So When Should You Stage an Intervention?
Knowing exactly when to reach out to someone who has a substance use problem is difficult. Intervention is an outstretched hand; for many people who are struggling with a mounting addiction, accepting help is far easier than asking for it. If you decide to hold an intervention, you could help someone make a decision that helps them save themselves.
The ultimate reason anyone should hold an intervention is to save someone’s life. You may fear that talking to them about treatment might push them away. You may have had serious discussions before that only dissolved into arguments. It’s important to remember that intervention isn’t a time to air your grievances or let someone know how angry or hurt you are by their actions. It’s a time to help someone realize the extent their substance abuse has on their own life and on those who care about them the most.
Actually knowing when to hold an intervention can be a challenge. The worst thing you can do is wait too long, but not thinking the intervention through and holding one that is ineffective can also be detrimental. The best time to hold an intervention is when the person you are concerned about has begun to lose their quality of life from substance abuse. Denial can be strong, and the person suffering from addiction may say they’re fine. However, you may see many symptoms that are a strong indicator that it may be time to hold an intervention.
Uncharacteristic Behavior Is the New Norm
The early signs of substance abuse are enough to tip you off that something isn’t right. These out-of-character behaviors that were once easily disguised are now someone’s natural state.
You may notice the person engaging in risky behavior. Your friend or loved one may often appear confused like they’re in a mental fog. Another classic symptom is that the person may need to use more and more of their substance of choice to achieve the same results.
As the addiction worsens, people often struggle to keep it a secret. At the opposite extreme, the person struggling with substance use disorder may no longer desire to hide their substance use because nothing is more important to them than getting their next fix. For them, feeling better is, ironically, only done by harming themselves more.
Your loved one may begin to feel like a stranger. They might have withdrawn from you and others they care about in favor of people who support and enable their addiction. People who were once ambitious and energetic can become sullen and disengaged, losing or quitting their jobs, and cutting anything out of their life that doesn’t support their substance abuse.
Substance use disorder is isolating. As their substance use increases, guilt and fear of judgment do, too. Many people suffering from addiction may not want to admit it. They may have a false belief that an addict is someone who is rejected by society and deemed a failure, loser, or a lost cause. Those who misuse fear that by admitting they have a problem, people will reject or think less of them.
As a result of this fear and shame, someone suffering from substance use disorder may stop communicating with their family, friends, and people who they value most in favor of those whose only real connection to them is drugs or alcohol. When someone has lost the ability to care for themselves, it’s easier to be around people who don’t care about themselves either.
Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol can have immediate and profound effects on someone’s emotional state. People may become more agitated or angry, extremely hyper, or come off as defensive when you ask them a harmless question. Over 9 million people with a mental illness also have a co-occurring substance use disorder. Your loved one may struggle with depression as well as a substance use disorder. Usually you can tell if this is the case by looking at their personal hygiene practices. If you notice a visual difference in their appearance, it’s likely that they are suffering with depression or another mental health issue.
Unable to Keep Up Old Lifestyle
As a person’s substance use disorder progresses, they may dedicate more and more of their time to their addiction, sometimes to the point of excluding everything else. Then burdened with shame and a sense of failure, substance abuse continues and may escalate in a desperate cycle to seek escape. When work, school, family, and other obligations are unable to be met, substance abuse intervention is recommended.
Although you may not be fully aware of someone’s personal situation, some signs that they are not managing well include borrowing money, taking out loans, selling or pawning their possessions, or even stealing. Some people will purposefully downsize their life to support their growing addiction. They may claim that work was too stressful, or a relationship wasn’t right for them. In reality, substance abuse can quickly become the most important thing in someone’s life.
Drugs and alcohol have long-lasting and sometimes permanent effects on someone’s physical health. Even people who have been in recovery for years often have to live with the consequences of their substance abuse for the rest of their lives. More pressing health concerns are alcohol poisoning and drug overdose. Although some people may find than an overdose is the wake-up call they needed, others will continue to abuse drugs.
If your loved one’s health is suffering from substance abuse, be it their physical or mental well-being, it could be time to stage a formal intervention.
You Aren’t the Only One Worried About Them
Even when some of the most prominent signs indicate that someone’s substance abuse has gotten worse, no one may be talking about it. It may seem that other people haven’t noticed anything, but talking to others about your loved one’s substance abuse can be beneficial as you plan an intervention. You may be surprised that friends and relatives all agree that things have gotten out of hand and it’s clear that the individual can no longer control their problem. If you and others are serious about helping someone with substance use disorder, it’s often best to first consult with a treatment center.
Taking the Next Step
At Green Mountain Recovery and NFA Behavioral Health in New Hampshire, we believe that a person’s family plays one of the largest roles in their recovery. Intervention can be the first step in organizing a support system that someone needs to admit they have a problem and finally accept the help they need.
A professional team can help you identify the most concerning aspects of your loved one’s addiction and pinpoint specific topics to include in your intervention. They can also help explore different treatment options, types of substance use disorder treatment, and rehab services.
When you work with an addiction treatment center to hold an intervention, you have a better chance of encouraging your loved one to get help right away. Getting someone to admit they should get help is a major accomplishment, but people tend to close themselves off quickly. Someone who says they’re ready to change one day may completely change their mind and back out after a few hours.
Types of Drug and Alcohol Interventions
Every intervention isn’t a surprise gathering of family and friends. In fact, this might be the worst approach in some cases. People who are already highly defensive and avoidant can become overwhelmed by people confronting them, and they may shut down entirely when they really need help the most.
In order to give your intervention the best possible chance of success, you must select a model that suits your loved one’s personality and current situation.
If there is a trusted person that your loved one is most likely to listen to, consider having that person be the one to hold the intervention. This should never be done when the person you want to help is intoxicated or otherwise unstable; instead, choose a time that they are as calm as possible and approach them sincerely. Interventions do not always have to be deceitful. Holding an honest, genuine conversation that expresses concern and talks about finding a solution together can often be successful.
Some pointers to keep in mind if you choose to speak with someone:
• Keep substance abuse as the problem, not the individual
• Express concern without voicing blame
• Use specific examples of the effects of their addiction
• Have a rehab or resources available for them to use
A professional interventionist usually works for an addiction treatment center and helps families and friends discuss a person’s substance abuse together. At a designated time and place, the interventionist will help lead the conversation as each person takes turns speaking and expresses their concern for the individual. Everything is often on the line during this type of intervention. People are emotional, the person may feel attacked or even be emotionally unbalanced because they haven’t gotten their fix yet.
Ultimatums are a large part of the professional intervention; things have come to a head and decisions must be made for everyone’s well-being. Without accepting rehab, a person may now be faced with losing their financial and social support systems.
Whole Family Intervention
Cases in which entire families are involved with using substances are usually the most devastating and difficult ones to treat. Children may have been introduced to drugs or alcohol at an early age or even sufferer from prenatal exposure to alcohol or drugs, or a couple may be losing themselves together in a spiraling addiction. In any case, the best thing to do is have an outside family member or friend work with a professional interventionist to discuss their concerns. When the family is all supporting one another’s addictions, helping them realize the extent of their problem can be almost impossible alone.
Accepting the Alternatives
It’s never too late to stage an intervention. Even people who have overdosed multiple times and lost everything can accept help and recover if they truly want to. What people need is support, love, and belief that they can take back their life.
In some cases, people may appreciate their loved ones’ efforts to help them but decline treatment. They might refuse to even cooperate or listen to what people have to say. Everyone involved in an intervention has to acknowledge the fact that “No” is a possible response, and they will have to be mentally prepared to start distancing themselves from their loved one if that’s the case. If ultimatums were expressed, they must be followed through.
How to Hold a Successful Intervention
No one can guarantee that an intervention will be effective, but you can improve the likelihood of its efficacy by planning appropriately. Research, careful planning, and cooperation with a licensed drug and alcohol rehab can help you improve the odds of reaching your loved one during an intervention.
Educate yourself on the nature of addiction and, above all, remain hopeful. Try to picture yourself in their shoes and envision what you would need to hear if you were slowly feeling yourself fade into substance abuse. You cannot cure anyone’s addiction, no matter how much you love them. That is a decision the affected person alone can make for themselves.
However, you can continue to show support and do everything in your power to help them get the treatment they need. Contact us today to learn more about intervention, recovery, and family support services.