Last Updated on August 1, 2018 by Dr. Alberto Solà

Unfortunately, if your friend, family member, or other loved one has a drug or alcohol problem that seems to continuously be getting worse rather than better, and he or she has not independently sought help, it may be time to organize an intervention. No one ever wants to have to take this step, but it may be the only thing left to do to make sure this person gets into treatment. Your loved one may be in denial about his or her problem, or he or she may just feel hopeless and be unsure of what to do to get better. Approaching him or her, with reassurance of your love and support, may be exactly what is needed to encourage these next and important moves forward into detoxification and recovery.

Perhaps you have already mentioned your concerns to the individual, and it’s likely that you feel that he or she knows you care. However, that may not have been enough. An organized intervention takes planning, skill, and tact, so you can’t just go in cold. It’s impossible to know how an intervention will go for each individual person, but there are steps you can take to help make one go more smoothly, and to increase the likelihood of its success.

What is an Intervention?

Many people with little to no experience with addiction or recovery have become familiar with the concept of an intervention due to A&E’s show, Intervention, which premiered in March of 2005 and which is currently in its fifteenth season. Each episode follows several drug and alcohol abusers for several days or weeks and chronicles their use, reasons for using, and struggles along the way. The featured individuals are unaware that the show will lead to an intervention, lead by an intervention specialist, and attended by their friends and family. Although the show has had mixed results, it is more successful than not at getting its subjects into treatment programs.

This show has given hope to many, and has inspired families and loved ones of active abusers to do the same for them. The show has surely been helpful in spreading the word about this concept, and for letting people see what could happen in both the best and worst case scenarios. However, even if you have watched Intervention many times, read on; it is not as easy as it looks on TV in even the best instances. A successful intervention is a carefully planned process. It is not at all spontaneous. In an intervention, it is important to focus on the positive, avoid placing blame, and to show the user that he or she has people who care deeply about him or her, and to explain the ways the addiction is effecting those people. Further, it is vital that a solution is offered, and that the user is encouraged to enter treatment immediately, or at the very least, to attend an addiction evaluation as soon as possible.

How Do You Know It’s Time?

You may be unsure as to whether the present is the time to move forward with planning an intervention. It’s likely your friend, family member, or other loved one has been abusing drugs and/or alcohol for quite some time, and it’s also possible that you’ve even approached him or her about it before with no results. However, if the substance abuse is escalating, it may be about time for you to step up and try again. Even if it isn’t increasing in intensity to your knowledge, it might be time anyway. The bottom line is there is no definite, specific, “correct” time to attempt recovery, and a substance abuser can really begin to get better at any point. If his or her drug or alcohol abuse is ongoing, and it has had a negative effect on the user’s life and the lives of those around him or her, a change needs to be made – and fast.

With that said though, there are signs that, once identified, may motivate you to move forward quickly and without delay. If your loved one is acting more secretive than usual, then his or her drug abuse may be changing or increasing. Borrowing money more frequently is another bad sign, and can be putting stress on the user’s relationships, too. The deterioration of relationships can lead to other problems, and those problems can increase drug use. Or, if your loved one is acting aggressive towards others, then it is likely time for an intervention. Health problems, including overdoses, as well as deterioration of physical appearance are also things that indicate a downward spiral that desperately needs to be stopped. Although an intervention is a carefully planned event, if you think your friend, family member, or loved one needs one and could benefit from one, it is important that you move forward quickly. If you are at a point where you feel an intervention is necessary, it may be just a matter of time before something catastrophic or tragic occurs.

How to Plan and Execute an Intervention

There are many steps to planning a successful intervention, and every single one of them is important. Read on to learn about all the things you should consider when planning one for someone you care about.

  • Find an intervention specialist. Although it’s possible to conduct a successful intervention without one, it will be helpful to work with someone who has done many before. He or she will help to answer your questions and will give you guidance from beginning to end. You can find one at the website for the Association of Intervention Specialists.
  • Form an intervention group. You are surely not the only person worried about your friend. Gather other concerned people to join, but not too many. Also, beware not to invite people who will be accusatory and angry; seek out people who are helpful, encouraging, and motivational.
  • Learn and make a plan. You may not know much about your loved one’s drug of choice other than seeing the ways it has affected him or her. Do your research, and learn as much as you can about it, and about the disease of addiction in general.
  • Gather information about treatment. It’s important that you have a plan for after the intervention. During the intervention, you want to be able to provide your friend or family member with options for treatment.
  • Write impact statements. An important part of any intervention is the impact statements. Each participant should write an open letter to the target individual about their feelings about them and about the ways their addiction has affected them and the letter’s author. Be careful not to use labels like alcoholic, junkie, or addict, and try not to be accusatory. Simply explain the impact this addiction has had on you and your relationship with the user since he or she began using. You can find a helpful template here.
  • Include consequences. Although it may be hard to tell someone you love that you will cut them off from communication and financial assistance unless they get help, it is very important to set boundaries and stick to them. Otherwise, the intervention may be an emotional outpouring of feelings, but it likely will not be very effective.
  • Choose neutral territory. Determine a good time and place for the intervention to take place. Although it will be tempting to do it in one’s home, that may encourage running away. Meeting at a location new to all parties, such as a hotel room or the office of the interventionist may be the best bet.
  • Try to find a sober time to intervene. It may be difficult to find a time where the subject is sober, it’s important to try to do the intervention on a day or time when he or she is mostly clearheaded. Attempting an intervention when the person is intoxicated may make him or her more argumentative and may derail efforts to get your loved one into treatment.
  • Rehearse. Don’t go in cold. Practice the intervention with your group without your loved one present. It will help you to prepare for the real thing.
  • Accentuate the positive. When you do finally confront the individual, try to remain positive. Stick to the script, and use warm body language. Try to keep the intervention under sixty to ninety minutes in length.
  • Offer help. Explain to the person that you all want to help him or her, and give suggestions for treatment options. At the very least, try to get the individual to schedule an addiction evaluation if he or she doesn’t think treatment is necessary.
  • Be prepared for anything. It’s hard to know how an intervention will go. Try to stay cool and stay hopeful, but also be sure to manage your expectations. Hopefully, it will work, but it may not.
  • Follow up. Whether it works or not, follow up afterwards. If the person agreed to treatment – great! Check with him or her to make sure the next steps are being followed. If he or she declined to participate in treatment, you can try again in the future.

Although an intervention can be extremely stressful for all parties involved, they are often successful, and it’s absolutely worth the risk to try. Your loved one may be waiting for something like this to happen – he or she may feel that people intervening due the addiction is his or her rock bottom, and it might be just the nudge that was needed to begin moving forward on a clean and sober life on the road to recovery.

At Clear Sky Recovery, we would love to help you help your loved one to start on his or her way down that road. Our ibogaine detox treatment is innovative and effective, and perhaps a visit to our facility in Cancun, Mexico, would be a perfect suggestion for your friend or family member’s first steps. Our intake specialists are standing by to answer your questions about our staff, treatment, and facility. Please call us today.