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How to Confront an Addict in Your Life

“… just as CPR is often the first life-saving step in helping a heart attack victim, intervention is the most powerful step the family can take to initiate the recovery process.” ~ Jeff Jay, Love First: a Family’s Guide to Intervention

The best time to get help for a substance abuse disorder is absolutely always RIGHT NOW. The disease of addiction is progressive – left untreated, it ALWAYS gets worse, inflicting increasingly-more-negative consequences upon the addict/alcoholic and their family. At its ultimate manifestation, addiction is invariably fatal. The most powerfully-effective tool that family members can use to spur their substance-abusing loved one into treatment is a professionally-supervised addiction intervention.

What EXACTLY Is a Professionally-Supervised Addiction Intervention?

An addiction intervention is a carefully-planned, structured process in which the loved ones of the addict/alcoholic join together to firmly – yet lovingly – confront the substance abuser with the reality of their disease and the immediate need to start treatment.

What Are the Steps of an Addiction Intervention?

There is a step-by-step process to staging an effective addiction intervention:

  • Always Use a ProfessionalBy definition, and intervention is extremely emotional and potentially volatile scenario. Without the services of a professional, it is always possible that emotions will boil over, and the real goal – convincing the addict/alcoholic to accept help – can be lost in a morass of resentment and anger.

Because they are not emotionally involved, a professional interventionist can remain dispassionate and “on message”. Also, because they are a professional, they can speak with authority and firmness to the substance abuser.

During preparation, a professional interventionist can also help you plan who to invite and possibly, what to say.

  • Start Gathering Information About Addiction–Family members and friends need to learn more about the disease of addiction – by reading addiction literature, attending counseling, and going to 12-Step fellowship meetings such as Al-Anon or Narc-Anon. They also need to take a long, unflinching look at to what extent it has manifested in their loved one.

Family members also should take care of the practical concerns –finding out what addiction recovery programs are locally available, for example, and maybe even pre-registering their loved one for services in a specific program.

  • Bringing Together the Intervention Team –These are the friends and family members participating in the actual intervention– research has shown that those who are closest have the most influence with the substance abuser.

Do not let the substance abuser know the intervention is being planned.

The intervention team needs to meet well in advance of the actual date of the confrontation to come to a consensus on the united message that they want to convey as a group, but express individually.

It is critical that the focus of any pre-prevention meetings should be solution, not individual grievances. Any differences between the loved ones needs to temporarily set aside, for the sake of the substance abuser and their hoped-for recovery.

Set a specific time, date, and location for the planned intervention.

  • Write Down Everything That You Plan to Say–In such emotionally-charged moments, it can be far-too-easy to forget what you want to say. To stay focused, take notes or use index cards to help you remember the most important parts of your message.

Each person attending needs to list specific examples of how THEIR life has been negatively affected by the addictive behaviors – “I felt betrayed when you…”, etc.

  • Conduct the Intervention –The interventionist and everyone else on the team needs to meet at the prescribed location before the substance abuser arrives.

When the substance abuser arrives, everyone in attendance will have the chance to speak to them directly. After describing each way that their lives have been harmed by the destructive habits and behaviors of the addict, each speaker needs to clearly tell the substance abuser what specific consequences will come about if the addicted person refuses treatment.

These cannot be empty threats.

  • Spell Out Specific Consequences Establish Boundaries– If the offer of help is declined, every person in attendance needs to follow through with their specific consequences:
    • Cutting them off financially
    • Having no contact and taking no calls
    • Curtailing or even eliminating visitation
    • Kicking them out of the house
  • Follow Through, No Matter WHAT–One of two things will usually happen:

In an ideal scenario, the substance abuser will agree to go to alcohol rehab. If this happens, then it is critical that they leave immediately – without putting it off.

Family involvement during drug and alcohol rehab is one of the keys to a successful recovery. This means that while the substance abuser is in rehab, he/she should receive the strongest possible support from all family members.

However, if the substance abuser declines the offer of treatment, then each person needs to enforce their previously-stated consequences, as hard as it may be to do so. Do not respond to any begging, bargaining, or threatening on the part of the substance abuser.

This only changes when the addict agrees to get help.

Keep the Interventionist Informed

To help you properly plan the intervention and make the right service recommendations, always tell the interventionist:

  • A recap of the person’s history of substance abuse
  • If the person has ever exhibited symptoms of or been diagnosed with a personality disorder
  • If the person has demonstrated violent or suicidal behaviors

Addiction interventions are always susceptible to past hurts and resentments. Without professional guidance, an intervention can easily spiral out of control. This is why you should always involve a professional who can facilitate the process, thereby increasing the chances of a successful outcome. One important point – early interventions help. If you have a loved one struggling with ANY substance abuse disorder – illicit drug abuse, the misuse of prescription opioids, or alcoholism – do not hesitate to call for help today.