10 April 2017

Addiction Intervention: Helping Your Loved One

Living with someone with an addiction, whatever that addiction might be, is not easy. And as their addiction progresses, coping with their behaviour only becomes more difficult. Often, the person with the addiction will not even realise he or she has a problem, or he/she may be in denial about it, so when things become too much for their family to cope, staging an addiction intervention can help to set the addict onto the path of recovery.

What Is an Addiction Intervention?

An addiction intervention, often just called an intervention, is a planned conversation with an addict, designed to help him/her realise that there is a problem with their behaviour, thoughts, or feelings. The intention of an intervention is to be non-threatening and to help the person see the impact their addiction is having on themselves and others. The immediate goal of an intervention is to get the affected person to accept some form of help.

Often, one-on-one conversations with someone in denial about their addiction does not work, which is where a group intervention can sometimes be more effective. Seeing that several people are concerned about them can have a greater impact than a single person, who might just be seen as meddling. Getting help and advice from an intervention specialist on how to approach your loved one can help to create a more positive and successful intervention.

When Should We Stage an Addiction Intervention?

The time to stage an intervention is when the addicted person is showing signs of addiction. Their addiction may be affecting their day to day life as well as their relationships with friends and family members, but the affected individual is in denial about there being a problem.

There are signs to look for that could indicate a person is struggling to cope with his/her addiction. These can include:

  • behaving secretively – hiding what they are doing
  • frequently borrowing money from friends or family
  • behaving aggressively (particularly when challenged on their behaviour)
  • neglecting their personal hygiene, or a general lack of care for themselves.
  • a deterioration in their health
  • problems appearing at work, or school
  • loss of motivation and energy.

How Do We Stage an Addiction Intervention?

Firstly, you need to consider who is going to be involved in the intervention process. Have a discussion with family members and close friends who have expressed concern about your loved one, but be careful not to have too many people as this could appear intimidating. While involving an addict’s children can have a strong impact on the addict, it is important that children are old enough to understand the issues involved, and can cope with any potential reactions from their addicted parent. One way around this could be to have children write letters that can then be read by an adult during the intervention.

Everyone who is going to be involved should think about what they want to say to the person struggling with addiction. It is essential that your words are not threatening in any way, so consider carefully how you are going to say things. It is a very good idea to have what you want to say written down, this way you can make sure that you have worded things carefully. This is so you do not appear accusatory, and you can rehearse in advance. Having things written down makes it less likely that you will be thrown off track by the reactions of your loved one.

Choose your venue and time carefully. An intervention should be held in a place that is neutral, familiar, and non-threatening. It may be better not to hold an intervention in the addict’s own home, as he or she could more easily reject the intervention there. The time you choose is also very important; your meeting must be at a time when your loved one is sober.

You may want to consider involving an intervention specialist too. A specialist will be able to help you plan your intervention carefully and help you to make sure that those involved in the intervention understand the illness that is affecting your loved one. They can help you to make sure that your words are not threatening, and prepare you for coping with whatever reactions your loved one may have. Having a professional present during your intervention can help to maintain calm, as this person will be able to help diffuse any aggression or anger that may arise.

Where Can I Get Help?

At UKAT, we offer support to all family members and can help you to support your loved one through their recovery process. Our fully trained counsellors will help your whole family to cope with the impact that addiction has had on them. If you would like more information on the services we provide, then please contact us today.

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