If your loved one is suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, it can be a frustrating experience – all your pleading, cajoling, explaining and advice will most likely not work. This is due to the powerful pull of addiction and the denial which is very much a part of it. Denial means the person who is addicted cannot see (genuinely) the impact of his or her behaviour. He is either minimizing the enormity and gravity of the problem, or rationalizing and justifying, or blaming. Therefore, an intervention is a necessary and effective way to get them into treatment.
If you want to perform an effective intervention, follow these steps:
Planning for the intervention
In the pre-planning stage, loved ones of the addict should meet to discuss the need for, and strategy of, the intervention. If you are organizing the meeting, make sure everyone is prepared to discuss the problem and ensure not to inform the addict about the meeting. Before the meeting, consider doing some research and bringing some literature on the disease of addiction, so that participants can educate themselves on the issue.
Everyone should share their experiences with the addict so the extent of their problem is clear. Participants should also share their feelings and ideas, as well as any questions or concerns they have about the intervention. As the organizer, you should take notes. Come up with a preliminary plan on how and when the intervention will take place, and schedule a second meeting in the near future. Also ask each participant to write down what they might like to say to their loved one at the intervention. This can be put in the form of a letter and brought to bring to the next meeting. Make sure everyone includes concrete examples of incidents and feelings which show how their loved one’s addiction has affected them.
Contact a professional interventionist or other addictions specialist to discuss the intervention (such as Hope Trust™ in India, call: +91 90008 50001, +91 90007 20003, email: email@example.com. He or she can help you with the important details and help facilitate the actual intervention. The counsellor at Hope Trust shall act as a mediator for an emotionally charged situation.
Contact the treatment center (firstname.lastname@example.org) and get all relevant details so that you can present them as an option during the intervention. It is important to have a treatment plan set in place ahead of time so that your loved one can enter treatment immediately following the intervention.
Planning for the intervention
Next step is that everyone involved in the intervention should meet again to discuss the intervention in detail. Set the date, time, and location of the intervention, as well as deciding on how the addict will be brought to the intervention site. It is important that the addict is not told about what will be happening (otherwise addicts may not come or come with their own strategies which may frustrate the objective of the meeting).
Discuss the consequences that the addict will face if they do not choose to go directly to treatment. Consequences such as being cut off financially, being kicked out of the house, severing contact with family members, etc. These may appear harsh, but the addict must face the consequences of his behaviour, otherwise he will not feel the need to change. These should be severe and must be acted upon if necessary.
Practice the intervention. Have everyone share their letters, and make sure everyone uses a consistent tone. When speaking to the addict, agree to use “I” statements. For example, “I am hurt by your actions,” as opposed to, “You are hurting me,” which can cause your loved one to become more defensive. The tone of the intervention should be stern. Everyone must remain as calm as possible and not react to the addict’s emotional outbursts if they occur.
The actual intervention
At the intervention, each loved one will take turns sharing their letters with the addict. Strongly reinforce the message that you love the addict, and your concern for their well-being is why you are compelling them to seek treatment. Be supportive, but do not waver in your resolve to get the addict into immediate treatment; make the consequences if they don’t go clear to them. Let your loved one know that you understand their addiction is a chemical problem and not a defect in their character. Remind the addict how much you love him (or her) and how much you love the person they are when they are not using. Try to get a commitment to treatment, and say your goodbyes before taking him or her to the treatment center (admission should be a brisk affair, not allowing the addict to change his mind or manipulate in any way to get away or postpone treatment).
What if the addict refuses to take up the offer of treatment?
If your loved one does not go into treatment, let him or her know that the offer is always open if they change their mind in the future. Then, follow through with the consequences immediately you set indefinitely until the addict does go into treatment. If your loved one does go to treatment, be involved in the process in a supportive way. Consider getting treatment or counseling for yourself and learning how to cope with the way their addiction has affected you, as well as how to best support your loved one in recovery and what to do if a relapse occurs – Hope Trust has a highly evolved Family Support Program to help family members of those in treatment.
If intervention is not possible, or does not work
Sometimes, especially in the Indian social scenario, an effective intervention is not possible. This may be due to high degree of co-dependency of the family members who are unable to withdraw support or be adequately detached to confront the addict.
In such cases, it may be a better idea to somehow first get the addict admitted into the treatment centre (Indian laws allow for such facilitation). Hope Trust team shall then prepare the family for an effective intervention post-admission.