Intervention FAQ

What is the general language or message?

The tone should be concern. The intention should be clear. It should be unwavering.

“We love you, we’ve always loved you, we’ll never stop loving you but we’re not willing to watch you kill yourself with drugs”.

The family should definitely express concern but not sympathise with the addict. Sympathy is a form of agreement and can back fire by justifying the addiction.

Without any anger or fear, the addict should “get” from every one present that the situation is known and that he/she needs treatment. Don’t allow stories of family problems and life’s troubles sway the attention off the point that the addict has a problem and needs to seek help fixing it. This is where the family’s preparation pays off.

What pressures does the addict feel now?

The addict doesn’t necessarily have the same reality about their addiction that non-addicts might. For instance, he/she may have serious health problems, no friends and no job or income but feel like they are “doing OK”. Many addicts have actually overdosed on drugs coming very close to death and are right back using drugs the very next day. This may appear crazy but in fact is only part of the pain for the addict.

Family Intervention

With this in mind, the addict from time to time will encounter added pressure, which forces them to make an actual decision about whether to seek help or continue to use.

Pending legal charges that could easily lead to jail time, threat of losing spouse, pending loss of job, all are possible situations where a person has enough pressure to fight the addiction and seek help. Although any one in particular may not work in your situation, there are pressures that can come to bear which will help prod the addict into a decision to seek help. It is easy to assume the addict is “only seeking help to avoid jail” or some other evaluation which in many cases is true. The fact remains that an addict will only seek help when someone or something pushes him out of his “addiction comfort zone” and forces him into a decision. Very few addicts with access to money, a place to live, people who agree with his usage and no legal issues seek help. They “don’t have a problem”.
This is very important to understand and will be crucial in any attempt at intervention.

What treatment method or facility will you use?

First, what is the desired product of the intervention? This means, if the addict agrees he/she has a problem and wants help, you need to know what that help is. It is very advisable that the parties doing the intervention agree on what program or method will be best for the addict once he/she has agreed to receive help.

There are hundreds of programs and many philosophies or approaches to treatment and generally the addict needs help in identifying one that is right for them. The result of which program or approach he/she goes to will determine if the addict relapses after treatment causing much greater complexity and further risk as well as continued pain and struggle for those around them.

“My husband and I sent him through many programs, each time thinking this would do it. We thought that programs we’re all the same and one was just as good as another. We found out that this is not true. We wondered if this would ever be over.”

Once the intervention team has decided on the rehab center they intend to propose to the addict, they should contact the facility of their choice. They will need to determine admittance procedure; financial obligation as well as specific questions that remain about what treatment the addict will receive.

Remember we’re talking literally about the addict’s life and general quality of that life so doesn’t hesitate to be inquisitive. If the prospective treatment centre doesn’t adequately answer all pertinent questions or they are illusive as to expect outcome of treatment the family may want to consider a second opinion. Addicts live and die by their ability to recover so this is not a decision to be taken lightly.

When is the best time to do an Intervention?

When does the intervention take place? Ideally this has less to do with the family schedule and more to do with what’s going on in the addict’s life.

Intervention FAQ

The optimum time for an intervention is just after a major event. Such an event would be arrested, or when he/she has wronged (lied, stolen, cheated etc.) a family member and shows remorse or guilt. Another would be spouse leaving. Yet another would be after an overdose. Although you obviously don’t want to risk the addict’s life by postponing forever, an intervention will be exponentially more effective after such events when the addict is down and feels like his/her world is coming to an end.

Even in the absence of these situations, an intervention can be successful especially if the family is close to the addict daily so that every little situation is known. An addict’s life is a major roller coaster and the only way an addict can deny their problem is to successfully hide these problems from those who love him.

A major consideration should be when the addict is sober. In the case of cocaine, meth- amphetamine etc. this should be in the morning after the addict has slept. In the case of heroin or methadone or opiate type drugs, it will be when they are withdrawing and not high. In either case attempting an intervention while a person is extremely high will usually not be productive because the addict cannot see many of their problems and their attention will fixed elsewhere.

In general, the timing of the intervention is crucial and needs planning but at the same time an addict’s life is very unstable so opportunities present themselves reasonably frequently.

Who should be present at the Intervention?

One of the major considerations involving intervention is selecting who will be there. This matter should be well thought out before hand. The number of people there is less important than who is there.

If at all possible, the person in the family whom the addict respects the most should be there. This person is an opinion leader to the addict and needs to be there fully supportive of getting the person help and informed well about the actual agenda.

As many family members as possible should be there as long as each and every one are completely in agreement about the fact that the person needs help and supportive of the general agenda. If someone in the family is antagonistic against the addict and is not capable of restraining themselves from arguments and blame then you might consider leaving them out.

Usually, the addict has many enemies and has done wrong to most of the family. But arguments that are agitated and disturbing will not benefit the cause of getting the addict to seek treatment and in fact will usually result in stopping this from happening because the focus of attention gets placed on the argument and not on the matters at hand.

What is Plan B?

An intervention with proper planning and carried out correctly will result many times in an addict agreeing to receive help. But you must accept the fact that ultimately the addict may for whatever reason say “NO”. This scenario needs to be thought out in advance so that the family consistently moves to the proverbial –plan B.

Plan B

If for whatever reason the intervention fails, the addict is still an addict and statistically the situation will likely get worse not better, so what is the action taken by the family at this point? The family knows the person is addicted and the addict has been confronted with this fact so whatever message the family gives the addict at this point is critical.

By refusing to seek treatment the addict in general is saying to the family “ I want to continue to use drugs. I want to continue the families suffering. I want to control my own life.” The family will intern answer with every word and action taken. If the family says «I understand. Please leave and don’t expect any money or support in any way, unless you decide to get help.” Then the

addict is left to run his/her life, which they generally do not have the ability to do, and before long you have a person who “DECIDES” that treatment is the best thing and calls saying just that. If on the other hand the family sort of acts disappointed and carries on as usual, then the addict gets the message

That it is OK to continue this life style and will put up even more resistance to intervention in the future having bested the intervention team previously.

Obviously, there are certain risks involved with either approach and should be evaluated clearly beforehand. One thing is certain, as long as the addict continues to use, they risk the only one thing they have; their life.

The bottom line is that an addict needs to decide, for whatever reason, that they need help. Most “locked down» approaches fail because the addict is not part of the recovery. The only way an addict can usually fight against the addiction is when enough external pressure is applied to cause them to decide to quit. Many call this “the bottom”. However, there can be many bottoms.

Obviously some are lower than others, but each can make a person quit drugs. It just depends on what happens when the person is there. For instance a person is facing serious charges and is very scared. The person will either have an intervention and go to treatment or will get through this situation and be back out using. In the final analysis, it is often the family who both spots the incident and uses it to achieve treatment, or misses and waits.