As the name implies, an intervention is an attempt to intervene. One myth is that an addicted person needs to hit rock bottom before they will be ready to get help and that an intervention is an attempt to create that rock bottom. This simply isn’t true. It may be that it does create that bottom but that isn’t the point. I know in my case, my intervention was a defining moment and it certainly did create a bottom for me. It is still hard for me to look back on that event because of the absolute bottom I hit that day.
An intervention is an interruption and may even be better named as that. The addict in your life is stuck in a pattern of self destruction. If you analyze their behavior you will see the same behaviors repeating themselves. Obviously there is the using but also there is the isolation – where you may go days without hearing from them or even be able to get in touch with them. There are the good days that give you hope that maybe change is on the horizon. Then there are the bad days where you are totally hopeless and feel you may have lost them forever. There are the huge mood swings and the path of destruction left in their wake as they tear through your life like the Tasmanian Devil in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Over the months or years these behaviors have likely repeated themselves over and over and over again. The first goal of an intervention is to interrupt this behavior pattern and give you control back over your life.
What is the purpose of an intervention?
As I stated, we want to take control back from the addict. They have been controlling and manipulating you and your family for long enough. We lovingly tell them that we are no longer going to allow their sickness to make us sick. For this reason alone the intervention should give you hope. It isn’t just for the addict, it is for you too.
The second reason for the intervention is to offer the addict help. We give them the opportunity to get well. We communicate with them what we love about them, what their addiction has done to us, and what we believe their life could be when they are sober. Through this process we hope to awaken something in them. We don’t get our hopes up too high, we’re only just trying to spark something that will bring them to an agreement to get help.
The final reason for doing an intervention is because it is the best tool we have available. If you are like most people, you have tried everything else. You have tried reasoning, you have tried begging, you have tried love, you have tried tough love, and you have tried anger and yelling and nothing seems to work. Why hasn’t anything else worked? Because you were using a screwdriver to hammer a nail. You have to use the right tool for the right job.
How does an intervention work?
Interventions are typically attended by close family and friends of the addicted person. By this gathering of loved ones we hope to apply peer pressure in firm but loving way. Typically the people attending the intervention will have met beforehand and created a plan. They will have prepared letters that will be read at the intervention that outline the good they see in the person, how their addiction has effected them personally, and a plea to get help. There is also a separate letter prepared that is called “the bottom line.” This is shared if the addict refuses to accept help. The bottom line is not a punishment and should not be constructed as one. The bottom line has two purposes: let the addict know that their destructive behavior is not allowed in your life anymore and to apply that final bit of pressure to get the addict to treatment. As best we can we communicate that we love them but we are not going to love them to death.
An intervention should always be facilitated by a third party who is trained in interventions and is not emotionally involved with the addicted person. Attempts to do an intervention on your own can have disastrous consequences. It would be like hiring an accountant to be your electrician. The reason for this is that interventions are highly emotionally charged events and emotions cloud judgement. And, probably most important, the addict has likely already figured out how to manipulate you and other family members. You have already proven that you are not able to do this on your own.
How effective are interventions?
This is a very difficult question to answer. An effective interventionist will likely have an 85% – 90% success rate of getting the person to treatment at the time of the intervention. Sometimes the addict doesn’t go the day of the intervention but ends up going within a week so the effectiveness can be as high as 90% – 95%. It is important not to confuse the effectiveness of an intervention with the addict getting better. The goal of the intervention is not to cure the addict. It is only to get the addict to a place where they can receive help.
When is the right time to do an intervention?
Yesterday! The longer someone is stuck in their addiction the harder it is for them to break out of it. It isn’t impossible but just like with any disease, the sooner it is treated the better the chances of success. If you are reading this right now with a loved one in mind then the time to do an intervention is now. There isn’t going to be a magical “right time.” There isn’t going to be a time that is easier. There aren’t other options that you should exhaust first. I’ve seen it too often where the family waits until it is too late. Or they take half measures which don’t work. This really is a life and death issue so take action today.