Preparation is the Key to a Successful Intervention
The following information is based on the professional advice of Debra and Jeff Jay well known interventionists whose book “Love First” (http://www.lovefirst.net) has been an invaluable resource.
The following checklist is a guide on how to preparing an intervention. This can be done independently or with the guidance of a therapist or interventionist.
- Contact three to eight people who are important to the addict and are willing to help with the intervention.
- Choose a chairperson.
- Discuss the importance of not alerting the addict to the intervention plans.
- Put in writing all the negative consequences caused by the addiction problem.
- Ask everyone involved to write a one- to two-page letter to the addict.
- Read your letters to each other, editing out anger, blame, and judgment.
- Determine bottom lines, and write them down on a separate page.
- Test each other’s willingness to follow through with the bottom lines.
- Identify financial resources for covering treatment costs.
- Set a date, time and place for the rehearsal and the intervention.
- Choose a treatment center, answer its pre-intake questions, and make an appointment for admission.
- Create a plan likely to guarantee the addict’s presence at the intervention.
- Identify objections the addict may use to avoid or postpone treatment, then formulate your answers.
- Pack a suitcase using the guidelines provided by the treatment staff.
- Determine who should drive the addict from the intervention to treatment.
- Compile a list of all prescribed medications the addict is presently using.
- Rehearse the intervention.
- Discuss the order in which you’ll read your letters.
- Script the chairman’s introduction and closing statement.
- Review objections and answers.
- Plan to arrive at the intervention location 30 minutes before the addict is expected to be there.
- If the intervention is taking place at the addict’s home, arrive as a group.
- After the intervention, call the admissions staff and let them know whether or not the addict has agreed to treatment.
- Collect all letters and send them to the addict’s treatment counselor.
- Sign up for the Family Program.
- Locate an Al-Anon or Family Anonymous meeting near your home or office.
During an intervention, emotions can run high. It is most effective if each person writes a letter to the addict to read during the intervention. Letters prevent you from exploding into spontaneous anger or freezing up at the last moment.Any hint of anger or blame during an intervention is fatal. The addict will be listening intently for any sign of recrimination, as this presents a golden opportunity to start a fight. Once the anger flares, and an argument ensues,the intervention is destroyed. To guard against this calamity, be sure to use letters to script remarks, and to maintain a clear and positive tone.
We don’t talk about it ever, but I love you very much. I wouldn’t be where I am, or have what I have, if it weren’t for you. You taught me that I need to learn how to take care of myself. You encouraged me and supported me in my career aspirations. This gave me the confidence I needed to accept job positions that took me throughout the Midwest on my own.
When I went through my major heartbreak with Tom, you were the one whose shoulder I cried on. You were the one I trusted. You helped me get through it.
Dad, your alcoholism has been a part of our lives for a very long time. We didn’t get here overnight. It is running your life.When I call home to check in, if it is too late in the evening, you’re drunk.You get on the phone and your speech is slurred. When we talk later in the week you don’t even remember our conversations. Sometimes when you’re passed out,and we don’t get to talk at all.
When I come to visit you, and I’m on my way out to walk the dog, if you’re in the garage I’ll try to wait a little while because I don’t want to catch you secretly pouring a drink. I do this to save you embarrassment. Or else I try to make a lot of noise in the laundry room so you know I’m coming, and you can hide the alcohol.
If I show up at your house late in the evening, you’re drunk. I see it in your eyes, hear it in your speech and watch you move back and forth from the kitchen cupboard to the couch, with an occasional trip to the garage to drink from your hidden supply.
I love you, and I don’t like seeing alcoholism sucking the life out of you. This letter isn’t a judgment. Alcoholism is a disease, it is chronic, incurable and progressive and without professional help it will be fatal. We’re all here together because we want you to accept professional help. We’re here to help. Will you please accept our help today?
Your daughter, Tina
- The letter should begin with a simple statement of love and concern. You, as the writer of this letter, are an important part of the addict’s life, so your statement should come straight from the heart.
- Next and most importantly, you must recall a time when the addict has been especially helpful to you, or when you have been proud of the addict.Gratitude s the last thing that the addict is expecting to hear. When an intervention begins, the addict will know intuitively what it’s all about.
- In this section, you should make a brief statement about your understanding of alcoholism as a disease, and your desire for the addict to get help in a formal treatment setting. Here is an example: Tom,I’ve taken some time to learn about chemical dependency, and I’ve learned that it is a disease that requires medical treatment. This is not a question of your willpower. It is a question of getting real help for areal illness.”
- This should be followed by a statement of facts about the addict’s negative behavior. In this section of the letter, you will need to recall several specific instances that illustrate the alcohol or drug problem. For instance, our letter quoted above states: “When I call home to check in, if it is too late in the evening, you’re drunk. You get on the phone and your speech is slurred.” The addict cannot argue with first-hand experience.
- In the next part of the letter, you will repeat your love and concern, and then ask the addict to accept help for the illness. and may even name the treatment center that you want them to enter.
It is important that the team stick with the plan, and have only one person answer the objections to treatment. Often, the silence and self-control of the group will have a confounding effect on the addict. He or she may try to startan argument, but to no avail. The chairperson must continue to speak for the group after the letters are read. In addition to answering objections, the chairperson will handle any questions that the addict brings up, and will keep the other team members from getting emotionally entangled. In about 5% of the cases, it may be necessary to give a bottom line. The bottom line that each team member brings to the intervention can be “described as the natural consequence that should follow if the addict refuses help. Here’s an example:
“Dad, I’m sorry to hear that you won’t accept the help that we’re offering you today.Obviously, it’s your choice to make. But I cannot continue to subject my two beautiful children to your abusive addict behavior. So, until you complete treatment and become involved in a program of recovery, I cannot allow you to see your grand children.”
Recovery is about boundaries and stopping any enabling behavior. It wont be easy to cut off all relations but it may be necessary to stop the dysfucntion from spreading through out the family.If it is necessary to enforce the bottom line, the family will need to get support and should start to attend local Al-Anon meetings.