What Is an Addiction Intervention?

What Is an Addiction Intervention?

Many people are confused and frightened by the idea of an addiction intervention. They don’t know what it is or what it can and cannot do. All they know is that someone they love or care about is destroying their life because of addiction – to alcohol, illicit drugs, prescription drugs used nonmedically, or due to compulsive behaviors such as gambling, sex, work, spending, or eating. Many addicts have multiple addictions. Some have co-occurring mental health disorders.

Simply put, an addiction intervention is the first step on the road to recovery. It doesn’t matter if the affected individual is the addict or if it is the family of the addict. Addiction intervention seeks to help everyone concerned.

But what is an addiction intervention, specifically? Who performs the intervention and what happens? Let’s take the mystery out of it. In the formal sense, an addiction intervention is a process where a trained and certified interventionist is called in to help concerned family members and friends convince their loved one with addition to accept help and go into treatment. Beyond that, addiction intervention often works to help family members understand the disease of addiction, give them tools to help them get rid of shame and guilt and regain or rebuild self-confidence.  There are different models of addiction intervention, but the most typical goes something like this:

• You make a call to the organization offering addiction intervention services. Then you are put in touch with a licensed interventionist, a professional who helps you determine if an addiction intervention is the right course of action at this time.

• Preparations begin to get family members/close friends ready for the intervention. These include providing clear direction and instructions for the parties who will be present and involved in the intervention, keeping the family’s personal circumstances in mind, initiating contact with treatment facilities, and communicating throughout the process.

• Family members next meet with the interventionist in a “pre-meeting” where you obtain more information about the disease of addiction that’s affected your family, how to end the cycle of destruction addiction has caused, that the individual addict’s actions are not the fault of anyone, how to create healthy boundaries, and agree on the options to be presented to the addict during the formal intervention. In addition, the date, time, and location for the formal intervention is set.

• During the formal intervention, each family member, close friend, coworker, boss or other concerned individual, addresses the addict and says how that individual’s destructive behavior affects him or her personally. Each declaration, which may be read from a sheet they’ve prepared in advance, usually ends with a plea for the addict to accept help and go into treatment. After everyone has shared, the interventionist explains the options available to the addict and, when the addict agrees to accept treatment, the interventionist facilitates entrance to the treatment facility.

Why can’t family members do their own intervention? In some instances, perhaps they can, but it is extremely difficult and prone to failure. Why is that? Addicts often find it hard to accept that they have a problem they cannot control. They are experts in denial. Even if others think they have a problem, addicts may feel that they have adopted a lifestyle that perfectly suits them and one that they don’t want to change. This isn’t the person talking, it’s the disease. Once they’ve become dependent on alcohol or drugs or compulsive behaviors, they’re no longer in control. No amount of family coercion or persuasion is likely to break through the barriers of denial and lack of understanding of the addict’s disease. That’s why formal intervention, conducted by professionals, is so important. It’s backed by solid research that interventions can offer the best chance for an addict to get help and be on the road to recovery.

Is an addiction intervention right for you and your family to consider at this time? Ask yourself the following question: Has everything else you’ve tried failed? You could go through years of threats, promises, and cycles of letting things slide followed by active attempts to get your loved one into treatment. Nothing works, or it works only for a short period of time before the addict resumes his or her self-destructive behavior – perhaps even worse. Now is the time for an addiction intervention.

The important point to remember about interventions is that they don’t have to be voluntary to be effective. Chances are the loved one does not know that an intervention has been scheduled and shows up to a meeting completely clueless. He or she will adamantly deny there’s a problem, right up to the final minute where they agree to go into treatment. Does everyone go into treatment? Unfortunately, there are some who refuse the assistance. They will not be convinced and do not accept the help they are being offered. This does not mean that they won’t do so later, or that the intervention has been a complete failure. Sometimes it takes a while for the awareness of the problem to really hit home.

If nothing else, addiction intervention helps family members realize that they don’t own the addict’s actions. They are not responsible for what the addict does. They can change their own behaviors and go on to live their lives, whether the addict continues to drink, do drugs, gamble, or engage in other compulsive behaviors. Family members learn they have to stop enabling the addict and allow him or her to face the consequences of their actions.

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