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What Does an Addiction Intervention Entail?

“Having to go through an intervention and family counseling is a wonderful experience. I would almost recommend it to anybody. It opens a lot of communication, and it opens old sores, but once it is opened and hashed out, the rewards are far greater.”

-Susan Ford

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An addiction intervention is often necessary for families with loved ones who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. It is usually viewed as the last attempt at getting that individual to seek out help for their addiction. It almost seems like a simple process, but it is anything but easy.

The vast majority of drug or alcohol addicts will cling to their drugs of choice. Many fail to recognize that they have a problem, and most will remain in denial for months, or even years. It can be very difficult to get someone with this mental state to agree to get help. But it can be done with the assistance of professionals.

Many recovering alcoholics and addicts view their addiction intervention as being a key turning point in their lives. It takes courage on the part of the family to go through with it, but once they do, the rewards outweigh the challenges tremendously. We would like to take some time to discuss what it means to intervene with someone who is battling a substance abuse problem.

What is an Addiction Intervention?

An addiction intervention refers to a concerted effort of friends and family members to help an addict recover. There is no way to force someone to go to treatment, unless it is court ordered. Even in those cases, there is no guarantee that the individual will remain clean or sober long-term. It is best if the addict agrees to go to treatment on their own, but most are reluctant to make that decision.

An intervention allows loved ones the opportunity to confront the addict about their addiction. When it is done correctly, it gives the person the motivation they need to get started on the process of recovering.

The meeting itself is all about connecting with an addict on a deeper level. It is also about empowering them to make the decision to get help. Once that decision has been made, an opportunity is extended to them to go to treatment right away.

Addicts need to be able to see the detrimental effect that substance abuse has had on them, as well as on those who love them. They need to understand the negative effects their addiction has had on their personal relationships, families, and professional responsibilities. They need to see the impact it has had on their health. An intervention can help to bring these to light so that the addict feels compelled to make a change.

The television show, Intervention, has grown very popular because it depicts real-life stories of people with addictions. It also shows the process the family goes through when they plan and stage an intervention.

Caylee is a young woman who battled an addiction to heroin and cocaine. This is also known as a speedball. Her friends were very concerned for her, telling her that she was going to die. Her only response was, “I know.”

Her drug habit was costing her $150 every day. She began dating a man who was 51 years old, and he would give her money for drugs in exchange for sex. Her life was unraveling before her eyes, yet she was not able to see the reality of it.

This video tells the whole story of Caylee’s addiction, intervention, and her challenges with recovering from heroin and cocaine addiction:


What is Enabling?

Families can enable addicts in a number of different ways. Some of them include:

  • Giving them money that they know will be used to purchase drugs or alcohol.
  • Allowing them to stay with them and providing their food and other needs.
  • Watching their children when they know that the addict will only go and use.
  • Paying their bills because the addicted family member refuses to get a job.
  • Bailing them out of jail if they get arrested because of their substance abuse problem.
  • Making excuses for them to other people who ask questions about the substance use.

It can be very difficult for families to stop enabling. They usually feel guilty because they have not been able to stop the person from using. Sometimes they may believe that the person will stop using if they show them love, and doing things for them is how they do it.

The reality is that enabling behaviors are dangerous. They will only allow the individual to stay addicted and refuse to get help. The problem is that it is hard for families to understand this.

It is not easy for loved ones to stop enabling an addict, but it is something that has to be done. Families who want to change their behaviors in an attempt to change the addicted individual should take the following steps:

  • Sit down with the addict and have a conversation about the addiction.
  • Talk about the different enabling behaviors and how they feel they are causing more harm than good.
  • Explain that the enabling behaviors are going to stop immediately.
  • Explain how this is going to affect the addict, and what they will need to do going forward.
  • Stay strong and stick to the new rules the family sets, no matter how much the addict begs them to enable again.
What is an Addiction Intervention?

Who is Involved in the Intervention Process?

There are several people that are usually involved in the intervention process. The meetings themselves are usually run by addiction intervention specialists. They may request that a certain number of people are also present for the meeting. But it is very important not to have too many people there because it can become quite overwhelming.

The addicted individual probably has many people in their life who want to see them stop using. They could be family, friends, co-workers, teachers or even employers. There are some criteria the person should have to meet before being asked to participate.

First and foremost, the family should make sure that the person has a genuine relationship with the addict. An intervention needs to be emotional in order to be effective. That means that the addict needs to care about what the participant is saying. It is also helpful if the participant has something to use as a bargaining tool. For instance, an employer the addict respects could say that they will lose their job if they refuse to get help.

The intervention specialist will give an indication of how many people should be invited to participate. It is important for their recommendation to be followed.

An addiction intervention specialist is sometimes referred to as an interventionist. It is their job to oversee interventions and guide their progress. They are typically social workers or counselors who have completed additional education in order to become certified in this field.

The interventionist’s job is actually quite complex. Prior to the meeting, they spend time with the family discussing the addict and the situation they are facing. They will point out any enabling behaviors to the family and advise them on how to change.

During the meeting, they will make sure that everyone stays on task. They will offer counseling to the addict and urge them to seek treatment once the meeting is over.

An addiction interventionist’s job is very important. They have a mission to get people to see the need for treatment and then follow through on getting it.

How to Stage an Intervention

Families often want to know the best way to go about having an intervention. Many prefer the thought of taking matters into their own hands, but this is not recommended. Working with a professional gives them the opportunity to rely on the expertise of those who understand how the process works. Concerned family members have a much better chance of the intervention being successful when they work with an interventionist.

The process will begin by placing a phone call to a facility that offers intervention services. The staff will talk with the family and then make arrangements for the meeting to take place.

The addiction intervention specialist will first meet with the participants of the intervention, without the addict present. The meeting should be a surprise for the addicted individual, so it is critical for them to not be at the meeting.

The interventionist will take some time getting familiar with the family dynamics. They will learn more about the addict, and about any possible reasons for the addiction. They will also talk with the family about any enabling behaviors they may have, and advise them to stop.

The interventionist will advise the participants to write letters to be read during the intervention. Every specialist has a different way they prefer the letters to be written, but they often follow a specific format. This is a sample intervention letter that shows they should be written:

Dear Sarah,

You and I have always been close and I love you very much. I know you feel the same way about me, and I am so glad you are my sister. We have been through so much together. We have lost boyfriends, lost best friends, and enjoyed many, many laughs. Our family vacations were the best, and I have always known that I can count on you for anything.

Your drug addiction has been a part of our family for a long time. I have watched it slowly take over your life, and it breaks my heart. You are no longer able to work, and you cannot take care of your son because of drugs. There are many times when you don’t come home late at night that I worry that something happened to you.

I am afraid that if you continue down this path, someday, that might become a reality. I don’t want to lose you, and I don’t know what I would do if I ever did. You mean the world to me, and I am asking you to accept help today. Your family and friends are all here to support you. Will you please get help so you can recover?

It is very important to remember that the addict will be very emotional during this process. They may be looking for a way to start an argument, so it is vital to avoid any blaming statements in the letters. They should be full of love, proof of the problem, and pleas for help.

Prior to the intervention, the specialist may ask the participants to meet one more time. They may want to go over the letters so that any revisions can be made before they are read aloud.

The participants will be coached on what to expect during the meeting. They will also have the opportunity to ask any questions at that time.

A designated person will bring the addict to the location of the meeting at a specific time. Again, it is very important for the intervention to remain a secret. Otherwise, the addict is not likely to come willingly.

Once the addicted individual realizes what is happening, they may react with a number of different emotions. They may feel angry, ganged up on, afraid or sad. There may even be tears because so many people are showing how much they care about them.

The addiction intervention specialist will introduce him/herself and then the meeting will begin. Everyone will read their letters, and at the end, the addict will have the opportunity to respond. The specialist will ask them if they are willing to accept help and enter treatment right away.

Expected Outcomes and Statistics

It is difficult to say what the outcome of the intervention will be. It could be any of the following:

  • The addict will agree to stop using, but will refuse to go to treatment.
  • The addict will attempt to make a deal or bargain to go to rehab at a later date.
  • The addict will become angry and leave the meeting before giving an answer.
  • The addict will remain in denial and refuse to change at all.
  • The addict will be very emotional and will agree to get help right away.

Statistics indicate that most interventions are successful, as long as they are done the right way. That means that professional guidance is used, and the family follows up in the appropriate manner. The NCAAD states that when a professional is involved, more than 90% of interventions are successful.

What Kind of Treatment is Best After an Addiction Intervention?

There are many different forms of treatment available. It is important to note that not all forms of rehab will work for everyone. It all depends on the type of addiction they have, and their history of substance abuse.

For many with addictions, going through alcohol or drug detox is very important. There are some instances when it is considered necessary, depending on the drug. For instance, an alcoholic should go through alcohol detox. Someone who is addicted to heroin or cocaine should go through drug detox.

This type of treatment should be done in an inpatient setting. There are outpatient detox programs available, but they may not provide enough support.

Many people with addictions require inpatient treatment for recovery. This involves a 28-day stay in a facility, and patients can go through detox and receive therapy. This is a good solution for someone who needs time away from home in order to stop using.

An intensive outpatient treatment program (IOP) is an excellent alternative to an inpatient program. Some people simply cannot make the commitment that is needed for an inpatient stay. But they still need a higher level of care. An IOP can provide that for them.

This type of program requires absolute compliance. There may be drug tests that are administered unannounced. Patients will need to come to three to five appointments during the week, and each one may be a few hours long.

For many who are new to recovery, outpatient rehab or therapy might not be the best solution. Addicts generally need a high level of support, and they may not receive it with this type of program. This is usually better suited for someone who has already been through an IOP or inpatient rehab.

Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous can provide peer support, which an important part of the recovery process. However, most people agree that because the professional component is missing, they might not be very effective in the beginning stages of recovery. They can work well when utilized along with outpatient counseling.

What Happens if the Addict Relapses Afterwards?

The reality is that many addicts will relapse after going through an intervention and treatment. It is best for the family to know and understand this ahead of time. In some cases, the addict may need to return to a higher level of treatment after they relapse.

If the relapse results in a complete return to the active addiction, further action may need to be taken. The family should contact an addiction treatment program to learn about their options.

The best way to prevent a relapse is to remain in treatment. So many people with addictions fail to recognize the fact that they suffer from a disease that needs continual treatment. This does not mean staying in a long-term facility forever, but it does mean surrounding oneself with people who are recovery-minded.

The best drug and alcohol rehab programs will have a relapse prevention component built into each patient’s treatment plan. The staff members will have taken time to talk with the patient about potential triggers, how to avoid them and what to do if they encounter them. This is a very important part of the recovery process, and it empowers the individual to make the choice to avoid a relapse.

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Can Families Stage Their Own Interventions?

As we mentioned earlier, it is best to leave this to the professionals. There is no way of knowing how the addict might respond. It is best to have someone there that knows what to expect, and how to respond. Families have a much better chance of the intervention being successful if they work with a professional.

Where Can Families Turn for Help if They Need an Addiction Intervention?

Concerned families should know that they are not alone if they have a loved one battling an addiction. There are many places where they can turn if they need help, or feel that it is time to consider an intervention. Northpoint Evergreen Bellevue is one of those places.

Perhaps you have been wondering if there was anything you could do to help your addicted loved one. Maybe you have taken the time to talk with them about the problem, and you have even begged them to stop using. Nothing you say seems to make a difference. You feel as though you are about ready to give up completely.

It may be time for you to schedule and intervention, and we can help you with that process. We have worked with many families, who all only want the best for their loved ones. Please contact us today if you have any questions or need to talk with a professional about your options.

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