According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AFP), two-thirds of men and one-half of women drink alcohol. Of those, three-fourths do not develop an addiction to alcohol or experience any serious consequences as a result of their alcohol use. (AFP, 1999)
Among those Americans who abuse alcohol, many are able to reduce their drinking without any formal treatment after recognizing the effects their drinking has on themselves and the people around them. But some drinkers can’t do it alone.
In order to convince a person who suffers from alcohol dependence that they have a problem, families, healthcare providers, and friends may have to stage an intervention—a meeting in which you face your loved one and explain that you are concerned about their health and well-being. From this intervention, you can hopefully direct the addict toward a healthcare provider, detox program or support group that can help him or her face the realities of addiction and get on the path to recovery.
What Is an Intervention?
An intervention allows relatives and friends to present their loved one with the opportunity to accept his or her problem and make changes before the problem becomes significantly worse. An intervention can:
- Provide the occasion for friends and relatives to offer examples of how alcoholism has been destructive and had a detrimental impact on the addicted person and the people around them.
- Afford healthcare professionals and family members the opportunity to explain a course of treatment they think will work best.
- Present an addict with the consequences of their actions if they choose not to accept a treatment plan.
What Takes Place during an Intervention?
An intervention typically involves the following steps:
Interventions require planning, thought, and specific attention to the addict’s needs and circumstances. It is also wise to contact a physician, social worker, or therapist for help in planning the intervention. You’ll want them to participate in the intervention so that they can provide relevant medical and treatment information.
Preparing Others for the Intervention
An intervention can be a very dramatic, emotionally charged encounter. It has the potential to stir up a sense of betrayal or resentment on the part of the addict. Talk with the healthcare professional helping you plan the intervention to learn how best to respond to these situations.
Gather an Intervention Team
The following people should be involved in an intervention:
- A physician or therapist. A trained, licensed physician, social worker, or therapist should serve as the head of the intervention effort. His or her job is to lead the intervention and help the addict understand the physical and emotional consequences their actions have on themselves and the people in their lives.
- The addict. When confronted, the addict may refuse to take part or may leave the gathering. More than one intervention may be necessary.
- Friends and family. Facing an alcohol addiction can be a very lonely, scary proposition. Seeing how many friends and relatives are willing to offer support may just be the boost of encouragement the addict needs to begin the turnaround.
Agreeing to Consequences
Often, the first time an addict is met with an intervention, they recoil at the accusations and walk away. This behavior should be met with consequences that show how serious the intervention team is about this. Such consequences may include losing visitation rights with children, taking away their car, or asking them to move out until they’re ready to begin therapy.
Share during the Intervention
Each member of the intervention team will speak during the intervention. This is meant to help the addict understand the concerns and feelings these team members have with regard to the addict’s health and their own well-being.
Present the Treatment Option
Once every member of the intervention team has had a chance to speak, the addict should be presented with detailed suggestions for a treatment plan. The addict can accept the offer then and there, or the team may be willing to give them a few days to weigh their options.
What Is the Goal of an Intervention?
Because some people will be able to learn selective drinking behaviors and can remove themselves from an alcohol abuse cycle, 100 percent abstinence is not always the goal of an intervention or treatment process. However, giving up alcohol for good and accepting a life of sobriety is the only way some people are able to move past addiction. For each person, a team of doctors and therapists will decide the best course of treatment and the desired outcome.
What if Your Loved One Refuses to Enter Treatment?
In some cases, an addict isn’t ready or willing to accept responsibility for his or her problem. The intervention itself may set off additional behavior problems that can complicate the relationship between the addict and the intervention team members.
No matter the outcome of the intervention, it is important to be patient and to stick with your plans to render consequences. This may help the addict realize the impact their drinking has on friends and loved ones, and may encourage them to eventually seek treatment.