Alcohol intervention: staging an intervention for a loved one
An addiction can have a negative impact on the life of an individual, but it also affects their family, friends, and community. It can be especially painful to see someone with a clear alcohol problem not recognize this issue or refusing to seek help. Seeing a loved one develop an addiction can be hurtful and create feelings of hopelessness and disempowerment. While nobody can make a person want treatment or accept they have a problem, there is an option to help them realize something is not right, although it’s up to them whether they choose to agree or not. An alcohol intervention can be a solution that enables family members and friends to express their concern with the addiction someone might be experiencing.
What is an intervention? It is an organized event where the person with the alcohol problem is confronted by their loved ones who express their concern and who set boundaries for the person with an addiction. An intervention is not a conflict or a fight, but a prepared and organized conversation that encourages the person with an addiction to listen.
While it can be defined as a confrontation, this doesn’t mean it’s a fight. In fact, the intervention should be done calmly and in an organized manner. It is a confrontation, because it allows the family members and friends to express what they feel it’s happening in a way that the person with addiction can not deny and ignore. While they might try to do this, the goal of the intervention is help them realize there is a problem or that they need to get help.
When is an intervention appropriate? It can be useful when the person does not acknowledge there is a problem, but their behaviors indicate that there is. For instance, friends and family members might agree there is a problem if the person is continuously drunk during the week, consistently misses obligations due to the use of alcohol, has lost jobs or relationships (or is about to lose them) due to alcohol, and shows other signs of addiction. An intervention can be done to help someone overcome their denial or to encourage them to seek help.
Who should be included in the intervention? It is best to include the closest family members and friends. It may be good to include people who feel they have been hurt directly by the person or who can talk about direct examples of harmful or dangerous behaviors they have witnessed. It’s a good idea to have at least one person who will be percieved as an authority, like a counselor, a doctor, or a priest. Alternatively, someone who the person respects and holds in high regard can also make an impact. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to bring a professional counselor to help plan and implement the intervention. Addiction counselors may help with this situation and have professional training in the area.
It’s important to plan ahead what each person is going to say. It’s best to express their feelings and concerns focusing on their experiences. It’s important to avoid accusations or blame, which is likely to make the person with an addiction defensive. While expressing each person’s pain and concern is important, it should not be done in angry tone, even if the situation might be enraging. The goal of the intervention is help the person see their problem rather than to pile up on them. If a person feels they can not restrain themselves from yelling or accusing, they might try practicing the script they are going to use or not participating in the intervention at the time. It’s best to stick to concrete examples rather than using words like always or never and to focus on how these actions affected the person speaking.
An example can be: “I feel worried about what I have seen. Last night, you got aggressive during the party and insulted me for not giving you more alcohol. You threatened to break something in my home. I felt hurt by these actions and also afraid for your safety and the safety of others. I am scared you might hurt me or others when you get so drunk.”
A bad example could be: “You never listen! You don’t care about anyone but yourself!” While this might express the frustration of the person speaking, it’s something the person with addiction can easily brush aside.
An intervention is also a good place to set boundaries and stick to them. The people close to the person with addiction might set limits to enabling their addiction and state not only their feelings, but also what they are going to do. This is not meant to be expressed as a “punishment” for drinking, but a way for the other people to keep themselves safe from getting emotionally drained or from enabling the addiction.
For instance, the spouse might say that they will not offer more money to the person. It’s important to reiterate the love and support the people feel for the individual with addiction, but clarify that this means they will be doing what’s best for the person and for themselves. They might outline how they are willing to help. It’s important to frame these in terms of consequences for the person’s actions. For instance, if they have spent the money they had on alcohol, it makes sense that the person won’t loan them more money. It’s not a punishment, but a consequence.
An example could be: “I felt afraid for my safety. I love you and care for you, but I will not invite you to my home. I will also not be loaning you more money. I hope you decide to seek help. I will be glad to help you find treatment and support you throughout.”
The person with addiction might make promises they don’t intend to keep. It’s important to set boundaries and limits that involve action, not promises of action. For instance, the parents might say they will not offer more financial support unless the person starts attending treatment and can prove it. It’s important to remember that an intervention can not force the person to recognize the problem, but might help them see it or feel more motivated to get treatment.
In planning an intervention, it’s a good idea to get professional advice. If this is not possible, it can still be important to be prepared and organized. An intervention doesn’t need to be devoid of emotion – people will express their sadness, fear, and anger, but it should attempt to be constructive rather than angry. It should be allowed to turn into a fight. For this, a script can be very important. People who will form part of the intervention can work together to prepare what they are going to say and incorporate their own emotions and experiences into the script.