Anatomy of an Intervention
Ideally an individual in the grips of addiction will find their way to help and support and be willing to admit themselves to a program of recovery. But more often than not, the momentum of addiction, combined with denial, and patterns of thought and survival mentality, make it impossible for the addict to take that step on their own. Enter intervention. Like in the popular show,”Intervention,” where we witness the drama, the reactions, and family dynamics, there are many elements involved in stepping in on behalf of a loved one. In this article, we’ll explore when it might be an appropriate time to intervene, what goes into a successful intervention process, and what qualities of awareness and foresight contribute to an eﬀective intervention.
When to Intervene:
There are few things more painful that witnessing the self-destruction of a loved one and feeling powerless to have any influence over them. Family and friends may question whether there is hope, what their role is, whether they should attempt to change anything or whether any changes they make will have any eﬀect on the addict(s) in their lives. If your wondering if an intervention might be a beneficial route to take, consider the following signs and evidence that have been shown to be significant in determining when to intervene:
- Has the addict had secretive behavior, lying, stealing, and hiding their addiction
- Have they often borrowed money or sought help from those around them
- Have they exhibited aggressive behavior
- Are there signs of deterioration in physical appearance
- Are they lacking energy and motivation to participate in life
- Have they had problems at work and/or school
- Are they exhibiting signs of health issues
- Has their personality changed, in destructive ways
Of course, there doesn’t need to be a long list of signs to plan an intervention. The bottom line is there simply needs to be enough concern, and desire to find a solution, that friends and family are willing to come together to help the addict (and all involved) recover.
Steps to take
Once the decision has been made to plan an intervention, there are some concrete steps to take that will ensure the intervention is carried out in a unified and constructive manner.
- Contact an intervention specialist
Many treatment centers, and recovery programs either have people on staﬀ that can assist in an intervention, or can point you in the direction of a helper to facilitate a planning session, and subsequent intervention. Make that first phone call to one in your area that can schedule a consultation, and guide you in the process of intervening.
- Contact family and friends that might want to be involved
It’s important to have a supportive group to gather round the addict and hold the energy of positive action. Even if family or friends are hesitant to know what to say or how to be involved, encourage them to come and simply be a supportive presence for the individual and family aﬀected. Your intervention specialist will help provide guidance on what to say when the time comes, and help to prepare all involved so that everyone feels clear and ready to be a part of this transformative beginning.
- Schedule an intervention planning session, with the help of the intervention specialist or a counselor, so that everyone involved can gather helpful information, either in the form of letters, planned comments, reflections on the addicts strengths, or evidence of the addiction and need for recovery. This is also a time to decide on a plan for treatment, or for actions to be taken should the addict refuse treatment.
- Plan the intervention date
With the guidance of a specialist or counselor, plan to invite the addict for a visit on this date, or come to them with the group. This part may require some maneuvering and careful words to initiate a meeting without the addict’s knowledge of the intervention. Because addiction hijacks neural pathways and inhibits a desire for positive change, it can be beneficial to say as little as possible to the addict that would imply an intervention is ensuing. The goal here is to simply get an audience with the addict, which is a first step in a successful intervention.
What to Keep in Mind During an Intervention
- The whole family and support group is aﬀected, this means everyone may be triggered emotionally during the intervention. Sometimes, the less said the better, when reactions get expressed, it can amp up negative momentum, causing more discomfort for all involved, making it more challenging for the addict to agree to this positive step for healing. As much as possible, stick to the wording/letters planned to share, so that a clear simple message of love, desire for change, and hope can be heard.
- Addiction is a powerful force that takes over a person’s brain and responses, it’s very common for an addict to lash out and speak aggressively, defensively, and in all manner of resistance possible. It’s helpful if those involved can do all they can to not take it personally, and keep their focus on the goal: to encourage the addict to agree to treatment.
- Coping with triggers is a subject that may be helpful to explore in preparation, for all involved. Deep breathing, observing silence, accepting surfacing emotion, letting the counselor lead the discussion- these are all steps that can contribute to a successful intervention.
- Remember the love you have for the addict, for the strengths that may have been shared from the past, remember the desire for change, and remember there is hope.
- It’s helpful for any family or friends who may have contributed to the addicts pain/suﬀering to take ownership of their part, if they are willing to do so, which may become more clear in preparations with a counselor or interventionist. Many successful interventions involve empathy towards the addict and acknowledgement of various challenges they have had to go through, or even apologies from family members who may feel partly responsible, either through enabling, or past events. This is simply to take blame and shame oﬀ of the addict, which is usually a large motivation to use, and may ease some of their initial impulses to run and get high.
- Don’t give up hope if the addict runs or refuses treatment, stick to the prepared plan or have someone go talk to them, if that is an option. Sometimes the agreement comes after a lot of push, sometimes it comes days later or even weeks later. Know that the eﬀort to come together for healing and support does have power no matter what the initial outcome may be.
It’s also helpful to note that every situation in regards to addiction and family dynamics is unique in many ways, and may take varied approaches. It’s always helpful to consult with a professional counselor or interventionist about the specifics of your situation, when determining what advice to follow, when planning an intervention.