Alcohol Interventions: A Guide to Intervention for Alcohol Abuse

alcohol interventions

Alcohol Interventions: A Guide to Intervention for Alcohol Abuse

You’re suffering, your loved one is suffering; the whole family is suffering. All you know is that something must be done about a loved one’s alcoholism. But no one knows what to do. Following is some information and advice about alcohol interventions that should help.

Don’t Wait For The “Bottom” to Consider an Intervention for Alcohol Abuse

If someone you care about is struggling with alcoholism, also called alcohol use disorder (AUD), you don’t have to wait for them to “hit bottom” because there is no bottom. They can always sink lower if they feel that there is no problem.

Some people with serious alcohol addiction go on for many years denying their downward slide into social, economic, and moral decline. Hitting the “bottom” is an old idea. Many families still believe that they have to wait for an alcoholic to hit bottom before there is any hope of recovery. They fail to consider that this belief sentences them to years of unhappiness while they wait for the so-called bottom. 

Hitting the “bottom” should never be the first strategy. Only when every other alcohol intervention technique has failed should you let someone fall off the edge. Long before that, you should be considering these questions:

What If?

  • What if friends and family came together with a solid plan for recovery in an atmosphere of love?
  • Can they accept the help?
  • Would it turn out differently for them and their kids?
  • Can the marriage/relationship survive?

The point is, you won’t know until you try. And you can’t try without a plan.

What’s An Intervention For Alcohol Abuse?

It’s a carefully planned process that can be done by family and friends in consultation with a doctor or a professional such as a licensed alcohol and drug counselor. Or you may choose to find a professional interventionist to assist and direct the process. Occasionally, family members wish to include a member of the individual’s faith or others who care about the person struggling with alcohol addiction.

During the intervention, these people gather together to confront their loved one about the consequences of their alcohol use disorder and ask them to accept treatment. During the intervention, they will:

  • Give specific examples of destructive behaviors and their impact on the alcoholic, their family, and friends.
  • Offer a prearranged treatment plan with clear steps, goals, and guidelines.
  • Explain clearly what each person will do if the addict refuses to accept treatment.

Planning An Alcohol Intervention

Individuals who struggle with alcohol addiction are usually in denial about it and unwilling to get help. They might not recognize the painful effects their behavior has on themselves and others. An alcohol intervention will present your loved one with a  structured opportunity to change things before they get even worse. 

An intervention typically includes the following steps:

1.) Make a plan. 

A family member or friend proposes an intervention and forms a planning group. It will help if you consult with a qualified counselor, addiction specialist, psychologist, or interventionist to help you get organized. An intervention is a highly emotional situation with the potential to cause anger, resentment, or a feeling of betrayal.

2.) Collect information.

Group members should be informed about the extent of the addict’s problem and research the condition and treatment programs. The group may begin arrangements to enroll the loved one in a specific program.

3.) Form an intervention team.

The planning group forms a team that will personally take part in the intervention. Members set a date and location for the intervention.  They need to work together to present a consistent, rehearsed message and a structured plan. Many times, nonfamily members of the team help keep the discussion focused on the facts and solutions rather than strong emotional reactions. Do not let the addict know what you’re doing the day of the intervention.

4.) Decide on consequences.

If your loved one doesn’t accept treatment, each member of the team needs to decide what actions they will take in that event.  For example, if you have been providing housing for the person, you may ask them to move out.

5.) Prepare notes on what you want to say.

Have each team member describe specific incidents when the addiction caused problems. It may be emotional or financial issues. Talk about the toll your loved one’s behavior is taking while still showing concern and expressing the expectation that they can and will change.  Your loved one can’t argue with facts or your emotional response to the problem. For example, begin by saying “I was upset when you drank…”

6.) Hold the intervention meeting.

Without disclosing the reason, invite your loved one to the intervention site. Members of the team will then take turns declaring their feelings and concerns. The addict is then presented with a treatment option and asked to accept that option on the spot. Each team member will explain what specific changes they will make if the individual doesn’t accept treatment. It’s important not to threaten a consequence if you’re not prepared to follow through with it. 

7.) Follow up.

The involvement of a spouse, family members, and others is critical to help a person with an addiction stay in treatment and avoid relapsing. This could include changing patterns of everyday life to make it easier to avoid destructive behavior. Offer to participate in counseling with them, find counseling for yourself, and learn what to do if a relapse occurs.

It’s important to remember that a successful intervention for alcohol abuse must be planned carefully for it to work as intended.  A poorly planned and managed intervention can make the situation worse. Your loved one may feel attacked and become more isolated and more resistant to getting treatment.

Special Challenges in Interventions for Alcoholics

With alcohol addiction, the process of getting your loved one into treatment is even more challenging than normal. This is because alcohol is one of the toughest addictions to recover from. Alcohol is cheap, legal, and socially acceptable. 

There are several reasons that staging an intervention for an alcoholic is especially difficult which include:

Society Protects Alcoholics From Critical Examination.

Alcoholics often don’t recognize the extent of their abuse because society sends inconsistent messages about drinking alcohol. The depiction of alcohol consumption in child-rated movies has doubled in the past twenty years. This shows the social acceptance of drinking and how it is increasing.

Misinformation Discourages Alcohol Abuse Treatment.

Misinformation is a major obstacle that prevents treatment. The popular argument that people have to hit rock bottom only encourages alcoholics to continue drinking and discourages families from getting help when they see the problem.

Family Enabling is a Common Problem.

Another reason is that it’s very common for family members to enable addictive behaviors associated with alcohol. A large part of this is that drinking is socially acceptable. Family members tend to accept their loved one’s drinking and begin picking up their slack. This might include lending them money or making excuses to work or school when the addict is too drunk or hungover to function. These actions just prolong the addiction.

Consulting a Professional Alcohol interventionist

During your initial stages of planning the intervention, consulting with an addiction professional such as a licensed alcohol and drug counselor, psychiatrist, psychologist, or alcohol interventionist can help with organizing an effective intervention. An alcohol interventionist will consider the addict’s personal circumstances, suggest the best approach, and help guide you in what kind of treatment and follow-up plan is most likely to work.

Interventions are frequently conducted without an intervention professional. However, having the help of an expert is the preferred way to go. You may want the intervention to occur in the interventionist’s office. 

Also, it might be important to have the professional attending the intervention to help team members stay on track especially if the loved one:

  • Has a history of serious mental illness
  • May react violently or self-destructively
  • Has a history of violence
  • Displayed suicidal behavior or recently talked about suicide
  • May be taking several mood-altering substances

Who Should Be on The Team?

An intervention team usually includes four to six people who play an important role in the life of the addict. They should be people they love, like, respect, or depend on. It may be a spouse, best friend, adult relatives, or a member of the faith your loved one follows. An intervention professional can help you decide on appropriate members.

Don’t include anyone who:

  • Is disliked by the addict
  • Has an unmanaged mental health problem or substance abuse problem
  • May not be able to limit what they say to what was already agreed upon in the planning meeting
  • Might sabotage the intervention

If you believe it’s important to have someone involved but don’t trust them to attend the intervention, you could have them write a letter that can be read during the intervention.

How To Make Sure You Have a Successful Intervention for Alcohol Abuse

Bear in mind that your loved one’s addiction involves intense emotions. Organizing the alcohol intervention and the alcohol intervention itself can even cause conflict, anger, and resentment among family and friends who know the person needs their help.

To Help Run a Successful Alcohol Intervention:

  • Don’t hold an intervention on the spur of the moment.

It can take weeks to plan an effective intervention. But don’t make it too complicated either because it might be too difficult to get everyone to follow through.

  • Plan the time of the intervention.

Make sure you pick a date and time when your subject is least likely to be under the influence.

  • Do your homework.

Research AUD so that you have a good understanding of it.

  • Appoint a single person to act as a go-between.

Having one point of contact for all team members will help you communicate better and stay on track.

  • Share information.

Make sure each member of the team has the same information about the subject’s addiction and the intervention so that everyone is on the same page. Hold meetings or conference calls to keep everyone updated. Agree to present a united front.

  • Stage a rehearsal intervention.

During the rehearsal, you can decide who will speak and when, and who will sit where, and other details. This will help avoid any fumbling around during the real intervention.

  • Prepare for your loved one’s objections.

Have calm, reasonable responses for each reason your subject may give to avoid treatment or responsibility for their behavior. Offer support that makes it easier to go to treatment such as child care or attending counseling with them.

  • Avoid confrontation.

Handle your loved one with respect, love, and support–not anger. Be honest but don’t use the intervention as a place for hostile attacks. Avoid name-calling and angry statements.

  • Stay on track during the intervention.

Straying away from the plan can quickly send an intervention off the rails, prevent a positive outcome, and make family tensions worse. Be ready to remain calm in the face of accusations and anger from your loved one. These are often used by addicts to derail the conversation.

  • Ask for an immediate decision.

Don’t give your subject time to think about whether to accept the treatment offer. Even if they ask for a few days to think about it, giving them time allows them to continue to deny the problem. Or they may go into hiding or go on a dangerous binge. Be prepared to get them into an evaluation to start treatment immediately if they agree to the plan.

What If They Refuse Help?

Sad to say, but not all alcohol interventions are successful. In some cases, the loved one may refuse the treatment plan. They may burst out in anger and claim that help is not needed or may be resentful and accuse you of betrayal. Prepare yourself for these situations but stay hopeful for positive change.

Even if the intervention doesn’t work, you and the other people involved in the individual’s life can still make changes that might help. Ask the other people involved to avoid enabling the cycle of behavior and take active steps to encourage positive change. Stick to the consequences outlined in the intervention.

Who Can You Turn To?

If you’re thinking that you may need to have an intervention for alcohol abuse for a family member or someone close to you, you probably do. At Addiction Intervention, this is what we do. You don’t have to watch them suffer and struggle. We have experienced alcohol interventionists to help guide you through the process and give you the best opportunity to achieve the outcome you want.

In addition, Addiction Intervention can provide help finding medical detox, Inpatient, and Outpatient treatment programs. Contact us today so we can help you from alcohol intervention right through to treatment and even aftercare. This is too important to wait.