It’s never easy to ask for help, and it’s especially difficult to convince others they need to make a major life change, which is why staging an intervention is doubly challenging. Keep calm, keep focused, and keep the following information handy when helping a loved one enter a rehabilitation program.
Types of Interventions
Rehab isn’t a one-size-fits-all procedure. Your unique situation will dictate the most appropriate course of action, but these are some of the approaches.
- The “Love First” Approach – Help your loved one craft a plan to move away from their addictive lifestyle and work on a schedule to assure that they stick to it. This approach should identify milestones of success and reward them with positivity and openness.
- The Wake-Up Call (Brief Intervention) – If the subject is truly unaware that they have a problem, this approach could work best. Sit them down, state the facts, and open their eyes to the severity of the situation.
- Medical Motivation – This is a method specific to a controlled, hospital-like environment. Following an event such as an overdose or an alcohol-related car crash, an addict is especially vulnerable and likely to listen. The attending physician can present your loved one with the high stakes of continued substance abuse. For example: if you continue to drink, your liver will become cirrhotic or you will inevitably have another accident.
- Tough Love Intervention – This is the most publicized form of intervention (popularized by the reality show of the same name). In a “tough love” scenario, a group of friends and family gather for the benefit of the addict in their life and present him or her with an ultimatum. The tone of the message is that we love you unconditionally, but refuse to allow your destructive behavior to continue. No more financial support, no more place to sleep, no more proverbial “nice guy” until you check into rehab.
Seek Professional Help
No matter which of the above approaches you take, it’s important not to go it alone. The presence of a trained professional will most likely help the process go more smoothly. This interventionist can draw on past experience to predict problems before they occur and can draw on their education to elicit the best results. For example, if they studied psychology, they can draw upon the various therapeutic methods that go into a successful intervention. Look for individuals with the following certifications: LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker), CADC (certified alcohol and drug counselor), LADC (licensed alcohol/drug counselor), and CCDC (certified chemical dependency counselor). Some experts have a more general designation of CIP (Certified Intervention Professional) which may carry with it any of the aforementioned disciplines.
The credentials of the individual or individuals with whom you collaborate will depend on the specific nature of your loved one’s addiction. Every case is unique and every person is at a different stage in the rehab process. Tailor your search for a medical professional accordingly.
The Non-Intervention Intervention: Write It Down
If direct confrontation doesn’t work for you or your loved one, take a step back, take a deep breath, and take a moment to compile your feelings in a letter. The written word is not only powerfully thoughtful, but it’s also very concrete. It provides a paper trail for your interaction. The addict has a physical souvenir to which he or she can refer when times get tough. Your letter will stay with them even when the spoken word fades from memory. There’s no bartering or excuses; it’s all written down in black and white.
A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Emotions
In addition to writing down your thoughts, you can also share your feelings in picture form. Addiction often ravages its victims, both inside and out, and those effects can be seen in photographs. Without shaming or blaming, you can subtly share old memories of how your special someone used to live, laugh and love. These old pics are a reminder of the person within, an identity that’s never lost but sometimes overshadowed by addiction. Images are highly motivating forces and can help convince your loved one that rehab is the path back to health and happiness.
Do’s and Don’ts
Seeking help is an emotionally tumultuous process. You can’t be expected to know everything, but here are a few quick guidelines to keep in mind when approaching the subject of rehab:
- Do Create Boundaries – This is no time to be vague or wishy-washy. You want your loved one to get results, so be explicit about those results. For example, you won’t lend him or her money until you can be sure that the funds won’t be spent on drugs or alcohol.
- Don’t Make It About Yourself – You’ve been hurt. We know this. But it’s not about you right now; it’s about moving forward. You can touch upon the difficulties of your past relationship without dwelling on your pain. Instead, focus on how much better your relationship will be once substances are out of the picture.
- Do Focus on the Illness – Addicts often feel ashamed of their affliction, but that’s detrimental to the recovery process. Let your loved one know that you don’t blame them for who they are. You blame the illness. They can’t get better without addressing the root of the problem, and that’s why rehab is important.
- Don’t Fall Back on False Promises – You’ve heard it all before. “I can quit anytime I want” or “It won’t happen again” or “My behavior is my business.” But the truth is that addiction affects everyone within the addict’s realm. Don’t believe the same promises that failed in the past; accountability is the key to a successful new lifestyle.
- Do Feel the Weight of the Moment – This is an intense process, so don’t be afraid to acknowledge your emotions as well as those of your loved one. Cry, talk, be heard, and be true. Hopefully, you won’t need to go through the intervention stage again, so let it all out and remember how this feels.
- Don’t Accept Excuses – There’s nothing acceptable about hurting yourself or those around you. Apologies are all fine and well, but they don’t erase the pain of the past. Mistakes can be forgiven but not forgotten, and they should definitely not be repeated.
- Do Maintain Hope – Recovery is possible, and the more you emphasize this reality, the more attainable it becomes. Rehab may seem insurmountable, but you can assure your loved one that you’ll climb the heights of it together. After all, hope is the most powerful drug of all.