Five Steps to A Family Intervention

The phrase, “My husband is an addict” has over 1,000 searches every month on Google. Right after that is the phrase, “Help with intervention” comes in at a whopping 10,000 hits.
You may have searched these phrases yourself.

For the most part, the family often doesn’t know what to do about addiction. We don’t know how to talk to our loved ones when we think they might be struggling with alcohol or drug addiction. When we try, we are often met with anger and resistance.

As a recovery professional who has been directly involved in family interventions and the work of recovery, I hear the pain of the family members:

“I hated seeing that insulated cup. She carried it around with her all day, every day. It was a constant reminder to me and to our whole family that she was an alcoholic…and there wasn’t a thing we could do about it. We felt so helpless. Well, we didn’t just FEEL helpless. We WERE helpless…and it hurt. Every day we hurt.” — Adult children of an alcoholic mom

“I would see him pull out of the driveway on his way to work and never really know where he was going. Would he come home tonight with all of his tools in tact and a paycheck in hand? Or would he come home three or four days from now, disheveled, wild-eyed, broke, and with a handful of pawn shop receipts?” —Stay at home mom of four

These are just excerpts taken from the thousands of stories and painful memories of family members. A favorite phrase of a person struggling with addiction is, “I’m not hurting anyone but myself.” but nothing could be farther from the truth. Everyone hurts. Everyone pays and the family of the addict has the emotional scars to prove it.

What is an Intervention?

If you are watching a loved one currently struggling in the darkness of drug or alcohol addiction, I want to offer some hope. You don’t have to remain a helpless bystander, but there are a few things you should know because intervention can be tricky.

An intervention, in simplest terms, is an attempt to persuade a person to seek help or treatment for a problem. The end goal for any intervention is for the individual to get help. Addiction is a cycle that needs to be broken and a successful intervention prompts a life disruption, so, with that in mind, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of success.

Read on for five family intervention tips.

  1. Choose a Rehab / Treatment Facility: When a family intervention was held for me, it consisted of my pastor, my two adult children, my sister and best friend. It was actually a spontaneous intervention (as opposed to one that is set up and planned out). The number one reason why this intervention was successful is because my pastor had a treatment facility ready and waiting to take me. There are a million things that can happen in the “reasoning mind” of someone in active addiction. When my pastor and family talked to me about the cycle of addiction I was stuck in, my pastor had an immediate solution for me. There I was, teetering in that moment of decision, which I might have sabotaged, but there was a bed ready for me and I said yes to recovery that day (and haven’t looked back since.)

  2. Participants: One of the most important aspects of an intervention are the people involved. Who should be there and what purpose do they play?  An intervention should include at least three people who are willing to share personal accounts of how the individual’s behavior has affected their relationship. Only invite people who have genuine love and concern for the person struggling with addiction. Not everyone has to share, but if they do, be sure the sharing is limited to direct examples of how the negative behavior is affecting others.

  3. Rehearsals Are Good: Although spontaneous interventions definitely can work, rehearsing what participants will say ahead of time can help everyone to remain calm and feeling prepared. Writing down and going over what each person will say ahead of time will also allow any negative speech, accusations, or emotionally driven statements to be identified and excluded. Try to stick to recent examples of how the person’s behavior has hurt or negatively affected each participant.An intervention is not meant to guilt a person or shame them into seeking help. Statements will be emotional but should always come from a place of love. Rehearsals can also possibly identify people who may be too angry or upset to participate in the intervention, and that’s okay. Addiction is damaging to the whole family and everyone is affected in their own way.

  4. People Who Should Not Participate: It is extremely important not to involve family members or friends who are actively participating in substance misuse. It is also unwise to include individuals who have been enabling the addictive behaviors.

  5. Talk to a Professional: If you are  a family intervention, it is always helpful to speak to professionals first. The staff at Gracious Care Recovery Solutions is here to help walk you through the process and prepare you for the best chances of success.

Keep in mind that every person is different and every family dynamic is different. An intervention is not something that has cookie cutter rules, only guidelines for “best potential outcome.”

Although an intervention may or may not go as planned, it is still a step toward recovery. Once a family sits down and speaks to the person caught in the cycle of addiction, they will forever remember that moment, regardless of their immediate decision. Each conversation, each person who loves them enough to voice their concern is a positive step.

Before I sought help there were numerous conversations, awkward moments and pleas from friends and family members. The point is, I couldn’t “unknow” or forget about all of those moments and eventually they added up to a decision toward recovery on my end.

No matter what, don’t give up. No one is too far gone or beyond hope.
If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, give us a call today.

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