Sometimes, when you love someone very much, it’s easy to look past their faults and forgive them when they make hurtful mistakes. But when your loved one becomes addicted the mistakes can pile up and become more than just hurtful – they become destructive and often dangerous. It’s important to recognize when a harmful habit turns into a dangerous addiction – and it’s important to recognize the power of an intervention when that happens.
An intervention is often your best shot at helping your loved one, especially when they fail to acknowledge their own behavior. But there are a lot of differences between a good intervention and a bad one, and staging a successful intervention is not necessarily easy.
Make Sure You’re All on Board
An intervention is not a discussion between two people, but a conversation between an addict and all their loved ones and close friends. Ideally, you need to get together everyone who loves them very much but has been affected by their drug habit.
Addiction is painful not only for an individual but for the individuals whose lives they touch, from friends and family to more distant relatives and workmates. It’s not meant to be a free-for-all – keep the group small and unintimidating, but make sure to bring several people, at least three or four.
If they need convincing, convince them that this is their best shot towards helping their loved one get the treatment they need to get better and move on with their lives, free from addiction.
Practice and Plan Together
An intervention is best planned together. Thankfully, we live in a modern age where internet communication makes conversations happen instantly across countless miles. If you can’t get together to discuss the intervention physically, do so online in a private group with an unassuming title or name that wouldn’t point toward the planning of an intervention.
It’s best, however, to do the planning together in the same room. Discuss what you want to get off your chest, what concerns you, what you think needs to be addressed the most, and then find a way to list everything that you all feel needs to be brought up and find the best order in which it should be brought up.
The right order is important. The person whom your loved one feels closest towards should open up and start the intervention, and it’s important that you are all prepared for disbelief, lies, derision or angry remarks. Press on, stick to the topic at hand, continue listing the points that you feel are important, and do not let your loved one derail the topic or turn it into an awkward and messy fight.
Know What to Say, What to Do
Knowing what to say and what to do – and more importantly, what not to say and not to do – is crucial to a conversation like this. Even the subtext of hostility or judgment can send the intervention spiraling out of control. It’s important to be clear with your words, not just your message. The way you convey your thoughts and emotions is just as important as the actual thoughts and emotions you have. This means employing language that is not judgmental or attacking and utilizing body language that is warm and open. Here are a couple examples:
- DO use your own voice to describe your own feelings and experiences.
- DO NOT speak for everyone else.
- DO emphasize that you love them and want to help.
- DO NOT tell them they’re failures or have been failing.
- DO tell them that treatment works, and they’ll get better.
- DO NOT use insults or call them names.
- DO use open body language, like keeping your arms uncrossed.
- DO NOT look away from the person or keep your hands clenched.
Pick A Good Time & Place
It’s hard waiting for the right opportunity to step in and intervene, but you must. There’s little point in scheduling an intervention when your loved one is high. Drugs have a powerful influence on the mind, and they can render a constructive conversation pretty much impossible. Try to find a time when your loved one is most likely to be sober or almost sober.
Finding the right place matters, too. Somewhere incredibly public is a very bad idea. But it’s just as bad to schedule it in someplace too comfortable. A room at the local community center, a friend’s therapists office, or the local church are just a few examples of an acceptable middle ground where you can all be in a private room yet remain in neutral territory where your loved one cannot simply retreat into their room or order you out of their home.
The intervention may or may not go as planned, and while having a script and an idea of what to say helps, it’s important to understand that this is more of an improv performance than a scripted play. There may be crying, high tensions, flying tempers, and lots of emotion. You cannot control or preempt what your loved one will do. But you can plan around it and set ground rules for everyone to work off. For example:
- Do not stray from the topic.
- Do not lose your temper. Ever.
- Do not let your loved one redirect the conversation.
Past that, it’s up to you and those working with you to think about how your loved one may react, and what you could do to bring the situation back under control. They may lie, leave, or become incredibly angry/sad.
It Could Take More Than Once
Interventions aren’t magic – they’re carefully structured and prepared conversations meant to open an addict’s eyes to the reality that they’re struggling with a habit they can’t control, and that that habit is hurting others. However, the mind is a powerful thing, and the ability to perform “mental gymnastics” is vastly improved under the continuous influence of drugs.
It may take some time and several talks until your loved one agrees to get treated, and even after that, recovery can take months to years. In some ways, it takes a lifetime. Relapses are wont to happen, and it’s important to know what to expect – and not to be angry if things don’t go smoothly. Continue to love, continue to support, and continue to help guide them back onto a less self-destructive path – it’s up to your loved one to get better, but you can do a lot to help them get there.