How Do You Stage a Successful Alcohol Intervention?

A report released by the U.S. Surgeon General highlights drug and alcohol addiction as a public health crisis, and calls the country to action in order to address addiction. The report cites some disturbing numbers:

In 2015, substance abuse disorders affected about 20.8 million people, but only 1 in 10 of those people received treatment. One of the primary reasons for people not seeking treatment is the perception that they “don’t need treatment.” This belief is especially prevalent among those who abuse alcohol, since it is socially acceptable and is not illegal.

How can you help?

If a loved one abuses alcohol, but does not believe that he or she has a problem, you can help by staging an alcohol intervention.

The success of any alcohol treatment and rehab program relies on the active, voluntary, and enthusiastic participation of the addicted person. It all begins by acknowledging that there is a problem that requires treatment. An alcohol intervention is the crucial first step that leads to an acknowledgment of the problem, and the decision to willingly seek treatment.

What is alcohol intervention?

An alcohol intervention is a structured, face-to-face meeting between the person who is misusing alcohol and his or her loved ones. The meeting can be supervised by a professional substance abuse interventionist such as a counselor or therapist who is experienced in handling alcohol intervention. Interventions can be staged by family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, or an employer.

An alcohol intervention is staged to achieve the following objectives:

  • To educate the person on the negative effects of alcohol abuse and associated behaviors
  • To inform the person how alcohol abuse is draining him or her financially or is upsetting the domestic budget
  • To make the person realize how alcoholism is straining their relationships
  • To make the person realize how alcohol chips away at his or her ability to be productive and creative at work
  • To encourage the addict to explore the roots of his or her problem drinking behavior
  • To strike at the root of the addict’s denial
  • To present a detailed and realistic treatment plan
  • To convince the person that treatment works and will help him or her live life fully
  • To assure the person that he or she will be supported during and after the treatment.

How to stage an alcohol intervention at home?

  • Decide who should be present during the meeting
  • Determine the extent of the drinking problem and its current repercussions.
  • Ask everyone to write an intervention letter addressed to the addicted person
  • Rehearse
  • Choose a time and a place for the meeting

You can stage an alcohol intervention at home and include just your loved ones, or you can seek the help of a professional interventionist. He or she may choose to organize the meeting at some place other than the person’s home. There is no one right way to hold an alcohol intervention meeting. The best method depends on the specifics of the circumstances and the preparedness of the loved ones of the addicted person to hold the meeting.

Know more about what you need to do to stage an alcohol intervention successfully.

  1. Decide who should be present during the meeting

You can ask anyone to be present during the meeting. Keep in mind the following while you choose:

  • Include those people who have been affected most by the person’s alcoholism. These will likely be those who the person is most emotionally attached to and thus would be disturbed to know that his or her drinking problem is affecting them negatively.
  • Include people who the addicted person would be comfortable speaking around.
  • Include only those people who you are comfortable with.
  • Do not ask children of the addicted person to be present. They may find the discussion too difficult, or may not understand the proceedings.
  • Consider including the person’s employer if you want the addict to know how alcoholism is affecting his or her career.
  • Consider including a healthcare professional who is not an interventionist. Information about the damaging health effects of alcohol may be more credible from a medical professional.
  1. Determine the extent of the drinking problem and its repercussions

This stage involves both fact-finding and soul-searching. You should have all the relevant information on hand before you confront your alcoholic loved one. Information adds weight and believability to your arguments.

Besides, the information you unearth about your loved one’s condition will help you figure out the root of the addiction and decide the best treatment plan.

Here’s what you need to find out about your loved one’s drinking problem:

  • Duration of addiction
  • Frequency and dose of consumption
  • Whether your loved one exhibits problem drinking behavior or has full-blown alcoholism
  • The root of the problem
  • Triggers that might shed light on the cause of the problem
  • How alcohol abuse has affected his or physical and mental health
  • How alcohol abuse has strained his or her relationships
  • How drinking is affecting his or her work

You might need to discuss with friends, other family members, and co-workers of the addicted person to find the information.

  1. Ask everyone to write an intervention letter addressed to the addict

This is the letter or the script that you will read out during the meeting. You need to write out this letter beforehand because:

  • You want to make sure that you convey all the information that will convince your loved one of the need for treatment. A written note serves as a guide or a reminder.
  • You want to leave out the drama when you speak. A script will help you remain objective, a stance that will be more productive than creating a tense and edgy atmosphere where tempers run high and emotions cloud reason and compassion.
  • You want to say the right words. Speaking to someone about his or her drinking problem is a delicate matter, and you wouldn’t want to hurt your loved one.
  • You want to create an agreeable experience for everyone, so the lines of communication stay open if you need to stage another intervention later.

Keep in mind the following when you write the letter:

  • Cultivate an attitude of compassion before you write. You are concerned about your loved one and want to help him or her. Let your compassion show in your words.
  • Do not accuse your loved one. Addiction is not a moral flaw or a mental weakness.
  • Include in your letter information like how alcohol damages health. Support your claims with research-backed evidence, facts, and case studies. Including this information is especially important if no healthcare worker or doctor will be present during the meeting.
  • Cite instances when your loved one has hurt you while intoxicated. This realization comes as a reality check for many people who had been denying that they have problematic drinking behaviors.
  • Ask your loved one’s employer to cite instances when the addicted person failed to perform satisfactorily in the workplace.
  • Don’t push your loved one to quit alcohol right away. This may be a daunting prospect for those who have become dependent on alcohol or have previously gone through withdrawal.
  • Present the treatment plan and specify why it is ideal in this case.
  • State the consequences you will enforce if the person refuses to accept help and seek treatment.
  1. Rehearse

Rehearsing is important because:

  • You can practice sticking to the script and not get carried away by the emotional intensity of the situation.
  • Both you and everybody else on your team get a chance to listen to each other and figure out if they sound “right.”
  • You learn to curb your emotions as you read out your letter.
  • Ask someone to act out the part of the addicted person, so you learn to restrain yourself in the face of resentment, accusations, denial, and bitterness that might come from your loved one.
  • Other participants in the intervention can check your body language and the gestures you make while you speak, so you don’t come across as threatening or aggressive.
  1. Choose a time and a place for the meeting.

You not only want the intervention meeting to be convenient for everyone to attend, but you also want to ensure that the participants can focus on the proceedings.

Keep the following in mind when choosing a time and place for the meeting:

  • Limit the meeting to 60-90 minutes.
  • Choose a time when your loved one is sober and able to think clearly.
  • Choose a time that does not interrupt with his or her drinking rituals, if there are any. You want your loved one to concentrate on the meeting and not be thinking about how he or she can wriggle out of the room to get a drink.
  • Ensure that nobody has to leave the meeting midway to attend other matters. You should schedule the meeting after consulting everybody’s routines.
  • It is a good idea to hold the intervention meeting just after your loved one was involved in an alcohol-induced accident or violence. When the scars and the memories are fresh, he or she might be easier to convince. Don’t put it off forever!
  • Choose a place where everyone can be comfortable. If your loved one has attended intervention meetings earlier and the experiences were painful, steer clear of these venues.
  • If you decide to hold the meeting in a public place, ensure that you find a spot that offers maximum privacy.

Afterward: How to Improve the Chances of Success

The success of an alcohol intervention meeting is not gauged by whether or not the addicted person stops drinking right away. The primary goal of intervention is to make the addicted person agree to seek help to quit alcohol.

You have worked hard and invested much emotional energy on staging the alcohol intervention meeting. Now maximize the chances of success with these after-steps:

  • Follow up on your loved one’s promises to seek help. If your loved one had promised that he or she would seek treatment during the meeting, wait for a few days after the meeting then follow up on the pledge. If he or she has been having second thoughts after the intensity of the meeting had died down, a gentle reminder might elicit positive action.
  • Strictly enforce consequences, if need be. If your loved one does not seek help, enforce the consequences you had spelled out during the meeting. Leave the house. Stop monetary allowances. Fire him or her. Sometimes hitting rock bottom comes as a reality check that will jolt an addict in denial into action.
  • Prepare for another alcohol intervention. A meeting may not spur the addicted person into action, but it may chip away at his or her denial. It may get your loved one thinking about his or her drinking behavior. In such cases, prepare to organize another intervention meeting. It is wise to strike while the iron is hot.

Staging an alcohol intervention meeting is your way of showing love, understanding, compassion, and support to an addicted loved one. It is about you taking charge and pledging to help your loved one reclaim his or her life.

Alcohol intervention can be challenging to stage even with the guide outlined above. You can seek the help of a professional interventionist and stop a life from spiraling further downward.