Today, an estimated 18.5 million Americans have a substance use disorder. That’s more than 1 in 20. Yet, less than 11% of us ever seek out help or treatment. While 46% of Americans have a loved one who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, most of us never get help. If that’s your friend or family member, you likely want to change that statistic. Staging an intervention is one way to do so.
An intervention is the process of confronting your loved one with the fact that substance abuse is harming them and harming the people they love. It’s your all-in shot at attempting to get your loved one to rehab. And, while interventions can fail, they give your loved one the crystal-clear idea that you want to help and you want them to be better.
But, when do you stage an intervention? When is the right time to confront your loved one? This article will help you to decide when to hold an intervention.
Does Your Loved One Need an Intervention?
Chances are, you wouldn’t be reading this article if the answer is no. But, you and everyone you intend to involve needs to be crystal clear on the fact that yes, this really is necessary. An intervention works to confront your loved one with the fact that they need help. That means, they need to have a problem.
- They cannot control substance use. For example, they drink more than intended. They black out. They forget drinking. They express desire to drink less than they do or regret at drinking more than intended.
- They fail to see or deny that substance abuse causes problems. For example, they are fired at work for substance abuse and then blame it on a boss or coworker. Or, they get into a car accident and then blame it on the other driver.
- They hide or sneak substances. For example, they hide packages of pain pills and take extra preemptively or “just in case”.
- They get anxious or go into withdrawal without their substance
- They go to extreme lengths to acquire their substance such as lying, stealing, or manipulating others
- They have tried and failed to quit or reduce usage on their own, or tried and then relapsed
If someone cannot easily put down a substance or go without it for several months at a time, they likely have a problem. And, if someone has a prescription for a substance and they use it outside of the prescription and with other substances, they have a problem. Staging an intervention is the right thing to do if they show denial or refuse to get help.
What Does Denial Look Like?
Denial is the mental phenomenon of lying to yourself – to the point where you actually believe it. Addicts very often go into denial, avoiding or even believing that they don’t have a problem. That can be intensely difficult to deal with. That’s especially true considering it often results in blame, aggression, and finger pointing when people bring up problems.
For example, many individuals with a substance use disorder are in a state of denial. They might say things like:
- “I can quit anytime I want”
- “I’ll quit after X goalpost” except, the goalpost always moves
- “I just drink to relax”
- “I only drink because”
- “If you wouldn’t nag me so much”
This kind of denial is a normal symptom of addiction. Being aggressive and angry are also normal. In many cases, this is a combination of the person avoiding shame and the social stigma of being addicted and trying to prevent you from seeing them like that. In other instances, it’s a sign of them resisting having to see themselves like that. In that case, things can get ugly because they may actually believe you are trying to accuse them of something.
Putting Together a Plan for Treatment
You should never attempt to hold an intervention without putting together a treatment plan first. That means deciding where to go, who to reach out to, and what to say. You will also want to evaluate what if a medically assisted detox is necessary, and whether your loved on needs inpatient treatment or outpatient treatment.
The first step is to contact rehab facilities so that you can immediately move your loved one into care if the intervention is successful.
- Research rehab facilities and call them. Go through the process of consulting with them and try to get onto a list. If you can get guaranteed access within 24 hours, you can move your loved one into treatment more easily. Many rehab centers have specific programs set up for interventions and may even offer professional interventionist assistance.
- Have a backup plan in case the first rehab center doesn’t have space after all
- Make sure any centers you contact are licensed and capable of offering the qualified treatment your
- Figure out travel plans
- Make sure you check insurance in advance
You might want to spend some time researching different treatment options in advance. For example, you might want to know which therapy you want and why. CBT with counseling and group therapy is very common. You might also want to seek out a 12-step program like AA or NA. The most important thing is that you complete this type of research before the intervention.
Planning the Intervention
Interventions need planning and a lot of it. You can’t just throw everyone into a room and hope all ends well. You have to sit down, talk to each other, and align on what to say. You need to have a cohesive message, delivered in a safe space, and ending with a single call-to-action.
- Involve people close to your loved one. The more time they spend together, the better
- Involve family members, even if their relationship isn’t the best, providing those family members are not problematic. Try to choose people your loved one trusts
- Be gentle. Make sure everyone’s messages talk about your loved one, their health, their experiences. You never want to give your loved one the impression that you care more about appearances or what others think. Professional interventionists also recommend using “I” phrases not “you phrases. What does that look like?
- “I miss who you used to be”, instead of “you’re not the person you used to be”
- “I’m concerned about your health” instead of “you’re going to hurt yourself”
- “I care about and want the best for you”, instead of “You need to think about your health”
- “I need you to be here for me”, instead of “You’re never here for me”
You’ll also notice that all of these phrases shift away from blame and towards wants. That’s important, because many individuals with substance use disorders already experience enough blame.
- Pick a safe space. You want your loved one to be comfortable. It also has to be private. Interventions can be emotional and can last for several hours. Don’t choose a time-limited location or a public space.
- Make sure everyone has a good idea of what is going on, why, and what the goals are. Try to have everyone share messaging upfront so you can ensure it’s consistent.
Once you’re prepared, you’re ready to hold your intervention. Of course, that may not be enough. Many people eventually also seek out professional help. A professional interventionist should be accredited, certified in your state, and should have experience. However, they can help you to put together an effective intervention so that you can get your loved one into help.
Millions of us struggle with substance use disorders. That’s a fact of life. But, there’s always help. Unfortunately, we aren’t always ready to see that we need or even want help. An intervention can change that. Hopefully, yours is successful.