Alcoholism and problem drinking can have a huge impact on the individual involved, having a detrimental effect on their physical and mental health and almost every aspect of their lives.
It can also affect others around them though, taking a toll on relationships with spouses, partners, family members, friends and other loved ones.
The very nature of the condition means that it can be very difficult to overcome alone. Addiction changes the way our brains work, leading to compulsive drinking, drug use or behaviour even when you know there will be negative consequences.
Addiction also often goes hand in hand with deception and denial. The individual may not accept they have a problem at all or could deny the scale of it even when it is acknowledged.
This is where an intervention could be useful, by presenting the person with the problem with the impact it is having on those around them and giving them the chance to seek help and start to turn their lives around.
What is an alcohol intervention?
An alcoholic Intervention involves confronting a person who has a drinking problem with the impact their drinking and addiction has – both on themselves and those around them.
An intervention should be carefully planned and delivered and should avoid descending into accusations or shaming. If done correctly it can be a huge step forward in getting the person with the problem to come to terms with the consequences of their actions and start to take steps to address their behaviour.
How to stage an alcohol intervention
Organising an Alcoholic Intervention can be quite difficult as it can be tricky to get the balance right. It’s important to present the damage that is being done in a clear and unambiguous way but if the event descends into negativity and anger it can be counterproductive.
Many people who look to stage a friend or family intervention seek professional help first and this can be very valuable. You may get a professional to lead or join the intervention itself, or simply to provide guidance in the planning stage.
This can really help you to plan things properly and hold the alcoholic Intervention sessions in a calm and controlled manner.
There’s a lot to think about but here are 6 key steps to organising an alcoholic intervention…
1. Choose the people who will be involved
Getting the right team for your intervention is very important. As mentioned, it can be very useful to have a professional interventionist involved as they can guide you through the process and make sure the intervention stays on track.
Other than that, the team should be restricted to a relatively small number of people who are close to the subject of the intervention.
If a subject is a young person their parents will typically lead the intervention and if the subject is married or have a long-term partner they may carry out this role.
Some people might not be best suited to intervention if you feel they will simply not be able to ‘keep their cool’ without shouting or shaming the subject.
In this case, it may be useful for them to prepare a statement for someone else to read out detailing the impact of the person’s drinking on them, while they do not attend the event itself.
2. Prepare thoroughly beforehand
As well as choosing the people who will be directly involved, you should plan out what you will say and do carefully. An intervention is not an ideal time for spontaneity as this can lead to high emotions and recriminations.
Get everyone taking part to think about how the drinking and related behaviour has affected them and plan what you will say. Plan not only what you will say but in what order people will speak. You might even want to rehearse the intervention first.
3. Write a script
To that end, it can be useful to write an actual script or at the very least guidance notes to follow. Written impact statements can be very powerful and they can also help to keep the intervention from devolving into angry exchanges.
Use specific examples of behaviours that have had an impact as well as more general observations. Hearing how their addiction has had a direct impact on the people they care about can have a profound effect on the person at the centre of the intervention.
4. Choose the time and place
Holding an intervention at the subject’s home can help put them at ease but it can also make it easier for them to walk away.
Holding it at a neutral venue such as a professional interventionist’s office can help ensure the person is on ‘their best behaviour’ – but you do have to get them there.
When it comes to the timing, it may be useful to hold the intervention after a particular alcohol-related incident where the person behaved badly. This can then be used as an example, but you may simply feel it is best to hold the family and friends intervention as soon as possible.
5. Hold the intervention properly
After all that planning it is important to stick to what you have agreed during the drug alcohol intervention.
It can be difficult to know what to say at an alcohol intervention but in general, everyone participating should get the chance to detail the specific effects the addiction and associated behaviour has had on them.
You might also want to detail consequences that may occur if the person does not seek help for their drinking. This could be refusing them entry to the house when they have been drinking or even a partner moving out.
Do not state consequences you are not prepared to enact and make sure the person knows this is not a punishment or attack but an attempt to help them.
Try to keep calm and understanding throughout. You should also be prepared to listen to what the subject of the intervention has to say.
6. Follow up the intervention
Many people will walk away and refuse to interact with the intervention and it may take several sessions to breakthrough.
If they do agree to seek help you should have options and pathways prepared. These could be numbers to call for professional advice or an offer to accompany them to their GP.
Planned and delivered properly, an intervention can be a useful way to help your loved one take the first steps towards their recovery.