preferable to another based on certain factors.
Factors that determine the type of intervention:
After you identify the problem, it’s time to take the crucial next step.
You may plan a one-on-one intervention – simply a heartfelt, non-judgmental conversation where you suggest they find help – or a more formal intervention that involves several friends and family members. Professional interventionists or counselors can meet with your group beforehand and help map out your intervention strategy. That includes compiling scripts to follow, possible outcomes and dos and don’ts for how to handle the proceedings. These professionals often sit in with the group when the intervention takes place.
There’s no such thing as a perfect moment to stage a substance abuse intervention, but once you determine it needs to take place, sooner is better. It takes a great deal of courage. After all, you risk the end of a valued relationship. On the other hand, how long do you really want the relationship to continue if your loved one decides to stay on a path of self-destruction?
Professional counselors recommend a number of things to do – and not do – during an intervention.
Not every intervention goes as planned. Emotions usually rule the day, and meetings like this tend to be volatile. Denial, anger and feelings of betrayal are frequent reactions, all of which lead to counter reactions by you and others. Addicts often storm out before both sides reach a resolution.
You have to be prepared for this and also for the consequences. If the meeting goes poorly, interventionists recommend giving your loved one time to regain their senses and alone time to process what they just experienced. They sometimes ask that married couples separate temporarily and that friends cut off communication.
Sometimes this may mean asking someone to leave the house or isolating yourself until they decide to pursue help.
When it goes well – tears dried up, hugs exchanged and actions taken to get better – you and your loved ones will look back on an intervention as a massive accomplishment, and a crucial moment in time. And though the risks involved are difficult to imagine, the possible rewards far outweigh them.
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, more than 90 percent of interventions involving a trained professional end in an addict promising to find help. Countless others as simple as a brief conversation between two loved ones put a stop to a destructive habit and right the ship in someone’s journey.
Where do you look for help? Research your nearest options for treatment prior to staging the intervention. Google searches, local counselors and doctors often point you in the right direction. Trained interventionists are excellent resources.
Once you locate your nearest rehab facility, reach out to them, explain your situation and find out more information. Have as much information available to give your friend or family member during your intervention, should they decide to make a commitment towards getting better.
Jack didn’t choose to be an addict at 12 years old. But he did choose to get sober and help others do the same.Read His Story
Your goal as a loved one, obviously, would be to avoid the need for an intervention. How do you do that? There’s no clear way, but there are things to know.
Studies show that the closeness of a parent-child bond discourages drug use and also reduces the likelihood that drug experimentation evolves into a full-blown abusive habit.
Also, discussing the dangers of drug use with your children at an early age plays a role. While 93 percent of parents feel that they’ve accomplished this already, only 46 percent of children believe this to be the case.
Peers and friends have an even stronger impact on us than our parents do. If friends party, we tend to party. If they smoke and do drugs, the more likely we will do so as well. The same goes for the people around you.
If you know someone with a potential addiction, be it a friend, family member or even an acquaintance, don’t enable their habit. If they drink too much, then don’t drink in their presence. If they take drugs, don’t do drugs around them.
Speak up when they discuss their personal relationship with the substance. In many cases, the most harm someone can do is nod and smile when a loved one admits to having a problem. If you notice the warning signs of substance abuse, now is the time to take action. At this point, you should start to ask questions about whether an intervention is necessary.