Drug and Alcohol Interventions


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Substance abuse disorders affect addicts’ lives in many ways. Increased cancer risk and damage to the lungs, liver, and heart can cause permanent damage or death. People in the addict’s life, however, can also suffer. If your loved one struggles with drug or alcohol abuse, the best thing you can do for yourself and your loved one is to intervene.

Impacts on Loved Ones

The behavior of an addict under the influence can change significantly. They can become distant and withdrawn; their addictions often allow them to think of nothing else. Addicts can also lash out and become belligerent or abusive. Additionally, alcohol or drug abuse can lead an addict to drain family savings. Living with an addict and watching them hurt themselves is hard, so you can and should take action to guide your loved one towards recovery.

What Is an Intervention?

Interventions help convince an addict to go to a treatment center and helps their family learn to set limits. It involves getting your loved one’s closest and most supportive friends and relatives together, preferably under the supervision of an Interventionist, to communicate how living with an addict impacts you. The combination of telling your stories and outlining the repercussions of not seeking treatment can help pressure an addict into going to a rehab center. Your loved one does not want to hurt you, so hearing how they have affected you can make them want to seek recovery—if not for themselves, then for you. Fear of consequences can also be motivational and make seeking treatment feel easier than facing the consequences of refusing.

What Does an Intervention Specialist Do?

Tensions can run high during interventions, so hiring an intervention specialist to moderate the discussion if it becomes too heated can be beneficial. Interventionists also help the participants rehearse and choose an appropriate location and speaking order to increase the chances of success. The participants also might benefit from some education on drug and alcohol abuse so they can better understand their loved one, which a specialist can provide.

How Likely Am I to Succeed?

Measuring success is complicated, as the end goal is hard to define. If you decide to intervene, you have an 80-85% chance of convincing your loved one to seek treatment immediately, with an additional 8-10% of addicts seeking treatment within the next few weeks. You may need multiple tries to succeed, but the success rate for these meetings is high.

Unfortunately, intervening can only get your loved one into treatment. It cannot ensure that they will complete the program or maintain sobriety afterward.

How to Intervene

These conversations are delicate and require careful preparation, which can last weeks. You should carefully select several people to increase peer pressure, but be careful not to choose the wrong person. All participants should be close to the addict and should have a good relationship with your loved one to avoid conflict. Once you select the participants, everyone should make a specific list of the effects your loved one’s disorder has had on them. Bringing attention to specific instances can also be beneficial. You should then choose an appropriate time and place.

Once you make the necessary preparations, you can get everyone together and start the conversation. Each person should share their experience and set boundaries outlining what they will do if their loved one refuses treatment. For example, you may have to threaten to cut the addict off completely. Having the participants speak in a specific order can also help, as one of your loved one’s closest friends or relatives can set an impactful tone in the beginning or create a moving end.

Tips for Intervening Successfully

• Early intervention works best, as your loved one will become more entrenched in their addiction the longer you wait.
• Act caring, supportive and encouraging rather than accusatory.
• Be specific. For example, if your loved one has become physically abusive, you should say so rather than telling them only that they hurt you or put a strain on your relationship.
• Express emotion but remain neutral enough that your loved one does not feel attacked. The goal is to persuade them to seek treatment, not air your grievances.
• Opt for a space such as a therapist’s office where your loved one will behave without feeling cold or uncomfortable. You need a safe space, but not as comfortable as a house where your loved one may lash out or run away.
• Your loved one will be less receptive if they are angry, anxious, distressed or high, so choose a time when they are likely to be calm and sober.
• Work with an Interventionist.
• Remain calm and stick to your script to avoid conflict, even though your loved one may lash out when pressured.
• Make sure you have a treatment center lined up to prevent your loved one from feeling overwhelmed.
• Prepare for a strain on your relationship, as your loved one may resent you for threatening their addiction or interfering.
• Follow through and keep trying!

What Happens Next?

After you intervene, your loved one will likely go into rehab. Once they return, you and your family will have to make changes and set boundaries to create a recovery-focused environment rather than continuing to enable the addict. These changes may include keeping alcohol out of the house or not giving your loved one money. Your family dynamic will likely change as well since your loved one will have less manipulative power.

If your loved one chooses not to go to rehab after you intervene, you will have to follow through with your threats of consequences. You should also continue trying, however, as many addicts require multiple interventions before seeking treatment.

Intervening can be hard, but the alternative is worse. The situation will deteriorate as your loved one continues to harm themselves and you, so helping them recover is the only path to making sure that you are both safe and happy.

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