What is an Intervention?

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Intervention is a process utilized to interrupt the harmful, progressive and destructive effects of chemical dependency and help he chemically dependent person to permanently stop using mood-altering chemicals. An individual who is chemically dependent has shielded their self with barriers of denial to keep from dealing with the painfully debilitating truth about their disease and its effects. The goal of intervention is to break down those defenses long enough for the person to accept the reality of their disease.

Intervention is a form of confrontation. It differs in some very important aspects from those we are most familiar with. Confrontation in this context means compelling a friend, family member, or loved one to face facts about their chemical dependency. It is "An attack on the individual's wall of defenses, not on the person himself." This means presenting specific facts about the individual's behavior and the results or outcome of their behavior. This also means presenting information to the addict in a way that is "OBJECTIVE," "UNEQUIVOCAL," "NON-JUDGEMENTAL," AND "CARING." For the addict, the intervention is the "MOMENT OF TRUTH." They experience it as a crisis. The person is met head-on with the reality that they are suffering from a disease and that there are serious and sometimes unalterable consequences caused by the disease.

Prior to doing the intervention, you should prepare yourself. Remember that the addict has mastered the art of denial and deception. They have developed a sophisticated self-delusional defense mechanism. Your preparation should include:

Educating yourself on addiction. Understand that addiction is a disease and not a lack of willpower or a character defect.

Understanding your motivation for the intervention. Is your motivation to help the addict or to divert the attention from yourself back to the "addict?" It is not uncommon to hear of a spouse taking their partner in for treatment and the spouse being admitted for treatment.

Make a list of specific incidents or conditions related to the addict's use. Narrow your list to only substance related incidents. Don't confuse these events with unrelated issues. It is better to drop a clouded event from your list than to give the addict an opportunity to change the subject.

The data should be witnessed and documented. Make sure that the event really happened and is reported factually. Include the amount of substance consumed or used.

Be specific about the date, time, and place. Remember that the person was probably intoxicated at the time or in a blackout and cannot remember the incident.

The data should be presented with respect. Don't embarrass or make them re-live the moment. Tell them with care and concern and show that you love them. Be honest about how these problems have hurt you both.

Be prepared to talk about the treatment options. These include hospitalization for acute problems, 30 day inpatient programs, intensive outpatient programs, 12-step programs, counseling or all of the above. Be aware that the addict will probably choose the less extreme option.

Establish consequences if the addict chooses to continue with their behavior. For example: "If you continue to use, then I can no longer continue our relationship, because it hurts me to see you hurt yourself" or; "If you continue to use, then I will have no option but to terminate your employment because I need a responsible and sober employee."

Establish realistic rewarding goals for recovery. Don't be disappointed if they don't make it the first time. Don't make them feel like a failure or "less than" if they relapse. You wouldn't make a cancer victim feel "less than" if their cancer flared up after a period of remission. There are very few 30 day miracles in recovery. It is not uncommon to hear a speaker say that it took three, four, or even more years to achieve one year of continuous sobriety. The most important fact is that they didn't give up.

Finally, seek professional assistance to help you with the intervention. There are people who are trained and dedicated to the art of intervention. If you have limited resources, any 12-step Central Office, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, etc. can help you. Their offices can usually be found in the white pages of your telephone book.