Helping Your Loved One: An Intervention and Beyond

Few scenes are as emotionally heart-wrenching as watching someone suffer and not being able to do anything about it. Parents of cancer-ridden children beg doctors for more information and opportunities to assist in making the child comfortable. Spouses of newly let-go employees search for ways to help the discouraged spouse.

And if you’re the friend of a loved one who is becoming more alcoholic dependent, you don’t feel any differently.

So, what can you do?

Get a Support Group--For You

Al-Anon specializes in creating family groups for relatives of those affected by drinking. Joining the support groups allows you to get a sponsor who can support you as you navigate the emotionally difficult waters. The support group can also help you choose the right treatment options and provide practical advice, from someone who understands what you are going through.

Identify the Level of Dependency 

If you’re already concerned about your loved one, then you probably have already identified his or her dependency. But if you’re not sure yet, read through some of the addiction questions to identify how dependent your loved one is.

It is not wise to wait until the last possible moment to have corrective medication for cancer—and the same is true for alcohol and drug dependency. People who are  dependent need to recognize their dependency sooner rather than later. Most professionals recommend staging an intervention rather than waiting until the loved one has reached rock-bottom.

Prepare for an Intervention 

Although several types of intervention exist, the basic idea of an intervention is to invite close family and friends to a meeting with the goal of explaining what effect the loved one’s dependency is having on others and what options are available for change. Interventions, though, should be planned beforehand and carefully organized.

  • Identify and Invite People to the Planned Time: Some interventions plan to invite the loved one; others simply plan a time that the loved one doesn’t know about, so he or she cannot avoid the meeting. Identify whether you want to hire a trained interventionist to assist during the meeting. Typical invitees include close family (sometimes even children), friends, and co-workers—in general, people whom the loved one cares for.
  • Identify the Goal of the Meeting: The goal for most interventions is to carefully and quietly explain how the devastating relationship consequences that have come from the loved one’s alcohol dependency and to create a viable pathway for change, usually entering a rehabilitation center for a certain period of time. Once the person admits his or her need for change and agrees to enter rehab, the meeting ends.
  • Choose a Treatment Center: Once that moment of clarity occurs during the intervention, you will want to have an exit strategy in place. Often that moment of clarity will fade quickly, so you should be prepared to take someone to the rehabilitation that day or the next. The more time that elapses, the more likely they will succumb to the addiction and decide they can fix it themselves. 
  • Track the Loved One’s Life for a Little: Each attendee should make a list of blow-ups, scenarios, missed attendance, or other evidence that are the result of the loved one’s dependency.
  • Write and Practice Reading Letters Before: Then each attendee should write a letter that identifies how the relationship has been broken because of alcohol, using the collected specific examples and scenarios. Attendees should also practice reading the letter to other attendees for feedback to ensure that blame and negativism are not reflected in the letter. This practice is especially beneficial for someone who has been attempting to hide a dependency and thinks nobody has noticed.
  • Identify Ultimatums: Each attendee should identify ultimatums that will happen if the loved one does not admit his or her need for change and accept the proposed solution. The ultimatums should be serious enough to help the loved one choose to enter rehab.
  • Pre-Identify Typical Resistance Issues and Their Answers: Typical resistance issues to entering rehab or another similar solution include “how will we pay for it,” “who will watch the kids,” “what about work,” “who will take care of the pets,” and “how can I really live a normal life without a drug.” If you know your loved one well, you’ll also know specific resistance topics, pertinent to your situation. 
  • Choose a Chair Person: This person begins the actual meeting and create a natural leader.

Stage the Intervention

If the intervention has been well-rehearsed and planned, then work the plan, reading the letters and ultimatums. At whatever point the loved one agrees to enter rehabilitation or accept another proposed solution, then no more letters or ultimatums need to be read or identified.

During Rehab

During your investigation of potential options, consider rehabilitation centers that provide longer stays (perhaps closer to 90 days), one-on-one counseling, and opportunities for day trips away to help the loved one more easily transition back into normal life.

After Rehab

Here are a few ways you can help your loved one reconnect with his or her life after they leave a rehabilitation center:

  • Accountability: Before your loved one leaves the center, identify a time and method of accountability with them.
  • Help Avoid Triggers: Also identify with him or her what scenarios or attitudes will trigger an onset of compulsion. Know these thoroughly and be prepared to help protect your loved one from them.
  • Identify Coping Mechanisms: Good rehabilitation centers can help you with this, but identify what activities and types of conversations can help re-focus your loved one on victory.
  • Avoid Blame: Many times, close family and friends of a loved one blame themselves for the loved one’s disease.
  • Guiding your loved one through this time requires careful planning, research and support, but others have done it before. Start investigating your options today to see your life and family changed.