An intervention is a gathering of friends and family who wish to confront a loved one about his or her substance abuse problem, usually with the intention of encouraging the struggling person to enter treatment. While this sounds straightforward, it’s crucial to understand how delicate the intervention process can be and to prepare accordingly.
Interventions are often emotional events, and it can be difficult for some participants to stay constructive and supportive through such a difficult time. However, it’s vital for the people participating in the intervention to stay the course and avoid some of the common pitfalls that cause interventions to fail. The first step in a successful intervention is for every participant to understand his or her role in the conversation.
The Roles Of Friends And Family In Recovery
Different participants will have different perspectives on the addiction issue in question. For some, they are simply worried about their loved one and want to see him or she gets better. Others may have suffered due to the struggling relative’s problem and may feel resentful or angry over past slights. It’s important to work through these feelings before the intervention because blowing up in anger at a person who is already in a bad situation will not help matters.
An intervention for drug abuse needs to be an open, honest, and frank discussion about the effects the addiction has had on everyone involved. Some family members will be able to provide keen insights that the addicted person may not have realized, and these are important steps in the recovery process that encourage the struggling person to make a change. Other family members may need to do some reflection to determine their role in the addiction. It’s unfortunately common for relatives of people struggling with addictions, especially parents, to fall into the trap of enabling.
Enabling And The Problems It Causes
“Enabling” refers to any behaviors that help a person maintain a substance abuse habit. While this sounds like a simple concept, many people have difficulty discerning between enabling behaviors and genuine help. If a loved one’s assistance makes maintaining the drug problem easier, it is an enabling behavior. A few examples include:
- Paying a loved one’s rent after he spent all of his money on drugs.
- Cleaning up a loved one’s home after she spent the weekend binge drinking.
- Lying for a loved one about why he keeps missing work.
- Covering shifts for a friend because she is too high to work.
In each of these scenarios, the person offering “help” may feel as though he or she is genuinely helping, but the reality is that these behaviors simply make it easier for the addicted person to maintain the habit. Over time, enabling leads to codependency, which makes it even harder for the addicted person to recognize the need for change. A codependent relationship is one in which both participants feed into a destructive cycle. Typically, the person struggling with addiction will continue to lean on a loved one for support, and the helper will continue to “help” out of fear of losing the relationship with the addicted person.
Timing Is Everything
One of the most common reasons interventions fail is poor timing. If you attempt to stage a drug intervention while the addicted person is high or experiencing withdrawal, he or she will likely go on the defensive automatically. It’s best to time the intervention for when the addicted person is sober, if possible. There are many intervention strategies for drug addiction, but one universal issue for any of them is that timing is crucial.
It’s also important to time the intervention for the family’s sake. It can be very difficult for parents, siblings, or older children to accept the fact that a loved one has a substance abuse problem, and they need to be ready for a difficult conversation in the intervention. The friends and family who plan to participate in the intervention should talk amongst themselves well before the intervention to work through any outstanding issues before they bring them to the discussion table. It may also be a good idea to build up to the intervention by having one-on-one conversations with the person struggling with addiction. This can help set the groundwork and let the person know others care about what is happening so he or she doesn’t feel blindsided or attacked when the intervention happens.
Those participating in an intervention also need to recognize their roles do not end at the intervention. It’s crucial to have a follow-up plan for after the intervention. The follow-through should include plans for handling rehab and supporting the struggling person through this very difficult time. Many interventions fail because after the conversation, the participants don’t have a plan for what to do next, and the person struggling with addiction may assume this is a sign they don’t really care about what happens to him or her. Drug addiction support for a struggling loved one should extend from the first stages of the intervention all the way through aftercare and sober living after rehab.
Best- And Worse-Case Scenarios After An Intervention
Ideally, an intervention should encourage a person struggling with a substance abuse disorder to enter rehab and get sober. A constructive, supportive, and realistic discussion with friends and family can be the perfect catalyst for making a change. However, the worst-case scenario is the person with the addiction refusing to acknowledge the problem, denying a problem exists or avoiding the confrontation.
Finding Professional Help
There is help for families who have had difficulties with interventions. A professional interventionist can help families prepare for interventions, act as a mediator during interventions, and help the family come up with a solid plan for treatment and aftercare. A professional interventionist can also help family members recognize enabling behaviors so they can start providing real help to their struggling loved one. A drug intervention is a serious matter, and professional assistance can help pave the way for a smoother transition into rehab and recovery.
About The Author:
Nicola Yap lives with her two cats Marcie and Lambert. When she isn’t writing blog posts, she’s probably playing video games or doing something as equally unproductive. She works as a media coordinator for Intervention Helpline, an addiction support service that aims to provide intervention support to the friends and families of people struggling with addiction. Visit their website to learn more information about their services and programs.