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For over three decades, America has been on the losing side of an all-out, scorched-earth, guerilla war with substance abuse addiction. Despite our best efforts, rates of addiction and overdose have risen annually, with the CDC reporting more than 72,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2017 alone, setting an unfortunate new record high. These shocking results highlight the need for family members to intervene if they see the signs of addiction in their loved one’s life.
Dealing with an addict who is struggling with any form of substance addiction can be unbelievably difficult. While a heart-to-heart confrontation can sometimes spur them to change and get clean, often a more direct approach is necessary to reach them. If you have someone close to you who is currently trapped in the chains of addiction, you may need to stage a formal intervention. Although this may seem scary, it could save their life. Below, we will discuss drug interventions and provide advice on how to handle the process.
What is an Intervention?
Interventions are structured, prearranged meetings that are meant to help find solutions to a problem. They typically relate to substance abuse, but can also be used for other addictions including:
- Compulsive eating
- Gambling addiction
- Hard drug abuse
- Prescription drug abuse
- Sex or pornography addiction
In regards to any drug intervention, the goal of this sit-down is threefold:
- Support the person struggling with drug addiction
- Help them realize the severity of their situation
- Encourage them to seek outside help in order to overcome their drug addiction
Typically, addicts have difficulty seeing how their actions affect those around them. For example, Lincoln Park’s frontman, Chester Bennington, said this about how his band’s intervention saved his life:
I had a choice between stopping drinking and dying. I did some counseling with the guys, and they really opened up and told me how they felt. I had no idea I’d been such a nightmare. I knew that I had a drinking and drug problem, and that parts of my personal life were crazy, but I didn’t realize how much of that was affecting the people around me until I got a good dose of ‘here’s-what-you’re-really like.’
Interventions use the power of friends and family as well as the help of a guide or interventionist to create a safe place, one of which is used to share how the person’s addiction is hurting them. The purpose of these meetings is not to place blame, but to open their eyes and reveal the consequences of their actions. Most of all, it’s to encourage them to enter rehab.
Types of Interventions
There are six common forms of drug intervention:
- The Johnson Model – the most commonly used intervention method in the states, the goal of this model is to get the substance abuser into rehab. One or more people stage a goal-oriented intervention and demonstrate to the addict that they have people who love them and are desperate for them to get better. The addict is encouraged to seek help and reminded that they have a support team who will help them throughout the entire recovery process.
- Brief Intervention – A short one-on-one meeting between a pastor or medical professional with the addict. These are typically performed at the request of family members after admittance into the hospital for an overdose, or post health exam which reveals the negative consequences of their substance abuse.
- Crisis Intervention – Most commonly employed by police who are dealing with a person who is suffering from mental health issues and/or drug abuse. Typically, such a person is on the street and living in homelessness. The goal of these on-the-street interventions is to encourage people who do not have a social safety net to seek help.
- ARISE – ARISE is a newer form of the Johnson model that will include the entire family, but attempts to avoid a direct confrontation. While the end goals are the same, the methods highlight the differences between the addict and their sober self and focus on building up the person who is struggling with substance abuse.
- SMART – SMART stands for:
As the name implies, SMART follows the Johnson Model but attempts to set clear and achievable goals. By setting measurable objectives, SMART helps spur action and aims to chart progress.
- Family Systematic Intervention – Such an intervention does not just focus on the addict, but the family as well. This type of intervention is an attempt to see how relationships and upbringing affected their pattern of abuse. These meetings help encourage the whole family to improve and be especially mindful about how their actions affect the addict and vice versa.
Enlist an Interventionist
These days, it is common for the family to enlist the help of a specialist who has previous experience in staging interventions. Such a person can be:
- A professional interventionist
- The family pastor
- A therapist
- A drug counselor
Interventions can be quite emotionally-charged events. Getting an interested third-party involved can help tamper the heightened emotions and keep the message on point. Without someone like that, it is all-too-easy to get sidetracked or have the meeting devolve into finger pointing and name calling. An interventionist can provide guidance, planning, and then lead the meeting towards the ideal outcome.
If your loved one deals with any of the following issues, hiring an interventionist is highly recommended:
- History of violence or abuse, whether sexual, verbal, or physical
- History of suicidality or self-harm
- History of comorbidity, especially bipolar disorder or schizophrenia
- Polysubstance abuse
Finding an Interventionist
There are several means for finding a professional interventionist. Try any of the following:
- If you are religious, speak to the leaders of your church. If your specific church does not have someone who specializes in interventions, they can recommend another pastor in the community who does have an intervention track record.
- Speak with friends or family members who have gone through the process already and who might have recommendations.
- Obtain a referral from a therapist or doctor.
- Look online for experienced professionals that belong to an in-patient drug rehab.
- Speak to your health insurance provider for options that your insurance may cover.
- Check the Association of Intervention Specialists for options.
How to Do a Drug Intervention
If your family has reached the tipping point and have already attempted to have one-on-one discussions with your loved one to no avail, then you likely are all too aware that something more formal may be required to save their life. If you have come to this realization, then it is critical that you take the time to carefully plan your intervention.
Interventions are tricky; if you want the most successful results, you cannot simply go in blind. Rather, you need to plan and prepare ahead of time. Follow these steps as you go about your preparations:
- Select the right intervention team – Besides hiring an interventionist, it is essential that you select the optimal team in order to achieve ideal results. The goal of an intervention is to convince the addict that they need help. It is not a time to accuse, call names, or bring up past grievances or grudges. The focus is to show the addict:
- How much they are loved
- How much their substance abuse has changed them
- How their substance abuse has hurt those around them.
Because of this, it is critical that you have a small and intimate group of people who have had the most profound impact on the addict’s life. This is not meant to be some sort of public shaming. As such, you need to select people who will be able to stay on message and who won’t provoke the addict to anger. Select people who have had an impact on the addict’s life and who have their respect and trust. The only people who should be included are those who have meaningful relationships with the addict.
- Have a group leader and speaking order – Once you have selected your team, it is essential that you have one voice leading the discussion, keeping the message on point, and keeping tempers cool. This could either be the interventionist, the spouse, or a parent.
Before you stage the intervention, agree to a formal speaking order. Ideally, the most powerful voice or message should go first. Sometimes this might mean having a child lead or someone outside the family such as a close friend or pastor. An intervention ends once the person has agreed to enter treatment, so it might be wise to have one of the more influential voices such as the spouse go toward the end so that they can tip the balance towards recovery—when the addict is feeling especially vulnerable.
- Plan ahead – If you or your team do not know much about the substances your loved one is using, it might be helpful to do some research beforehand. This can include both medical and personal accounts. Read books, speak with others, and get as much information as possible on the substance. Your goal is to empathize and understand what is going on in their head and body.
- Find the right time to discuss – Do not waste a golden opportunity by staging an intervention at a point when the addict won’t be able to hear the message clearly. You need to stage the intervention when the person is sober since drugs or alcohol can impair their ability to communicate, think clearly, and react rationally. It also protects and safeguards the people staging the intervention from a violent or angry reaction.
If your loved one has recently had an event where their substance abuse directly impacted them such as:
- Broken up with
- Fired from a job
They may be more vulnerable or willing to acknowledge that their substance abuse has had negative impacts on their life. If such an opportunity occurs, use it to your advantage.
- Stage it at a proper setting – You may want to have an intervention at your home, but that could be too comfortable and too similar to past conversations. Further, it allows your loved one to run away to their room or leave the house once they are confronted. Ideally, you want to stage an intervention somewhere formal such as the therapist’s office or your church. This ensures that the message is received and that the addict remains on their best behavior.
Naturally, your loved one may not be receptive to such a meeting. Therefore, you might have to lie or trick them into going to this location. Realistically, saving their life is far more important than a temporary breach of trust.
- Rehearse your Message – As mentioned, emotions can get out of hand during an intervention, resulting in sidetracking or getting off message. Such emotions can cause you to forget what you intended to say. By practicing, you can ready yourself for the event and fine-tune your statements. Although you can’t predict everything that may occur, roleplaying helps you mentally prepare for adverse reactions or cruel words.
- Stick to the script – As you prepare for this meeting, you will likely write and rewrite your script several times in order to hone it down to its most powerful essence. In the moment, you may be tempted to improvise to avoid sounding wooden, but that is unwise and could throw off the meeting. Stick to your polished message and avoid name-calling or blaming the person with “You do this” types of statements. Stick to “I messages” which illustrate how you feel and how you’ve been impacted by their actions.
- Consider your body language – The way you present your message is just as critical as the words you say. Humans naturally pick up on body language, so make sure that you are presenting warm and open body language. Focus on:
- Maintaining eye contact
- Keeping legs and arms uncrossed
- Leaning in towards them when speaking
- Keeping hands unclenched
Your body language should always match the words of love and affirmation. If they don’t, they will come off as false or forced.
Remember the goal of any intervention is to spur them on towards recovery. Ideally, this means getting them into a rehab center for drug detox as soon as possible. Strike while the iron is hot. Do not let a successful meeting go to waste. Therefore, it is critical that you’ve done your research and planned for the next steps and investigated inpatient or outpatient facilities near you.
If your loved one agrees that they need to quit, act at once so that they can get the help they desperately need. The road to recovery can be fraught with difficulties, but with your support, your loved one can overcome any challenges and find their way to sobriety.
To learn more about the intervention process, please call our Florida rehab center. Our experienced staff members will discuss with you how to stage a formal intervention, which treatment programs would be best for the addict, and how to achieve long-term recovery. At Beach House Recovery, our main goal is to help you change your life for the better. Contact our treatment facility to achieve sobriety today.
Durkin, E. The Guardian. US drug overdose deaths rose to record 72,000 last year, data reveals. (2018). https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/aug/16/us-drug-overdose-deaths-opioids-fentanyl-cdc
Gaita, P. The Fix. Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington: Band’s Intervention Saved my Life. (2016). https://www.thefix.com/linkin-parks-chester-bennington-bands-intervention-saved-my-life
Garret, J. NCBI. The ARISE Intervention. Using family and network links to engage addicted persons in treatment. (1998). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9650142
NCBI. Development of SMART Intervention. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470138/