Staging a Successful Intervention
Words can scarcely capture the heartache of watching a friend or family member slowly kill themselves with drugs and alcohol. As they deteriorate before our very eyes, we feel pangs of guilt at our seeming inability to help them. Every time they leave the house, we wonder if tonight will be the night we get that dreaded phone call to tell us they’ve been lost forever.
Despite our grief, we may also feel a great deal of anger. Every time they lie to us, or lash out at us for suggesting they seek help, we wonder if perhaps we shouldn’t simply turn our backs on them. Yet our desire to help them always seems to win. We bail them out of another jam, prevent them from suffering another consequence, and ultimately ensure that they will continue along the same dark path with impunity.
Guilt. Anger. Sorrow. Fear. These feelings are weighing you down, and you simply cannot take it anymore. This is when it’s time to stage an intervention.
Addicts and alcoholics don’t always fully grasp the consequences of their actions. Many believe they are hurting nobody but themselves, and some have trouble even understanding that. Even those who intuitively know that their way of life must change will sometimes have trouble admitting it, whether due to denial or the fear that they will be stigmatized for admitting they have a problem. Interventions help bring these issues to light, while simultaneously letting the addict or alcoholic know that people are here to support them if they wish to make a change.
Professional interventionists help this process along by offering structure, mediation and additional support. Having staged interventions with families from all demographics, we are specialists in the art of balancing family dynamics.
Furthermore, we understand that textbook knowledge isn’t enough. Every family has its own unique dynamic, and no two families will be able to stage an intervention in the exact same way. Professional interventionists look for the qualities that make each family special, tweaking the process slightly to accommodate these qualities and raise your chances of success.
If you have never had to stage an intervention before, then you likely have some questions about the process. We understand that it is an intimidating, perhaps even overwhelming concept. You’re always more than welcome to contact us with any questions you may have, but for now let us walk you through some of the questions we hear most frequently.
When is the right time to stage an intervention?
If you’re asking this question, then the time is probably now. We understand, however, that there are a few considerations to take into account. For instance, you probably want to make sure that the subject of your intervention is sober at the time. If they’re under the influence, or even just hung over, they likely won’t be too receptive to anything you say. Even worse, they might seem receptive but then have a change of heart once the substance wears off and they feel the urge to use again. Fortunately, since you know this person well, you probably know something about their using habits. This will make it easier to schedule an intervention for a time when they will be attentive and able to listen.
Of course, there’s a broader question at play here as well. Do you stage an intervention when the subject is at a low point, or just as soon as you see them beginning to suffer consequences from their substance abuse? This question is a lot harder. First, how do you define a low point? Some people never hit rock bottom, and will keep using until it claims their life. Second, how do you know a person in early addiction will be receptive? They might not see their consequences as a pattern, but merely as a fluke.
There is no perfect answer here. In general, if you and the others who love them feel that it’s time to intervene, then you should go with that feeling.
How do we make sure they show up?
Depictions of the intervention process on television and in other media probably have you thinking that you need to ambush your loved one when they least expect it. This can work, but it also leaves open the risk that they might not be sober.
Again, however, there is no perfect answer. If you tell them that you want to talk, they may catch wind to your intentions and simply refuse to show up at the agreed upon time. This is why the surprise method is utilized so often.
The proper approach varies from one person to another. During our consultation, we will ask you questions about your loved one that can help us reach a conclusion. If you have had previous confrontations with them about their using, then their reactions on those occasions will help inform the best approach to the intervention process.
Who should be in attendance?
Aside from you and your interventionist, you want to include the friends and family who have been hurt most by your loved one’s substance use. Furthermore, you want them to be people who you know your loved one cares about—people they would never intentionally hurt if not for their addiction. Aside from friends and family, you may also include coworkers, classmates and others who care about the person you are trying to help.
At the same time, there are some people you will not want in attendance. If your loved one has an extremely volatile relationship with someone, or if there is a family member who cannot speak about your loved one’s addiction without succumbing to anger and becoming aggressive, their presence will only lessen your chances of success.
Do we need to make any special preparations?
Yes. The key things you need to decide upon beforehand are the time, location, and people in attendance. Since the goal is generally to get your loved one into treatment, you should also have a treatment center chosen beforehand. If you’d like to reduce the risk of your loved one changing their mind, you should also know what your travel arrangements will be if they choose to go. You might also want to write out what you plan to say. Emotions run high, and it can be easy to get side-tracked if you don’t have your discussion points ready.
This may sound like a lot, but you won’t be going it alone. If you partake in the services of a professional interventionist, they will do most of the heavy lifting so that you can focus on staying calm and taking care of yourself in the meantime.
How exactly does the intervention work?
Certain details will vary, but the basic process is rather simple. Everyone who agrees to attend will meet at a designated time and place. You will gather prior to the subject’s arrival, so that you have a little time to settle and emotionally prepare yourself. Each attendee will take turns addressing the subject with your concerns, keeping your tone calm and supportive while trying to avoid hostility or blame. If you are using a professional interventionist, they will facilitate the process and mediate discussions between the subject and the attendees. At some point, either at the end or at the beginning, you will lay out the goal of the intervention—usually a request that the subject receive professional help for their substance abuse.
Do we really need an interventionist?
If you feel you can handle the intervention on your own, there is nothing wrong with that. Note, however, that you will still want to designate someone who can facilitate the process and help maintain a healthy atmosphere. Some people choose to use doctors or religious officials, while others simply designate a family member.
The benefit to hiring a professional interventionist is that we have experience and can help prevent potential issues before they arise. Just because no one is yelling does not mean the atmosphere isn’t headed toward hostility, and we can adjust the tone before this happens. We also help with the planning, offering advice on time, location, attendees and what you should say. Certain details regarding these aspects of the process might seem trivial to those who have never attended an intervention before, yet can in fact make all the difference.
More than anything, however, we help take some of the weight off your shoulders. Intervention is a very stressful process. Aside from raising your chances of success, one of our primary goals is simply to relieve some of the burden that you are inevitably feeling.
What happens when the intervention is over?
One of two things will happen after the intervention. Ideally, your loved one will agree to seek treatment. We will help you make sure that they get where they are going, and you will be able to sleep soundly knowing that your loved one is in a safe place.
Unfortunately, not all interventions result in success. Should this be the case, you will need to have consequences prepared. If you are supporting this person, these consequences may include removal from the household and an end to financial support. Some even choose to cut off contact altogether. This seems harsh, but it is necessary. Continuing to enable a person who has decided not to seek help will only make things worse. Over time, things might get bad enough that they will reach out for help in earnest. In some cases, the subject even agrees to treatment as soon as they realize that their family is serious about upholding the consequences they’ve presented.
Whatever happens, your interventionist will be there to help. Whether we are helping your loved one get to treatment or keeping you strong while you follow through on your consequences, you will not have to go through this alone.