Addiction is an illness, just like diabetes or the flu is an illness. However, most people who are affected by addiction will want to keep it quiet. Family members often prefer to brush the issue under the carpet or deny the problem exists than to speak openly about it. One of the main reasons for this is the stigma and stereotyping that is attached to addiction.

There is a view that alcoholics and drug addicts are ‘bad’ or ‘weak’ people who choose to live a life dictated by chemical substances. Many people are of the opinion that those affected by addiction are homeless, estranged from their families, and have no jobs.

It is usually only when a family member develops addiction that other family members realise that this is an illness that can affect anyone, regardless of their age, socio-economic status, or background. Nevertheless, even when family members and friends can clearly see that addiction is a problem for a loved one, that person may not be ready to admit that he or she has a problem.

How to Help a Loved One with Addiction

The ideal situation for family members and friends of an addicted individual is that the person will see that a problem exists and will reach out for help. While in most circumstances this does happen, it may take a while before this person can really see what everyone else has known for a long time. In the meantime, you can help by trying to get your loved one to recognise the problem. This is the first step on the road to recovery.

Before your loved one can get the help he or she needs, it will be necessary for him or her to recognise that alcohol or drug use is now out of control. Nonetheless, despite your best efforts, you may not be able to break through the barrier and make him or her see sense.

Is an Intervention a Good Idea?

If your loved one is refusing to accept that addiction is an issue, you could consider staging an intervention. Interventions are held by concerned family members when they want to encourage an addicted loved one to get help. During an intervention, those in attendance will have a chance to explain to the addicted individual how his or her illness is affecting them. They will also get the opportunity to plead with the person to get help.

Interventions are highly successful when handled correctly. It is not intended to be a forum for taking aim at the individual with the addiction but rather a chance for everyone to calmly and openly discuss their pain and frustrations. The idea is that those who attend an intervention are doing so out of concern for their loved one, and hopefully they will be able to make the affected individual see how his or her actions are affecting everyone else.

How Do You Know If It’s Time to Intervene?

Quite simply, if someone you know is addicted to a harmful substance or compulsively seeks out unhealthy activities, and is either unaware that they need treatment or don’t want treatment, now may well be the time to take action and arrange an intervention.

More often than not an addiction has deep psychological roots: events or circumstances led the addict into compulsive behaviour – compulsive behaviour which is sometimes seen as a way of dealing with a situation. Of course as outsiders we recognise that this is not the way to address such issues; by arranging an intervention we can help the addict to see that there are real, effective ways of addressing their addiction and indeed its causes.

Benefits of an Intervention

The great thing about interventions is that they have a high success rate. A large percentage of interventions result in the addicted person agreeing to get treatment, and even those that do not have this outcome can be successful in that they often plant a seed for the future.

Even if the addicted person flat out refuses to get help, he or she may begin to think about what his or her actions are doing to the people they love, making him or her more open to the idea of treatment. Family members often feel relieved after an intervention because they are finally able to tell the addicted person how they are feeling and how the addiction is affecting them.

Availing of Professional Help

Because most family members have no experience with addiction until one member is affected, it is understandable that they may want help when it comes to arranging an intervention. Addiction Helper can provide assistance by offering advice and support on the process, or by putting people in touch with a professional facilitator with experience in staging effective interventions.

If you are in such a position and would prefer to have a professional handle the proceedings, then we can arrange this for you. Many family members like the idea of knowing that the intervention will be kept on track by someone with experience in this area. If you are worried about how your addicted loved one may react to being confronted at an intervention, having a professional facilitator present could be a wise move.

Who Should Attend?

There is a temptation to ask every member of the family to attend an intervention, but this is not always a good idea, especially if there are one or two members of the family who have a less than harmonious relationship with the affected person. The last thing your addicted loved one will want is to feel judged by a family member that he or she does not get along well with, so think carefully before you ask other members to be present.

It is best to have people whom your addicted loved one respects and loves. You may want to consider bringing in close friends or a family doctor. Do not be tempted to invite too many people as this could serve to make your addicted loved one feel threatened and under attack. Nonetheless, asking too few people could also be a mistake as you need your loved one to understand that his or her actions are having a far-reaching impact.

You may think that children should not be in attendance at an intervention and while younger children should probably be kept away, older children, and especially teenagers, are very effective when it comes to getting addicted family members into treatment.

What’s The Intervention Process?

It’s important to establish at the outset whether the addict has already looked for professional help from a counsellor or psychologist. While confidentiality rules will usually mean that a professional already involved cannot discuss the details of any discussions with their client, they can usually indicate whether intervention would be wise, likely to succeed, and may even want to be directly involved. Before the intervention takes place it’s also important to find a suitable rehabilitation facility or programme with the space to take the addict immediately post-intervention.

The intervention itself needs to be somewhere the addict will feel comfortable and not under threat, and should involve as many of the affected parties as possible. Even children who are directly affect can be involved, if you think they are mature enough to understand the discussions and won’t find it too traumatic.

There’s significant preparation that needs to take place first, however. Everybody involved should receive intervention training to reduce the risk of anger or resentment overshadowing the positive messages of love and support that are ultimately what an intervention aims to communicate.

So that means a logical, carefully planned approach. In advance of the intervention itself, everyone involved should write notes on what they want to say, including such details as:

  • Any changes they’ve seen in the addict’s behaviour, personality, restraint and the way they treat others
  • How they personally have been affected by these changes
  • How they feel the relationship between them and the addict has changed as a result
  • Any hopes and aims they might have individually for, or together with the addict once they have had treatment
  • Two promises: that they love the addict and that they will play no part in any continued self-destruction.

Signs That Intervention Isn’t Working

Addiction, as anyone close to an addict can testify, can lead an addict to try to manipulate relatives, friends and colleagues in various ways, often in a way aimed at feeding the addiction. So sometimes an addict will claim they want help. Typical examples include:

  • promising to get help and then breaking that promise
  • promising to get help if given money or a place to stay
  • going through the motions of treatment without committing to the aims.

When these responses to intervention happen, it’s because the addict hasn’t fully understood the effects of his or her addiction. It’s often hard to recognise the manipulation for what it is, so unless the addict demonstrably commits to some form of rehabilitation, it’s critical that everybody involved in the addiction intervention keeps the promises they made at the outset: not to help continue the cycle by providing even the essentials of life – until after the treatment process has begun.

Are There Statistics Available Tracking the Success Rates of Intervention?

All the indications suggest that the initial response to intervention is often positive and successful. Most people will be convinced to get treatment immediately.

After that, statistics can’t be tracked. That’s for two reasons. Firstly, anyone over the age of 18 has the right to check out of rehab whenever they want. That could mean within days or even hours of arrival. Secondly, medical and psychological records are legally confidential, so the reasons for discharge cannot be disclosed – indeed even the reason for the initial admission can’t be shared.

It’s worth remembering that even the process of intervention can benefit everyone concerned, even if there are no guarantees about the outcome.


If you would like advice about how to stage an intervention, or would like to be put in touch with a professional interventionist, call Addiction Helper today.