Holiday Season Can Be the Best Time for an Intervention

Sam drinks too much. Everyone knows it, surely even Sam. Last year during the holidays, your best friend was stumbling around, drunk, just about every time you saw him. Sure, everyone was enjoying “holiday cheer,” but Sam was always over the top. Someone always had to keep an eye on him to make sure he was all right. In the year that followed, he didn’t get any better and now, with the holidays in full swing again, you feel sick about Sam. You know he hasn’t changed. What’s worse, he seems to be deteriorating physically and is starting to miss work. And there was that time his wife found a cache of empty liquor bottles in the back of the van he uses on the job. There is no doubt that Sam is spiraling downward. But is now the time to deal with it? Do you really want to ruin the season by gathering family and friends to confront Sam about his drinking? What about the cheer? If you also see the holidays as a time to join with loved ones and let them know how important they are in our lives, perhaps this is the perfect time. “Family members and friends generally want just one more holiday with their loved one,” said Dr. Jason Powers, who specializes in treating addiction at Promises Austin drug rehabilitation center and The Right Step network of addiction treatment centers. “There’s usually a high amount of hope that things will be different this time. However, that is rarely the case.”

Intervention Knows No Season

For the friends and families of people suffering from the disease of addiction, the holidays are anything but joyous. Addiction doesn’t take time off because the hustle and bustle of the season is upon us. In fact, substance abuse can worsen as were encouraged to make merry for weeks on end. But Sam’s never been very amendable to discussing his alcohol use. He either sits silently when the subject is brought up or leaves the room. Truth is, one of the most common misperceptions about addiction is that people must want help in the beginning of the intervention process. However, the idea behind an intervention is for someone to finally see or acknowledge that he or she is in trouble. Virtually no one wants drug treatment. Two of the primary reasons people get help are because the court ordered them to do so or family members issued an ultimatum. A formal intervention may be the only way to convince Sam and others like him to get help before things get even worse. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, most successful interventions are done under the direction of a professional, such as an alcohol and drug abuse counselor, social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist, or interventionist. It is especially important to let a professional take the wheel if your loved one has a history of serious mental illness or violence or has recently talked about suicide. The Association of Intervention Specialists can put you in touch with an interventionist as can any addiction treatment center.

How Does It Work?

An intervention typically includes the following steps:

  • Having a treatment center on standby — Contact a treatment center or professional interventionist to begin preparations. The planning stage can take up to two weeks as the interventionist interviews family members to become familiar with the addict’s ways. Admission to a treatment facility (including taking care of the insurance details) will be prearranged. The goal is for the substance user to enter treatment on the day of the intervention.
  • Forming the intervention team — An intervention team typically consists of four to six friends or family members and the interventionist, but can be anyone your loved one respects and admires, including co-workers, clergy members or teachers. Don’t include anyone who might go off-script. If you feel it’s important such a person be heard, have him or her write a letter that someone else can read at the intervention.
  • Practicing the meeting — This is when the interventionist will go over in detail where the event should take place, who will speak, in what order and the specific dialogue. Interventionist Jeffrey VanVonderen, who can be seen on A&Es “Intervention,” says the most common reason interventions fail is that the family doesn’t do what the interventionist says to do. “Often someone gets ahead of the plan,” VanVonderen told Oprah. “Someone thinks they can do it on their own because they have a special relationship with the client.”
  • The intervention meeting — It’s important to keep the intervention a secret from the subject. If you tell the person what’s going on, chances are he or she wont show up. For example, you could tell the person to come over for dinner or meet at a friend’s house to hang out. Everyone should be there before the person arrives. In some cases, however, loved ones will let the substance abuser know that they are talking with a therapist about his or her drinking problem before the intervention. This relatively new method, often referred to as the ARISE Model, avoids the reactivity in addicts that a confrontational approach may evoke.In either case, the interventionist will advise team members to begin their sentences with the words “I” or “we,” not “you,” such as, “I am upset about your drinking and its effect on the family,” or “We are here to help you beat this disease.” Remember, you are talking to the disease, not the person. The actual intervention usually takes about an hour.
  • Escorting the addict to treatment — Explain the details about the treatment facility you have arranged. Don’t allow the substance abuser to say he or she will seek treatment “later.” The interventionist will help you prepare for what you will say to every objection.

Are Interventions Successful?

“Most people go,” VanVonderen says. In some cases, addicts will refuse help at the time of the intervention but come back and ask for help later. If they balk the first time, families may have to arrange another meeting. Perhaps a third will be needed. But families should never give up. Treatment works, and people can be motivated to make the needed change. With friends and family members in town for the holidays, this may be the best time for an intervention. A favorite sibling or childhood friend might be the one to finally persuade the substance abuser to get help. “During the holiday season from late November to past New Year’s, we see few people enter treatment,” Dr. Powers said. Addiction is a deadly disease. It’s fatal if untreated a lot of the time. And if that’s not enough incentive I don’t know what more to say.” By Laura Nott Sources: Intervention — Tips and Guidelines Intervention: Help a loved one overcome addiction How to Stage an Intervention

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