When Should You Hold an Intervention?


It can be challenging to help a loved one struggling with addiction. Sometimes a direct, honest conversation can start the road to the recovery and relationship healing. But it’s not always that easy. When it comes to addiction, the person with the addiction often struggles to see it and acknowledge it. A more focused approach may be needed to help the addict. You may need to join forces with others who love the person and take action through a formal intervention. An intervention can motivate someone to seek help for their substance abuse. Knowing when how to stage it can help make it work.

What is an Intervention for Substance Abuse Disorders?

drug-alcohol-intervention-ABTAn intervention is a formal or informal meeting that includes family, loved ones, friends, and/or professionals in hopes of inspiring an addict to change their negative behaviors.

A discussion is held about the reality of the situation and how the addictive behavior is affecting the lives of individuals who love and care for the addict. The group will encourage the person to seek help for their addiction.

A successful intervention is a combination of education and support with the goal of providing the addict with a structured treatment opportunity that will creative a positive change.

Warning Signs that Their Addiction is Out of Control

It may not always be readily apparent when it is time to stage an intervention. It’s common for things to progress slowly in terms of the severity of a person’s misuse of drugs and/or alcohol.
Those suffering from addiction are often in denial and struggle to face the harsh reality of their dependence and its negative effects on the lives of those around them.

According to the MayoClinic.org, some warning signs that may indicate it is time to join forces and suggest treatment through intervention include:

  • Overdose: The person has an overdose and needs to go to the hospital. They are also experiencing acute health problems due to the drug and/or alcohol use. And they are struggling with increased mental health issues due to ongoing misuse of a substance.
  • Legal Issues: The person is arrested due to drug-related behaviors and/or choices made due to the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
  • Violence: The person harms someone while under the influence. This may occur during domestic violence, sexual assault, or driving under the influence.

A trait of addiction is exhibiting both physical dependence as well as psychological dependence on a substance. This generally manifests in the person when withdrawal symptoms occur because the person is without their drug of choice. This also means that the person prioritizes getting and staying high or drunk over everything else, no matter what damage it causes to others. When the person is unable to stop using, even when willing (and wanting), and the need to use drugs or alcohol trumps the physical and mental health of oneself and others, it is time to stage an intervention.

How to Plan a Successful Intervention

It is imperative to properly plan an intervention in order to maximize all chances of success. When planning your intervention for your loved one, consider the following:

  • The Group: Carefully consider which family members and close friends to involve. Do not include anyone who supports or condones drug or alcohol use in any way. Choose people who truly have your loved one’s best interests at heart.
  • The Professional: Families should always consult a professional for help with the intervention. Interventions work best when assisted by an addiction counselor or intervention therapist.
  • The Location: It’s best to choose a space where the person will feel comfortable and safe. A private location is always better than a public place.
  • The Information: Educate yourself on your loved one’s addiction. The more you know, the more help and support you can provide. If you do not understand what you’re dealing with, you may have difficulty conveying your points to your loved one.
  • The Message: It’s good to know what you are going to say beforehand. Take some time to discuss with the intervention group what needs to be said and how you are going to say it. Avoid using “you” statements; those indicate blame. Instead, use “I’ statements that convey how the addict’s behavior has or is personally impacting you.
  • The Treatment Plan: If you are encouraging your loved one to seek treatment, have a treatment plan ready. Find a treatment center that is appropriate and is available to begin treatment the same day as the intervention. All arrangements need to be made beforehand.
  • The Worst Case Scenario: Plan ahead for your loved one to continue denying they have a problem and refuse your suggestion to seek treatment. Decide with the group if there will be a backup plan or an ultimatum.

Also, consider how you can stop any enabling behaviors with the addict; this includes limiting access to money, housing, or any other support you provide that allows the addictive behaviors to continue.

Who Should Perform an Intervention?

Interventions need to be performed by a group of people who are close to the addict. Typically, these are close family members.

Alcohol.org states, “The intervention will not be as effective if the group consists of many acquaintances who have only superficial relationships with the person.”  Having the intervention led by individuals who share a strong bond with the addict, brings the intervention to a close and intimate level. This is important because it has meaning for both the subject of the intervention and the group of loved ones performing it.

Is it Time for an Intervention?

If your loved one is struggling with addiction, you do not need to feel helpless. You can’t control whether or not someone living with addiction will agree to treatment and remain sober. An intervention can help protect your overall well-being. If your loved one refuses to go to treatment, do not give up. Distorted thinking is an issue when dealing with your loved one in active addiction. You may see the situation clearly but your loved one may not see their frequent abuse of their drug of choice as an addiction. Learning how the disease of addiction and the support groups that can help you may help you the next time you try to talk to your loved one.

There is a wealth of information online, however, you may want to speak to an addiction specialist to discuss your particular situation and navigate how best to handle it. Recovery is a journey. With the right treatment and support, you and your loved one can start on the right path. Staging an intervention is often the best possible way to begin.