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What You Need To Know About Interventions
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Through intervention the addict is given the opportunity to enter treatment that could be life-saving.
Intervention is usually undertaken because the family is tired of watching a loved one destroy her or him self. The drug or alcohol addicted person is often the last one to know her or his condition. Denial can be thought of as an acronym for Don't Even Notice I Am Lying.
Addicts actually believe their own lies -- that's the delusional nature of drug and alcohol addiction. There are the same negative consequences in all areas of their lives.
Most often the families bring in the interventionist as a last resort. They've tried everything else from giving the addicted person money, to imposing restrictions, to hiring him or her in the family business, to letting him or her live in the basement, etc. These are enabling behaviors and do nothing to help the addict.
The actual intervention is the result of extensive planning. The first step is to find when a bed will be available at a drug addiction treatment center. Those who will be involved in the intervention are sent details of the process to make sure they are all "on the same page." A two-hour pre-planning meeting is set up with all participants (except the addict) in attendance. This involves education about addiction and an explanation of what happens in treatment.
The pre-planning meeting is often a very cathartic and therapeutic experience for family members. Addicts tend to compartmentalize their lives. They will always take one person, whom they identify as a "softie," and get them to enable their habit. For example, "I haven't eaten in three days. Please give me some money. Don't tell Dad." (The money is spent on drugs or alcohol -- not food.) People are amazed to learn that others in the group have heard the same stories and lies.
At the pre-planning meeting the family members agree to write letters expressing their love and concern for the addict. Each letter ends with: "I want you to seek help today" and may also outline consequences if the person does not go to treatment (e.g., "or you will not be allowed to keep working in the family business").
The interventionist vets the letters and meets with the group just prior to the intervention to plan logistics. The intervention will come as a surprise to the addict. For those participating, the intervention is emotionally draining. The interventionist is not emotionally involved and, therefore, cannot be manipulated by the addict.
At the intervention each participant reads his or her letter. This is a very emotional process. People often see family members cry for the first time ever. The people involved in the intervention are those whom the addict respects and will listen to. Those with whom the addict has a bad history are not invited.
The addict is being asked only to consider how his or her behavior has affected others. She or he is not given an opportunity to respond. The family has prepared a suitcase and she or he is off to treatment. The addict will resist but the interventionist will be firm.
Because the interventionist is not emotionally involved he will not back down. It's crunch time -- the addict goes to treatment or suffers the full consequences of his or her behavior. In most cases the addict will have a moment of clarity and will go to treatment.
It's a great moment when an addict accepts help. Intervention works because the family then recognizes the problem. They can now start to work on overcoming the trauma in the family caused by the addict and his or her behavior.
- Daryl Samson
Program Director, Orchard Drug and Alcohol Addiction Center
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