pressures does the addict feel now?
The addict doesn’t necessarily have
the same reality about their addiction that non-addicts might.
For instance, he/she may have semi serious health problems/no
friends and no job or income but feel like they are “doing
OK”. Many addicts have actually overdosed on drugs coming
very close to death and are right back using drugs the very
next day. This may appear crazy but in fact is only part of
the pain for the addict.
With this in mind, the addict from time to time will
encounter added pressure, which forces them to make an actual
decision about whether to seek help or continue to use.
Pending legal charges that
could easily lead to jail time, threat of losing spouse,
pending loss of job, all are possible situations where a
person has enough pressure to fight the addiction and seek
help. Although any one in particular may not work in your
situation, there are pressures that can come to bear which
will help prod the addict into a decision to seek help. It is
easy to assume the addict is “only seeking help to avoid
jail” or some other evaluation which in many cases is true.
The fact remains that an addict will only seek help when some
one or some thing pushes him out of his “ addiction comfort
zone” and forces him into a decision. Very few addicts with
access to money, a place to live, people who agree with his
usage and no legal issues seek help. They “don’t have a
This is very important to understand and will be crucial in
any attempt at intervention
What is the ruin of the addict ?
The addict has things in his/her past or present that seems
like a devastating event and which has something to do with
drugs. One example is a person that has lost his best friends
due to his addiction. Another example is a person losing his
wife and child over drug abuse. A family member can look at an
addict’s life and see hundreds of reasons he/she should quit
using but unfortunately these reasons are not REAL to the
addict. There is however problems the addict encounters that
are real or significant in the addicts life, which he/she sees
as a reason to quit using drugs. These are important to
identify because they can be used during the intervention to
remind the addict why he/she must seek help.
Who should be there?
One of the major considerations involving intervention is
selecting who will be there. This matter should be well
thought out before hand. The number of people there is less
important than who is there.
If at all possible, the person in the family whom the
addict respects the most should be there. This person is an
opinion leader to the addict and needs to be there fully
supportive of getting the person help and informed well about
the actual agenda.
As many family members as possible should be there as long
as each and every one are completely in agreement about the
fact that the person needs help and supportive of the general
agenda. If someone in the family is antagonistic against the
addict and is not capable of restraining themselves from
arguments and blame then you might consider leaving them out.
Usually, the addict has many enemies and has done wrong to
most of the family but arguments and inturbulation will not
benefit the cause of getting the addict to seek treatment and
in fact will usually result in stopping this from happening
because the focus of attention gets placed on the argument and
not on the matters at hand.
Many people hire professional intervention counselors to
run the intervention. This is advisable in many situations but
not a necessity in most. This depends largely on individual
circumstances. For instance, does the person have pending
legal issues, external pressures etc. or does the person deny
completely any drug usage. These type factors need to be
considered intensely before bringing in an outside person.
You may want to seek help in establishing who should be
present at the intervention because it is a crucial factor
When is the appropriate time?
When does the intervention take place? Ideally this has
less to do with the family schedule and more to do with
what’s going on in the addict’s life.
The optimum time for an intervention is just after a major
event. Such an event would be arrested, or when he/she has
wronged (lied, stolen, cheated etc.) a family member and shows
remorse or guilt. Another would be spouse leaving. Yet another
would be after an overdose. Although you obviously don’t
want to risk the addict’s life by postponing forever, an
intervention will be exponentially more effective after such
events when the addict is down and feels like his/her world is
coming to an end.
Even in the absence of these situations, an intervention
can be successful especially if the family is close to the
addict daily so that every little situation is known. An
addict’s life is a major roller coaster and the only way an
addict can deny their problem is to successfully hide these
problems from those who love him.
A major consideration should be when the addict is sober.
In the case of cocaine, meth- amphetamine etc. this should be
in the morning after the addict has slept. In the case of
heroin or methadone or opiate type drugs, it will be when they
are withdrawing and not high. In either case attempting an
intervention while a person is extremely high will usually not
be productive because the addict can not see many of their
problems and their attention will fixed elsewhere.
In general, the timing of the intervention is crucial and
needs planning but at the same time an addict’s life is very
unstable so opportunities present themselves reasonably
What is the general
language or message ?
The tone should be concern. The intention should be clear.
It should be unwavering.
“ We love you, we’ve always loved you, we’ll never
stop loving you but we’re not willing to watch you kill
yourself with drugs”.
The family should definitely express concern but not
sympathize with the addict. Sympathy is a form of agreement
and can back fire by justifying the addiction.
Without any anger or fear, the addict should “get” from
every one present that the situation is known and that he/she
needs treatment. Don’t allow stories of family
problems and life’s troubles sway the attention off the
point that the addict has a problem and needs to seek help
fixing it. This is where the family’s preparation
What is Plan B ?
An intervention with proper planning and carried out
correctly will result many times in an addict agreeing to
receive help. But you must accept the fact that ultimately the
addict may for whatever reason say “NO”. This scenario
needs to be thought out in advance so that the family
consistently moves to the proverbial –plan B.
If for what ever reason the intervention fails, the addict
is still an addict and statistically the situation will likely
get worse not better, so what is the action taken by the
family at this point? The family knows the person is addicted
and the addict has been confronted with this fact so whatever
message the family gives the addict at this point is critical.
By refusing to seek treatment the addict in general is saying
to the family “ I want to continue to use drugs. I want
to continue the families suffering. I want to control my own
The family will intern answer with every word and action
taken. If the family says " I understand. Please leave
and don't expect any money or support in any way unless you
decide to get help." then the addict is left to run
his/her life which they generally do not have the ability to
do, and before long you have a person who "DECIDES"
that treatment is the best thing and calls saying just that.
If on the other hand the family sort of acts disappointed and
carries on as usual, then the addict gets the message that it
is OK to continue this life style and will put up even more
resistance to intervention in the future having bested the
intervention team previously. Obviously, there are certain
risks involved with either approach and should be evaluated
clearly before hand. One thing is certain, as long as the
addict continues to use, they risk the only one thing they
have; their life.
The bottom line is that an addict needs to decide, for
whatever reason, that they need help. Most " locked down
" approaches fail because the addict is not part of the
recovery. The only way an addict can usually fight against the
addiction is when enough external pressure is applied to cause
them to decide to quit. Many call this "the bottom".
However, there can be many bottoms. Obviously some are lower
than others, but each can make a person quit drugs. It just
depends on what happens when the person is there. For instance
a person is facing serious charges and is very scared. The
person will either have an intervention and go to treatment or
will get through this situation and be back out using. In the
final analysis, it is often the family who both spots the
incident and uses it to achieve treatment, or misses and