A drug intervention should be approached as calmly and respectfully as possible. Anything can influence the effectiveness of intervention, including: tone of voice, words we choose, body language, our emotional state, timing, place, and so on… The goal of the intervention is get the individual to listen and hear what we have to say, and to hopefully become open to change. An intervention requires a certain amount of planning and coordination, so we need to take it very seriously. Planning what to say in advance, writing it down and rehearsing it. We may ask everyone involved to write things down and practice reading it aloud. It is important to think in advance of what needs to be said, and choose words carefully; Focusing on observations and the facts will allow us to stay on track. Also, bringing up specific times and dates when the drug addiction had been a problem will help the loved one recognize the effects the addiction has on others. We may, for example, choose to say things like this: “Last week, you missed your father’s birthday because you passed out on the couch”, “Last Friday, you blacked out and drove yourself home”, “You disappeared for 3 days after payday”.
Because we are addressing issues that have never been addressed before, we need to be prepared for a reaction, possibly anger, objections, excuses or denial. We must be prepared and ready to respond back without arguments and power struggles. But we also need to listen; We need to let the individual speak his mind, and acknowledge that we heard him. We want to gently guide the conversation toward acknowledging the problem and acknowledging the need for help. Compassion and understanding is necessary to a successful intervention; We need to let them know, that we are doing this because we love them, and not out of anger or resentment. We must control our emotions and avoid lashing out. This would only reduce the effectiveness of what we are trying to accomplish, as the focus would shift from them to us. We must also keep the behavior separate from the person, focusing on the drug problem, not the addict themselves. We want to convey caring, compassion, hope, and a belief that change is possible.
Key Points to Consider:
Writing things down: Before conducting the addiction intervention, sit down with family and friends and discuss your thoughts about your loved one. Remember what the person was like before the addiction took over. Write about it in a letter you will share with your loved one during the meeting. The letter should be heartfelt, genuine and emotional.
Making a request: A key component in an addiction intervention is making the person understand that family and friends will no longer enable or continue to pacify the addiction. Everyone should think of one way he has helped the addict buy drugs and alcohol (such as providing free housing, lending money or ignoring inappropriate behavior). During the session, make a request that the addict seeks treatment; If she refuses to receive treatment, she will no longer receive the things that enable her drug/alcohol use. It’s important to keep your word if the intervention is unsuccessful. The person will likely test you to see if you really will not provide those things.
Setting up a location and invite loved one: Set up a location where you can easily get the addict to meet you. Make sure that the location is comfortable and safe. It may be their house, or yours, or any other place that you feel would be appropriate. You might think the addict will walk out as soon as he or she sees everyone gathered around, but usually the person is shocked and curious enough to stay and hear what everyone has to say.
Explaining the meeting: Once the addict sits down, someone needs to explain the reason for the meeting, and ask if the person is willing to receive treatment. It’s not until the addict denies help that loved ones begin reading their letters.
The loved one who is the most important person in the addict’s life should go first reading their letter. This loved one is usually the most influential to the person so there is a stronger likelihood the addict will listen and agree to treatment. After reading the letter, the loved one should ask if the addicted person will voluntarily seek help. If the answer is still no, the same loved one will then tell the addict that he or she will no longer be able to live rent free in his or her home or receive loans, etc. At this point, the next person will read his or her letter and follow the same steps as the first person.
The goal is that a person agrees to change, and hopefully a treatment program, hence, it is important to be well prepared and well informed about the services available in the area. You may want to have a meeting for your loved one set up with an addictions counselor in advance. You may have a phone number handy for your local Detox Services, or an application for a rehabilitation services, a local AA meeting list, or an appointment with a local Mental Health Clinic. It is important to have realistic expectations as to addiction treatment options and timelines. Remember that the treatment starts with a first AA meeting, or a first appointment with a counselor and it may take a while before a more individualized treatment plan is developed with a health professional.