substance abuse intervention

What to Expect During a Substance Abuse Intervention

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Since more than 20 million people deal with substance abuse problems every year, many families, friends, and spouses have participated in interventions. If you’re facing the difficult situation of being part of a loved one’s substance abuse intervention, you could feel overwhelmed. You’ll be better off if you take the time to prepare in advance.

Some families only get one shot at an intervention. There are many nuances to be aware of before, during, and after the event. Carefully planning and structuring your intervention will keep your loved one from storming out or never talking to you again.

If you’re ready to put together a substance abuse intervention, follow these 7 steps to ensure it succeeds.

1. Pick the Right People

While you may wish to choose everyone involved with your loved one, you need to carefully select friends and family for this event. If someone has been harmed or abused by a family member, they could be one of the triggers for your loved one’s addiction. Keeping them out could make the difference between the success and failure of your intervention.

Typically, spouses, close friends, parents, and siblings take part in an intervention. It’s not common for children to be involved unless they’re adult-aged. The event could be too intense and could even traumatize them. Make sure everyone you choose has a specific story about how they were affected by the substance issue.

If you have a close speaker who is a great example of a happy and sober life, invite them to speak.

2. Timing Is Key

You can’t get through to your loved one when they’re in the middle of a binge or are high. They may not react calmly and honestly. Often the drug can cause intense emotional outbursts where they say things they don’t mean and don’t even remember them.

Make sure no one has to leave early or do anything else that day. If childcare is an issue, get that out of the way far in advance. Your loved one needs to know, at least symbolically, that you have all the time in the world to help them.

Get to know your loved one’s habits so you can plan for a time when they’ll be sober, getting off of work, or following a binge.

3. Use a Neutral, Private Location

Holding an intervention in a familiar space might be tempting and easier to schedule, but it’s not ideal for a substance abuse intervention. Your loved one knows where the exits are, how to lock themselves in their room, or how to escape to the bathroom. You need to find a place where you can be safe and undisturbed.

Family homes also bring lots of painful associations for people. If an incident that’s going to be talked about occurred in the living room you’re speaking in, your loved one might not think clearly.

Calling a drug rehab center might be a good way to find places in your region where you should hold an intervention. If they don’t have a space you can use, they can certainly suggest one.

4. Speak in Order

You should choose your speakers carefully and put their narrative in order. If both parents have something to say, you might want to break up the order. Choosing the right person to speak at the right time can make or break your intervention.

A substance abuse intervention needs to hear from people who they love dearly, so perhaps choose a child to speak first. Once the intervention has come near the close, perhaps the spouse can speak last. They will be the one to walk them through their recovery day after day and perhaps have the most responsibility to bear once the recovery begins.

Plan your speakers carefully and make sure that everyone respects the order of speakers.

5. Hold Rehearsals

Unless you’re in a family of thespians, your speakers might not be prepared to say the things they’ve written down. Hold a few rehearsals so that when they speak to your loved one, they aren’t reading these words for the first time.

While you should speak emotionally and earnestly, you should also make sure that speeches are concise and direct. Edit everything together in case anyone has an overlapping story. Make sure that everyone feels comfortable reading before you begin.

You can hold rehearsals altogether or in small groups. The point is to feel comfortable sharing your emotions with others in the room. Your loved one speaks at the end, so make that clear to avoid back and forth crosstalk.

6. Stay On Topic

Once you’ve all written your scripts, stick to them. Adding in new or emotional tangents will not only lose your loved one’s attention, but they could become distracted.

Your goal is to ensure that your loved one hears you clearly and understands how their substance abuse has affected you. Last minute, emotional additions can lead to crosstalk, which will disrupt the intervention.

7. Use Warm Body Language

It may sound minor, but you should all be sitting in a circle with your arms open and no limbs crossed. Any crossed arms, crossed legs, or sideways turns could change how your loved one receives the message.

Most miscommunications occur because of a tone of voice or bad body language. Eliminate the static between you and your loved one by remaining open, warm, and caring with every element of your body. Keep your eyes wide and friendly as possible so that your loved one listens.

Have a Backup Plan for Your Substance Abuse Intervention

Even the best-laid plans are open to disruption at the last minute. Expect your loved one to storm off, say terrible things, or to yell, scream, and cry. These are actually normal reactions and the more prepared your team is, the less likely these reactions will actually disrupt your intervention.

After you’ve helped your loved one, read our list of ways to achieve your personal growth goals to guide them through the next phase of life.

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