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The Drug and Alcohol Intervention Process

Addiction interventions are not about forcing people into treatment. They’re about applying love and accountability so that you can help loved ones improve their lives and restore relationships to healthier levels. There are many factors to consider when doing a drug abuse intervention for a loved one.

Getting Started Finding Treatment Resources

You do not need permission to save someone’s life.

An intervention is not about a father stepping in, taking control and giving “the speech.” Nor is it a mother offering the hug, hoping that giving them one more chance will work. Nor is about the loved one finding the right job, or believing a new boyfriend or girlfriend will fix the problem – or believing that leaving a husband or wife is the solution. And it’s definitely not a friend saying the loved one just needs to want help or hit bottom, and in the meantime, doing nothing.

In fact, none of those things really solve the problem or fix what isn’t working.

Think about the treatment needed for any other fatal illness. Addiction is no different.

Step-By-Step Process

How to Do a Drug and Alcohol Intervention

The First Meeting

The First Meeting

Addiction intervention specialists first meet with the family to educate them and help them see the roles they have played and why nothing has improved, despite hundreds of promises (since broken) and numerous attempts to talk the loved one into rehab.

The family has to change its own behaviors for a drug abuse intervention to be successful. Professional specialists are trained to look for and teach you how to recognize behaviors and symptoms that are enabling the addiction; codependent behaviors must also be identified and addressed.

A drug and alcohol intervention is something that occurs in the life of every person who becomes addicted. Of the millions of Americans who struggle with a substance use disorder of some kind, all of them will face this inevitable fact.

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The Planning Stage

The Planning Stage

An addiction treatment plan needs to be set in place and ready to implement even before any attempt to intervene is made.

Much of what is involved in staging an intervention may seem insignificant and not important to the outcome. Some of the chief considerations include:

  • Who should be at the intervention
  • Seating arrangements
  • The order in which letters are to be read
  • What the letters should say
  • When to do the intervention
  • The time of day to start the intervention

Because of the volatility involved, it is of the utmost importance to have a professional intervention counselor lead the family through the process.

Consider, for example, the seating arrangements. If a family member is present with whom the addict or alcoholic is angry, that person should not be placed in direct view of the loved one. The intervention can begin badly with something as simple as this being overlooked.

The reading of the letters is also extremely important, as the family must go in an order that appropriately engages the loved one. Several factors regarding the letters need to be considered, such as the way the letter is written, its length, what it says and who is reading it.

Because you only have one shot at doing this the right way, every detail matters. Despite what family members think or what you have been told by others, interventions are not as simple as assembling a group of people, confronting the addict or alcoholic, and talking him or her into rehab. The family can’t possibly understand what their loved one is going through, nor can the addict or alcoholic understand what the family is going through.

In order to stage an intervention correctly, professional help is needed. The emotional attachment of the family to the loved one makes it impossible to achieve this absent outside guidance.

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The Addiction Intervention

Addiction Intervention

After a detailed plan is in place, the drug abuse intervention meeting takes place with the family, the professional and the addict or alcoholic.

Something that all families should be aware of is when addicts feel that they are in jeopardy of losing the things that allow them to keep using, they will often start making it appear that they’re doing better – at least for a short period of time. We call this damage control.

A great example is when a husband with the drinking problem gets confronted by his wife about his behavior. He swears to her that he’ll straighten up and not drink as much, saying that he’s just had a tough time at work and will cut back.

Instead, he only lets her see him have a drink or two, meanwhile he’s hiding bottles of liquor around the house and sneaking extra drinks, especially after she goes to bed. She thinks he’s doing better for a bit, until it becomes obvious that he has been getting drunk and hiding it from her.

There are numerous other examples of how addicts and alcoholics will try to implement some damage control when they feel their comfortable world closing in on them. It is important to understand this behavior and how they will use it over and over again in different ways to try and fool people into thinking that things are better, but nothing really changes.

People often fall for this because they want to believe in their loved ones, to give them the benefit of the doubt and to hold on to hope. The problem with that usually stems from their lack of understanding about the nature of addiction, which is why a professional addiction interventionist is needed to help end this repeating pattern so that both the addicts and their families can begin to heal and change for the better.

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Getting into Treatment

Getting into Treatment

The meeting can be emotional and difficult at times, and the overwhelming majority of successful addiction interventions end with the addict or alcoholic entering treatment the same day or shortly thereafter.

A lot of people want to know what the success rate of addiction interventions is. Success rates are not determined simply by whether or not they say yes. They are defined by whether or not you try and follow all suggestions and recommendation of your professional. The chances of your loved one getting to treatment as the result of doing an intervention is significantly higher than if you do nothing at all. The question of success rates is a question we should be asking you, the family. In other words, what is the likelihood or percentage of you following through with the intervention and all of the suggestions from your professional?

Many families shy away from having a drug and alcohol intervention specialist help them because they have tried repeatedly and haven’t been able to get them into a program. “They’ll never agree to go,” they say. Well, that’s precisely why having an experienced interventionist there to guide the process can be so incredibly helpful.

One of the biggest problems with family members trying to conduct an alcohol or drug intervention on their own is that there are so many emotions involved that it almost always turns into someone blaming another person, being resentful, getting defensive or otherwise highly confrontational.

It can turn into punishment and immediately ineffective, or one or more family members will sabotage the intervention in some way and continue enabling the addicted person by providing an “out” – such as more time or more money, etc.

A reputable addiction intervention professional helps to ensure that none of those outcomes happen during the intervention process. Not only are they present to guide the family, but they can also be advocates for the addict in helping to create an environment that is more conducive to accepting the help the family is offering.

Another factor in the success of a drug abuse intervention is the ability for family members to stick to their bottom lines. Consequences still have to be set and adhered to in order for the enabling to stop. In the same way, accountability must continue after the individual completes treatment.

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Until the person needing help agrees to accept treatment, and until family members understand how they have been obstacles to long-term success and wellness for all involved, the healing process can neither begin nor be sustained.

Why You Need a Professional Intervention

Once a family has decided to follow through with a drug abuse intervention – which is the hardest part – members of the family may feel as if they can conduct the intervention process themselves. They believe that addiction is a decision or a moral dilemma that can be overcome by a speech or by enforcement of ultimatums, rules and consequences.

After several attempts at trying to intervene with the addict or alcoholic followed by failed attempts at treatment, families will come to realize what a true addiction intervention is and what it entails.

It isn’t about a family member giving a speech or enforcing consequences. Rather, it’s realizing the family needs help from a professional interventionist. 

This is not to say that words and consequences don’t help, but it does matter who delivers them.

Addicts and alcoholics believe that the family and everyone else is the problem. When that perceived “problem” attempts to talk them into treatment or delivers harsh ultimatums and tough love, it has a reverse effect on the addict, confirming in their mind what they already feel: namely, that the family is the problem.

A family trying to perform a drug and alcohol intervention without a professional is equivalent to defending oneself in a court of law without an attorney. The family is thinking, “How do we move an elephant on our own, without help?”

Another issue families may face comes from friends and family members who allow themselves to be talked out of participating in the intervention by one another, or by the addicted loved one.

If there are family members who don’t want to participate, then leave them out of it, as you don’t need them.

Keep this in mind: you do not need permission to save someone’s life.

Addiction Intervention Guarantee

As in life, there are no guarantees, and at no time can addiction counselors, interventionists, therapists, doctors, psychiatrists and even lawyers guarantee successful outcomes with any certainty.

The only sure thing is: This will not work if you don’t try. What we offer is closure in knowing that you did everything you could to stop it.

An interventionist can’t guarantee that someone is going to accept help for two primary reasons: The first of these is the volatility and current state of the addict or alcoholic; the second is whether families are able to guarantee doing everything suggested of them to make the intervention a success.

In what other circumstances when treating a life-threating problem does one ask for a guarantee and then not try everything to help, even if there can be no guarantee? If you were charged with a serious crime, would you fail to retain counsel because there was no guarantee you would be spared from going to prison?

The whole purpose of the intervention is to educate and heal the family system that is broken, and to know you did everything you could to save your loved one.

The process of intervention is not about “what if they don’t accept help?” It should be about “what if we don’t try?”

For most families seeking a successful outcome, this is not their first attempt. We discuss those earlier efforts with clients and walk them through why they were unsuccessful. In just about every case, the family did little or nothing to change their behaviors, which enabled the addiction, and they could not get on the same page as to what to do.

If family members don’t change their behaviors, fail to hold their loved one accountable, and continue to provide comfort, things will inevitably stay the same.

What If They Say No and Refuse Help in the Intervention?

Why Drug Abuse Interventions Fail

Many families feel the hardest part about staging an addiction intervention is getting their loved ones into substance abuse treatment when, in fact, that’s the easiest part.

The difficult part, other than getting family members on board, comes after the loved one gets sober or cleans up and then wants to leave addiction treatment earlier than planned, or feels they’re ready to undertake recovery on their own.

Families allow their loved ones to cross boundaries repeatedly and dictate the course of action they will take in their drug abuse treatment.

Countless times, we hear families say the loved ones went into addiction treatment, but it did not work, or they asked their loved ones to leave the house, but they would not. This is because the family has allowed the addict or the alcoholic to be in control. His or her stubbornness will last longer than the family’s threats and ultimatums.

And there is also this: Many families let the loved one pick the drug and alcohol treatment center and the type of treatment, the location and the length of stay.

Following defeat and frustration, the family hears, “It didn’t work.”

The primary reason why any addiction intervention fails is because one or more family members backslide on the group agreements. Someone steps in and provides another “out” for the addict to give him or her a way to delay the inevitable.

How to Write a Family Intervention Letter

Before discussing how to write an intervention letter, it is important to understand why you should write one.

When families communicate with an addict or alcoholic, almost everything the family says is perceived as criticism and a threat to the loved one’s solution – that solution being drugs and/or alcohol.

When addicts or alcoholics feel threatened, they become fearful, and that turns quickly to anger.

The family sitting in front of them is then viewed as the enemy and the problem. What is likely to ensue when the perceived problem confronts them and their solution?

Without a well-prepared, calculated approach, the family is most likely going to talk “off the cuff.” With emotions running high, the chances are slim for the conversation to move in the right direction.

Understanding the Purpose of Intervention Letters

The purpose of intervention letters is to defuse the situation, and to engage and comfort the addict or alcoholic.

Seeing all of the family members in one room, anyone in the loved one’s shoes would immediately become defensive and argue and plead his or her case.

The addict or alcoholic is most likely going to say harsh and cruel things, and families may say things that the addict or alcoholic thinks are untrue or inaccurate.

Without professional guidance as to what to say and how to say it, do-it-yourself interventions without professional counselors and well-thought-out letters can go from bad to worse quickly.

Since each case is different, so are the letters. The first thing to understand is:

  • Family background
  • The relationship with your loved one
  • How you are affected

The second thing is to understand the addict or alcoholic’s:

  • Background
  • History of use
  • Consequences
  • Behaviors

The order in which the letters are read and where people are sitting when they read them are of equal importance. Most intervention letters follow a specific format.

Standard Format for Effective Intervention Letters

The first part of an intervention letter usually affirms that you love and miss the loved one.

This is crucial because it helps to defuse the anger by saying things the loved one does not expect to hear, perhaps things long forgotten, whereas the expectation was an attack about behaviors and the drug or alcohol abuse. These comments are an opportunity to engage the loved one and to share both laughter and tears, an experience that can be very emotional.

The second part of an intervention letter touches upon the addiction and behaviors.

It is of the utmost importance to have the facts straight, for if you don’t, your loved one will let you know that you are wrong. If done incorrectly, you will lose the loved one, who might well walk out.

The better approach is to focus on known facts and behaviors rather than actual drug or alcohol use, because it is much easier to argue behaviors than things not actually witnessed.

Because this is a pivotal moment, not having a professional in the room is risky. The interventionist is trained to intervene and defuse the situation should things begin to unravel. An emotionally attached family member is rarely, if ever, effective in this situation.

The third part of an intervention letter is the request for help.

This part is short, to the point and also vague. In this section, the family is only asking the loved one to accept the help being offered today, avoiding a discussion of details, even if pressed for it.

What the offering of help consists of will come from the professional intervention counselor after all of the letters have been read.

Writing the Family Consequences Letter

In addition to the letters, each family member contributes to one additional letter written as a group.

This letter is saved for the end of the intervention should the loved one refuse the help being offered.

In this letter, each family member will have all boundaries listed as well as the consequences should he or she choose to stay in the addiction. If used, this letter is not the family proactively ruining the loved one’s life; it is the family regretfully accepting his or her decision to choose drugs and/or alcohol over everyone and everything rather than choosing to receive help.

This is not you throwing the loved one out of your home or implementing tough love. Rather, it is the family accepting the addict or an alcoholic on his or her own terms and resources – but no longer on yours.

If an addict or an alcoholic chooses to refuse treatment, then we suggest enforcing the consequences until the loved one does. The consequences are not ultimatums or tough love, but rather the family’s acceptance of the loved one’s decision.

The family’s position is this: The loved one can accept the family’s decision to no longer accept the way he or she has been living, and in exchange, the family will accept the loved one’s decision to continue abusing drugs or alcohol.

If the desire is to continue drinking or using, then perhaps the loved one needs to manage the addiction and lifestyle – but absent the family’s resources. The family never takes the offering of help off the table.

Even if the answer is no, the family stands ready to help the loved one arrive safely in treatment when the offer of help is accepted. 


Drug and Alcohol Intervention FAQ

There is big difference between those who go to treatment through an intervention process and those who do not.

With an intervention, the family is involved in getting well, too, and it significantly impacts the loved one’s chance of success. Doing everything they can to help means surrendering and hiring a professional from the start of the intervention through the recovery process. This is the only fatal illness where people try to fix it on their own or by consulting with others not qualified to give advice.

When and what time should we do the intervention?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions in regard to staging an intervention. Two considerations come to mind: when it should be done, and what time.

The answer to the first question is: as soon as possible, just as one should dial 911 when faced with a critical emergency. Knowing that nothing is going to get better until action is taken, the intervention should be done as soon as the family can logistically come together.

Oftentimes, families wait and can’t get on the same page, and this benefits nobody other than the addict or alcoholic, who will continue to use drugs or drink alcohol. Of course, it truly isn’t benefitting him or her either; it merely allows the situation to worsen.

The loved one doesn’t have to wait to reach the bottom or ask for help. The addict or alcoholic only has to be there in person, to surrender, and to let professionals guide and teach.

The answer to the second question is: You should start the intervention as early in the morning as possible, and for good reason. The morning is likely to be the cleanest and most sober part of the loved one’s day. Although it is not impossible to conduct an intervention with a person under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the less they have ingested prior to starting, the better.

The second benefit of starting early in the day is that it gives the interventionist time to work with the loved one should there be initial resistance, and it also allows extra time to prepare for travel to the facility. Most people going to treatment need to travel far away from home, thus requiring travel on a plane with the intervention counselor. The later in the day the intervention starts, the fewer flight options there are available, which may give the loved one until morning to experience a change of heart and mind.

As a final note, the family day prior to the actual intervention can start whenever the family is available and at a location unknown to the addict or alcoholic.

What is the success rate of interventions?
Success rates of interventions are based on many factors that are difficult to assess. A family may ask about our success rate. The answer is: “How well will you follow our protocol and hold your boundaries?”

Interventions don’t fail; people fail to attempt them or stop following directions once the intervention is completed.

Breaking down the actual percentage of people who go to treatment following an intervention depends on many factors. Most important of those is the family’s ability to follow through with any and all suggestions. For the select few who say no, if the family follows through with consequences and doesn’t give in to their loved one’s threats and demands the chances of a successful outcome exponentially increase.

The primary reason interventions don’t result in the person going to treatment is because the loved one doesn’t feel the family will follow through with the boundaries and consequences.

After years of the family enabling and doing little to change behaviors, the addict or alcoholic is in control and feeling entitled. It is unlikely he or she will assume that you are now serious and will do as you say, largely because you haven’t demonstrated to this point that you are capable of these things.

With the intervention counselor out of the picture, those who don’t go into treatment try to bring the family back to the old ways. Addicts and alcoholics will fight for their survival at all costs. They will work to convince you that you did a horrible thing and that the interventionist is the enemy.

As you can see, intervention success rates are based on many factors, and it is difficult to guarantee an outcome. It comes down to the family’s ability and willingness to take direction and to become and remain teachable. As with any set of directions, successful outcomes result when people follow directions. The family’s success rate will mirror that of the loved one.

Similarly, treatment centers don’t fail to help someone; people fail to follow instructions. If either party chooses to revert to previous behaviors, previous results will ensue. The most important thing is to try.

How can we tell if they are drinking or using ‘too much’ to even need an intervention?
When doing a consultation with families, we oftentimes realize they are looking for the smoking gun. They want to know what their loved ones are using, how much and how often. Addicts, alcoholics and families typically define how bad an addiction is based on those factors.

The question is, “Are they relevant?” Upon reflection, what the loved ones use, how much, and how often they drink or use has little to do with solving the problem.

The primary reason families call us has less to do with their loved ones’ use and more with their behavior, how they are affecting themselves and their families, and what they are and are not doing with their lives. Addiction tears families apart by fomenting chaos, confusion, dishonesty, legal consequences, health concerns, job loss, affairs and physical and emotional abuse, just to name a few.

Would knowing the details of our loved ones’ drug or alcohol use change anything about their actions, choices, behavior and the situation that led you to seek help?

You likely answered no, and that is because how much and how often your loved one abused substances are not the only things that can tear families apart and destroy lives.

Consider this other perspective: If your loved one had a great job, paid all of his or her bills, was a joy to be around, had zero consequences or issues, was emotionally, financially, physically, spiritually and mentally well, and did nothing to negatively affect the family or society…yet used drugs and drank alcohol, would you be seeking help?

Frequently, what a family tells us is only about 20 to 30 percent of what is really going on, not because the family is failing to tell the truth, but because the addict or alcoholic has only allowed the family to know that much. Most families are calling about a situation where they are seeing less than half of what is truly going on. Much more of the truth is revealed in the intervention.

What if they say they don’t have a substance abuse problem?
We’ve all heard that most addicts and alcoholics go through a period of denial about their condition. The truth is they don’t even have to fit into any particular category, so whether or not they are labeled as being an addict or alcoholic is beside the point.

They may be in denial about the fact they have a problem, but there are some easily observable situations that can confirm that rather quickly. If their drinking and/or drug use is negatively impacting their lives or the lives of loved ones, that is reason enough to try and do something to change the behavior.

Most substance abusers don’t want to admit that what they’re doing to themselves or others is that disruptive or harmful, because it requires them to look at the reality of their actions, when getting drunk or high is their way of escaping reality. Having to face real life and destructive behavior for them is a threat to their escape, so they will deny it as long as they possibly can.

One way to pierce this veil of denial is to show them exactly how their alcohol or drug use has affected their lives and/or the ones around them. The trickiest part about this is that too often friends and family members make this a “blame and shame” session, which unfortunately only drives the addict deeper into the problem.

When they feel that everyone is against them, the only place they know where to turn is back to the alcohol or drugs.

Instead, an intervention must be done with compassion and should present a solution to them as well, instead of just pointing out problems.

With enough specific examples given in a non-threatening way, the user will often become very remorseful and may break down and be willing to change. Having a skilled addiction interventionist guide loved ones through this and ready to escort the addict to treatment makes the whole process go much easier in almost every case.

Do we still need an intervention if they have not been drinking or using drugs in several days?
You don’t have to use drugs or drink alcohol every day to be an addict or an alcoholic. It doesn’t matter how much, how little or how often you drink or use; it only matters what you’re doing or failing to do as a result.

For those considering an intervention who are concerned about their loved ones’ frequency or recent lack of use, they should not hesitate to move forward for several reasons. Addicts and alcoholics can be dishonest about their use, either denying or downplaying it. What they can’t do is hide their behaviors associated with the addiction. When we do interventions, we try not to focus on the things they can argue about or deny, but rather the things they can’t.

Frequently, families mistakenly feel the problem is not as bad as it really is. Other times, families may think because their loved one has not used alcohol or drugs in several days that the problem may be going away or the person may be done using. On very rare occasions, such an outcome is possible, provided the loved one is not a true addict or alcoholic.

People can stop using because of fear, consequences, willpower and self-knowledge. For most people, however, that outcome isn’t possible. If you imagine that your loved one is that rare occurrence, you wouldn’t be reading this if that were so. He or she would already have stopped.

Addiction is most commonly classified as the Biopsychosocial Model or the Medical Model. The Biopsychosocial Model says that addiction is a disease that can be self-inflicted and triggered by outside factors such as genetics, environment, availability and trauma, all of which are treatable.

The Medical Model views addiction as a disease that can be diagnosed and treated. Both models hold that recovery requires complete abstinence. Ending the addiction is highly unlikely without professional help.

Similar to those with other fatal illnesses and diseases, addicts can have good and bad days. Just because they haven’t used doesn’t mean the problem has ended.  In fact, when they are abstinent for a short period of time, they are still in their untreated addiction and will most likely get worse each time they resume their use.

Oftentimes, families want to believe their loved one will never do it again. Rarely, if ever, is that the case.

Don’t they have to hit rock bottom before we have an intervention?

Society seems to have created an auto-response for dealing with someone addicted to drugs or alcohol. When families ask for guidance, the response invariably comes back, “There’s nothing you can do unless your loved one wants help or hits bottom.”

Oftentimes, the next piece of advice offered is, “Throw him out of the house,” or, “Cut him off and have him call when he’s ready.”

Sadly, this advice frequently comes from those answering phones at a treatment center. Many family members say they have called many places and were told, “He has to want it, he has to hit rock bottom. We can’t help him unless he makes the call.”

Please consider the source when asking such questions and the feedback you receive. Individuals operating the phones at the treatment center are neither therapists nor addiction professionals. In many cases, they come from a sales background and may not be educated or have a background in addiction. These folks are trained and paid to speak about their program and not to think outside the box.

Family, friends and colleagues also fall into the category of those without a proper background. In brief, too much advice and too many opinions come from people not qualified to give it. Although they may have pure intentions, non-professionals are often clueless about the topic of addiction.

People say that addicts and alcoholics “have to hit rock bottom” as if they know what that means. Bottom is different for everyone. Simply put, someone reaches rock bottom when things get worse faster than the standards get lower. What may be bottom to some isn’t necessarily bottom to an addict or alcoholic who has adapted to each and every crisis that came along.

Until the pain and the consequences of abusing drugs or alcohol become greater than the fear of facing sobriety, the loved one most likely will not stop. Some seek help after one DUI; others are in prison on their fifth DUI, planning a party upon their release. Some are serving lengthy prison sentences for vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

The first step in asking for help is admitting powerlessness over the substance of choice and that life has become unmanageable. Up to that point, loved ones have managed their addictions, their lives and their families in ways that kept them comfortable and consequence-free.

You’ve heard it all before: the bottom is jail, institutionalization or death – and that’s true. Through the intervention process, done on the family’s terms, the bottom can be your intervention and entering treatment.

Jails, institutions and death can be seen as society’s way of performing an intervention. As noted throughout this website, an intervention is going to happen with or without professional guidance.

You, the family, have the ability to create the intervention and provide a non-lethal bottom to your loved one before society imposes one.

Furthermore, families place too much emphasis on when the addict or alcoholic wants help or hits bottom. When does the family get to declare, “Enough!” and that they’re at bottom and ready to accept help?

A family doesn’t have to wait for their loved one to change. An intervention is a family’s way of beginning their own treatment program when they’ve had enough.

Addiction has the entire family turned upside down with all of their energy, time and focus on the loved one’s problem. As a result, family members have lost sight of their own wants and needs. The addict or alcoholic has selfishly taken everything possible from you, and out of fear, in most cases, you’ve allowed it.

Oftentimes, people say that interventions won’t work, that addicts or alcoholics have to want it. Interventions are not about strong-arming loved ones into treatment. Interventions help to “raise the bottom” and guide them toward asking for and wanting help.

Do we need an intervention if the loved one is already willing to get help?

It can be difficult for families when loved ones say they want help when the intervention already scheduled or before the intervention counselor arrives. Verbalizing a desire for help at any time can be both deceiving and hopeful, whether the intervention is or is not scheduled.

Expressing a desire for help doesn’t mean he or she is going to choose an effective course of action, given that their previous “best thinking” and choices have led to the current situation.

Putting the choice of treatment, length of stay and location in the hands of the person who is addicted risks following the path of least resistance. After all, solving problems with drugs or alcohol has been the quick, local and easy solution until this point, so why would the choice of rehab be different?

Rarely, if ever, does an addict or alcoholic choose a path of recovery that aligns with professional recommendations. Most simply want detox, outpatient care, or 30 days close to home – and even that may be a stretch. Some want Suboxone, methadone or other medications, and others just want to talk to a counselor or therapist or go for an evaluation.

Be mindful of the “evaluation trap,” given that evaluations are based on what your loved one tells a professional, and honesty is a commodity that doesn’t come easily at this stage. If things are to get better, complete surrender and honesty yield the best results.

“I want to go to treatment for as long as it takes and not come back to my old environment before I am ready, making sobriety the No. 1 priority, followed by sober living while obtaining a sponsor and working the steps,” said almost no addict ever.

Asking for and wanting help may be sincere, but the problem is an inability to make sound, effective rational decisions at this time.

It’s as if a person acknowledges having committed an offense but wants to tell the judge what the sentence should be.

Given that addicts and alcoholics are all about shortcuts, fast solutions and the easy way out, their choice of care likely will be, too.

What if the addiction intervention doesn’t work?
Addiction has to end one way or another. Either someone realizes on their own and is able to stop, such as those who “mature out” of it, or one or more people or situations intervene to cause positive change. Since the first is less likely to happen before some type of tragedy occurs, the only logical choice left is to try to do something about it.

This happens most frequently when people try to do the intervention process on their own. Family members usually get sidetracked, lose focus and get into arguments or start choosing sides on other conflicts come up. These are diversionary tactics that addicts will use. They want to cause more confusion or strife so that the addiction intervention derails.

The best way to achieve the desired results of your loved one entering treatment and your family on its way to healing is to enlist a professional addiction interventionist to help you through the process.

Don’t we need an assessment?
Sometimes families are told that the person in need of help must first have an assessment before finding an addiction treatment program. That is usually only in the case of extremely strict and rare insurance policies. Usually, we identify the treatment center before the intervention, and the assessment takes place as part of the initial admissions procedures.

Most people know that their loved one needs help. They don’t need an assessment to understand that there are very serious consequences to the behavior that go beyond basic dysfunction. In the majority of cases, the level of use is worse than people realize or what they were led to believe.

You know if they need help or not, so why wait for someone else to tell you that?

As stated above, drug and alcohol treatment facilities typically perform assessments upon arrival. This happens for multiple reasons. First and foremost, it is so the case managers, counselors and therapists understand the nature and history of each individual so they can begin appropriate treatment. The planning process often shifts along the course of treatment, as new things come to light through additional assessment tools.

Another reason for the initial assessment is for other insurance policies to find out what the appropriate level of care is, which is a no-brainer when someone is ruining their lives. If a substance abuser can’t hold a job, has burned through all of his money and friends and has been arrested or neglectful of all other responsibilities, it is highly doubtful that only part-time, outpatient care will be effective.

These and other obvious reasons make it clear, and the official assessment during intake simply confirms what you already know.

What if they say no at the drug abuse intervention?
When an addict or alcoholic says no to an intervention, what they are really saying is, “I don’t believe that you will do what you are saying you will do.”

Most people understand they have a problem and want some form of help or change but feel they don’t have to accept it and follow the suggestions offered.

Many families have been doing the same thing for so long that their loved ones have likely become entitled and expect the status quo to continue. Many addicts use fear-based tactics and threats if a family even suggests doing something differently, effectively preventing the family from taking any action at all.

When someone says no in an intervention, the loved one instantly focuses on the one family member most likely to break. This is because he or she succeeded every time in getting help from this family member.

During the intervention, the loved one usually expresses the desire to speak to that person alone. The interventionist, of course, strongly advises against that happening and asks that all questions and concerns be addressed to the entire family.

If the intervention results in a failure, the loved one will subsequently call and text this same family member repeatedly with promises of change, with threats and, at times, hatred, seeking to turn this enabler against the interventionist and other family members.

If the loved one says no in the intervention, we recommend that the family accept that decision, read the consequences and ask him or her not to contact the family unless it is to accept the offer of help.

After the intervention, whether the answer was yes or no, contact with family members should be limited until the addict or alcoholic is well enough to speak.  Until the loved one has completely surrendered and accepted ownership of the addiction and the accompanying behaviors, he or she will do everything possible to have the primary enabler and others revert back to the way they were prior to the intervention.

From this point forward, it is suggested that no one family member be allowed to make a sole decision. With professional guidance, the family needs to agree unanimously on each and every decision moving forward.

What if we’ve already done everything?
If a family sincerely believes they have done everything possible, they probably wouldn’t be reading this.

Oftentimes, families seeking help for their loved ones’ addictions become exhausted after a number of failed attempts at recovery. One or multiple attempts at rehabilitation doesn’t necessarily mean the methods chosen were the appropriate course of action.

When consulting with a family, we all too often find that the treatment center was not the right fit, was located too close to home, didn’t provide the appropriate length of stay or that the family permitted the loved one to return home to the same environment.

When treatment attempts fail, it is important to understand why. When a family says they’ve already done everything and the intervention didn’t work, it’s most likely because the family did it on their own or didn’t use the services of the right professional. The intervention isn’t about somebody coming into your home to coerce your loved one to seek help or to listen to a “life’s going to be great” speech.

When a family does everything the right way, with the appropriate professionals and a solid treatment plan in place, they can achieve closure and peace of mind, regardless of the outcome, knowing that they did everything possible to stop the addiction.

What other illness or problem could one have where the family would even entertain the option of giving up on trying to save the person’s life?

Doing everything doesn’t mean you kicked the loved one out of the house, but having failed to get help, he or she was allowed back in. It doesn’t mean the treatment center “didn’t work.” It doesn’t mean, “I let the loved one come home after or before treatment was over because he or she didn’t want to stay or was kicked out.” And it doesn’t mean giving up and doing nothing because of a relapse and refusal to return to treatment.

Success isn’t accomplished by giving up and giving in; it is accomplished by learning from mistakes, correcting them and moving forward.

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