When we think about addiction recovery, there’s a tendency for us to assume that it should be as easy as deciding not to abuse alcohol or drugs anymore; however, it’s unfortunately not that simple. Addiction is a disease that’s unlike any other. Most diseases are either physical or psychological, but addiction lives somewhere in between. This means that it robs people of their physical health while changing the brain in such ways as to result in dramatically different behaviors and personality traits. In fact, the development of an addiction coincides with irrational behaviors that can potentially be dangerous and self-destructive. People who develop addictions find it difficult to stop using alcohol and drugs, often being extremely resistant to recovery due to the fear they have of withdrawals. Rather than watching an addicted loved one remain in the throes of active addiction for years or even decades, addiction interventions serve as an effective way of encouraging a loved one into recovery.
But what exactly is an addiction intervention? How do they work and how can you know when your loved one needs an intervention?
The effects of addiction can largely be broken down into two different categories: physical and psychological. The physical effects are mostly straightforward and include things like the weakening of the immune system, damage to a variety of bodily organs and systems, and the risk of contracting one of any number of potential illnesses. Any of these physical effects can have a lasting impact on quality of life, but it’s the psychological effects that oftentimes have the direct and lasting implications. The development of an addiction results in rapid changes to personality, demeanor, and behavior, making individuals more likely to take unnecessary risks or put themselves or others in harm’s way. In fact, it’s for this reason that many addicts ruin relations and why some even commit crimes to sustain their addictions. It’s a disease that makes people incredibly self-destructive, which is why it’s important to be aware of how to help a loved one who’s suffering from addiction.
When you have a loved one who suffers from addiction, it’s difficult not to feel a sense of helplessness. Even when we know we’re not the reasons for their addictions, there’s a tendency to feel a sense of responsibility or obligation, almost like we’re complicit in the individual’s deterioration if we don’t somehow intervene. Fortunately, while there’s no way to cure an addict of his or her addiction or even to force him or her into recovery, there’s a way to strongly encourage an addict to seek treatment by confronting him or her — in a non-aggressive way, of course — with the diverse effects his or her addiction has had, not just on the individual but also the people around him or her.
An intervention, by definition, is a non-aggressive confrontation between an addict and his or her closest family, friends, and other loved ones. During this event, the addict’s loved ones typically take turns addressing the addict to explain how they’ve each been personally affected by the individual’s addiction, how it’s felt to bear witness to the individual’s deterioration and to encourage the individual to seek treatment.
There’s actually a lot of leeway when it comes to staging an addiction intervention as long as you cover the key components, which are: having the individual’s family and friends in attendance, having a private place in which to host the event, having the addict him or herself in attendance, and having ample time for the intervention. There’s also the option of having a professional interventionist help host the intervention. Although not required, an interventionist — or intervention specialist, as they’re sometimes called — can be immensely helpful as they can guide the discussion, ensure that everyone remains respectful, and otherwise help to make the intervention as effective as possible.
There are a few steps involved when it comes to staging an addiction intervention. The first would be to coordinate with the addict’s loved ones to choose a time and place that works for all parties involved. And remember that it must be a time that works for the addict, too. Also, all those who will be attending the intervention should take some time to think about what they want to say. Even just making a few notes on an index card can be helpful, but some people prefer to write letters that they can read aloud during the intervention; either way, this level of preparation helps people to make sure they say everything they want to say during the intervention. After all, this is a very emotional time, so without writing down notes or having a reference of some sort it’s likely that a person would forget certain things.
As well, it’s a good idea to make tentative treatment plans for the individual suffering from addiction. Since you can’t be certain whether or not an intervention will truly be a success, you may not want to go so far as paying for a treatment program or making a commitment; however, it would be a good idea to have one or two programs (at one treatment center or different centers) tentatively selected. If the intervention is successful, this will minimize the amount of time the addict would have to wait before actually beginning treatment. It’s a good idea to make sure the addict can start treatment as soon as possible if the intervention is successful because a lapse of time would allow the individual to change his or her mind. When preparations have already been made, the addict can quickly begin treatment very soon after the intervention.
Finally, it’s very important to approach the intervention with as calm and collected a demeanor as possible. Aggression, anger, and accusations could cause the addict to become withdrawn and unparticipative, which would render the intervention pointless. Although the addict will mostly be listening to loved ones speak during the intervention, aggression and accusations could cause the addict to leave or refuse help. Instead, you should always address the addict from a place of respect, love, concern, and support. Try to be understanding of the addict’s perspective while also expressing concern for how the individual’s addiction has affected him or her and others.
For more information about addiction interventions, contact Elevations of Fort Lauderdale toll-free at 866-200-3224 at your earliest convenience.