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Addiction Intervention

Often when people are suffering from addiction, they need to hit rock bottom before they are willing to get help.

Rock bottom is a severe enough problem in any area of an addict’s life (physical health, mental health, and relationally) in which they can no longer deny they have a problem and feel the need to seek help.

While rock bottom is often necessary, those who are addicted or dependent on substances need to be convinced or coaxed into admitting their struggles and their need for support.

Interventions are very controlled confrontations where loved ones, with or without the guidance of a professional, seek to end a pattern of denial and persuade an addict to seek the help they need.

Hosting an intervention, when it comes from a place of care and concern, can be one of the best things to happen to an addict in the grand scheme. It has often been deemed as the ‘wake-up call’ they needed, and many of our recovered patients said they owe their current health and optimism to interventions hosted by family and loved ones.

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Why is Addiction Intervention Needed?

When someone is suffering from an addiction, they usually live in a state of denial. This denial could be because they have actually convinced themselves that they do not have a problem, or it could be the facade that they wear to refrain from receiving help from others.

Often for addicts, denial feels safe because giving up the substance they are addicted too is scary and may even seem impossible. That is why so many people have to hit rock bottom before they get help.

The fear of not recovering from addiction has to become as great or greater than the fear of giving up the substance. The hope is that by the end of an intervention, someone will have let go of their denial and begin to see that they need help or else they will inevitably hit rock bottom.

Intervention is done with the intention of seeking help for someone who is struggling with addiction before they hit rock bottom, or before their behaviour reaps serious repercussions that could damage or even end their life.

How Do You Safely Hold an Intervention?

If an intervention goes wrong, it may fail or make a situation worse. The addict may become angry, stubborn, and not accept any help. Because of this, you must do an intervention in a safe way.

The most important part of staging an intervention safely/properly is by reaching out to a specialist who are trained to help break through addiction and denial.

An intervention specialist will then help you plan out the intervention. They will work with you to figure out how many people should be involved and who those people should be.

It is important that the people chosen will be able to have influence over the person with the addiction and handle any intense conversation or situation that arises during the intervention.

Beyond this, the specialists will help you pick a place for the intervention to take place (it should be familiar, non-threatening territory) and rehearse what you are going to say. An intervention is not a moment to ‘wing it.’

Below are 10 simple steps to holding an intervention with optimum results and zero damage to the individual in question:

Chose a team of loved and trusted family members or friends, or people with meaningful relationships with the one suffering.
A time when the individual is sober & cannot hide behind a haze of drugs is best. Alternatively, after a major substance-related event has occurred.
A safe, neutral environment is best. Too public may increase anxiety or aversion, but at home, there are rooms where the individual can hide or run away.

The person with the closest relationship to the sufferer should go first. The person who can implement change should go last.

Rehearsing the order can help put team members at ease and roleplay & ugly reactions or responses.

Take time to write & memorize the script. Do not be tempted to ad lib. The script is there for a reason.

Make sure you exhibit open and warm body language. Unfold your arms & legs, unclench fists, turn your shoulders towards the person you’re addressing.

Strictly avoid a rising temper, frustration, or negative feelings or tones. If they become angry, don’t fight fire with fire.

Be prepared and flexible. The plan & script may not play out how you pre-empted. Keep calm & stick together.

Some may see the light after one conversation, others may become more violent or fall deeper into their addiction. If this happens, seek expert help and try again.

When is an Intervention Necessary?

Here are some of the biggest signs someone in your life may be struggling with addiction and in need of help:

  • Secretive behaviour
  • Borrowing money
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Worsening physical appearance
  • Worsening hygiene
  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of motivation
  • Problems at work/school
  • Health issues
  • Mental health issues
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders

family intervention

What Happens During an Intervention?

An intervention is a meeting between an addict and a group of family and friends. Each person should take turns calmly sharing concerns they have for the person or how the person’s addiction is affecting them personally.

This is a safe place for everyone to share what they are feeling or what they are frustrated with calmly and safely.

An intervention typically starts with the team who are intervening meeting at a pre-arranged destination long enough to practice and perform a few runs of the proceedings.

It is wise to practice emotionally calming and techniques and to remember the end goal: helping the addict towards recovery by opening them up to receiving treatment.

When the person suffering from addiction arrives, each team member takes turns reading their pre-written script in succession. Be prepared for a variety of responses from the addict, including screaming, shouting, crying, violent behaviour, or running away.

It is important to remember that any reaction is natural, as you are threatening an existing pattern of living that the addict has adopted for a long period of time. You are threatening their safety blanket and their way of life.

Remaining calm and patient is vital, and understanding that it is not the addict’s fault is the key. It is best to remind the person suffering from addiction that they are loved, worthy of recovery, and have multiple support systems behind them.

If you have chosen to include an interventionist, this is when they will discuss treatment options and the steps moving forward. If any conflicts or issues arise, the trained interventionist will tackle these accordingly while the rest of the group should continue remaining calm, open and with compassion and empathy towards the addict.

Pending on the response of the individual, the next steps for the future will now be put in place. If you feel their addiction is of an immediate threat to their life and wellbeing, the addict can even be transported to the rehabilitation centre immediately.

If more time is needed or allowed, the intervention team is now safe to return the addict home and start implementing necessary actions. The treatment centre should be notified, giving them a head-start and synopsis of how the intervention went in order for them to tailor and personalize the treatment program.

What are the Different Types of Intervention?

Below, we list the different types of addiction intervention:

  • Crisis Intervention: This type of intervention is usually done by police of medical professionals to offer support to people who are less likely to be treated and receive support
  • Brief Intervention: This is a short one-on-one meeting between a person struggling with addiction and a professional. Usually, this happens after someone is suspected of abusing substances by a professional or after an overdose
  • The Johnson Model: This is the most common form. It is when one or more caregivers plan an intervention to convince the person to get into rehab.
  • ARISE: This is a less confrontational plan, but still uses many techniques used in the Johnson Model. This method is based on no surprises, no secrets, no coercion, and absolute respect and love
  • SMART: Self-Management and Recovery Training establishes clear, measurable & achievable goals – it is a treatment of choice
  • Family Systemic Intervention: This is not an event, but more of a process where a therapist leads the entire family into a discussion about how addiction is affecting their family unit, and helps sets family recovery goals

Who Benefits from Addiction Interventions?

Both the addict and the family and friends of the addict benefit from an intervention. The addict benefits if they are able to let go of denial and begin to seek help. Intervention can protect them from more severe consequences and from hitting rock bottom.

Interventions, although some individuals at first see their loved ones being ‘too nosy’ or ‘too worried,’ ultimately reminds the addict that they are loved and supported.

While holding an intervention can initially be painful, it can save the entire family, friends’ network and community from witnessing the damaging effects of substance abuse on a loved one.

Prevention is better than cure in any situation and in most intervention cases, stepping into an uncomfortable situation before it’s too late is drastically better in the long run than living with unthinkable consequences such as imprisonment, illness or even fatality.

An intervention also gives the family and friends a place to vent their feelings and frustration. It also allows them to let go of any guilt because they have then tried to help in every way they can.

Interventions can be cathartic for the addict’s loved ones and can even set their own healing process into motion. It allows them to make sense of their emotions towards the addict and their dependency and often unites families or groups together in a shared positive motive.

intervention support

What are the Outcomes of an Intervention?

There are two main outcomes of an intervention:

The first is the one everyone hopes for. The addict sees the ways their behaviour is hurting themselves and those around them and tries to seek help. They listen to the fears and reasonings of their family and friends and take on board their concerns.

This leads to either inpatient or outpatient rehab, counselling or other talking therapies, and even a detoxification process depending on the type and severity of the addiction.

The second outcome, however, can happen if the addict is not ready to get help after an intervention. They continue to stay in denial, fail to see how their negative behaviour is impacting others, and refuse to try recovering from their addiction.

In this instance, it is important to continue emphasizing the risks associated with their addiction in a calm, sympathetic and rational manner. It is important to follow through with consequences you warned of (i.e. refusing to pay their bills or groceries if they continued to abuse their substance.)

You should not in any way feel guilty, ashamed or disappointed in yourself for failing to open your loved one’s eyes to the truth: ultimately, recovery is their decision.

Consider contacting an intervention specialist who has been trained and has experience in dealing with difficult confrontations during or after a failed intervention. This will take the pressure and worry off your shoulders – you have already tried, and now you are passing the responsibility to an expert.

Do not lose hope in this situation – once enough time has passed, you and your loved ones will be ready to hold another intervention with a different approach and with a more subjective style tailored towards the individual in question.

What Happens After An Intervention?

After an intervention, it is important that a person seeks immediate treatment. Usually, this will happen at a treatment centre to help the person detox from whatever substance they have grown dependent on.

If immediate treatment does not take place, often the positive results of the intervention will wear off, and the person will go back into denial.

If you have any more questions about how to have an intervention, whether or not you need to hold one, or what to do after the intervention, do not hesitate to reach out.

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