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How To Stage A Successful Intervention for an Alcoholic or Drug Addict

If you’re a fan of reality television, you’ve probably run across the A&E show “Intervention” at some point in the last 13 years.

The program premiered in 2005, and except for a two-year hiatus from 2013-2015, it’s been a staple of the A&E stable, and the format has changed little: One or two individuals are the center of each story, which tells how their addiction or alcoholism has destroyed relationships, wrecked their health and general laid waste to any sense of whatever passes for “normal.”

It explores each individual’s past, underscoring how past traumas can play a part in the development of the disease of addiction or alcoholism: childhood sexual abuse or physical abuse, psychological issues, the deaths of loved ones are all common threads in each person’s story, but somewhere along the way, their pain begins to spread, until family members and loved ones are enmeshed in a toxic spiral of guilt, rage, frustration, worry and emotional exhaustion that threatens to cripple all who are a part of the addict’s or alcoholic’s orbit.

The episode builds to a climax in which a group of those affected loved ones gathers with a professional intervention specialist to confront the addict or alcoholic and read a series of letters that always begin the same: “Your addiction has affected me in the following ways …”

Emotional drama makes for good television, and no doubt there are numerous interventions that aren’t broadcast simply because they’re not “exciting.” There’s no screaming and yelling, no emotional breakdowns, nothing “juicy” that makes for compelling television. But while such drama may boost the ratings, the popularity of “Intervention,” we believe, is due to another reason: addiction and alcoholism rates continue to climb, and the awareness of the problem has grown. An overwhelming number of individuals know or are related to someone with a substance abuse disorder, and many of them turn to whatever avenue is available for guidance.

A program like “Intervention” foots that bill. While it makes for compelling viewing, it also gives the average person some up-close-and-personal insight into the diseases of addiction and alcoholism that are often frightening, off-putting and uncomfortable. The camera doesn’t flinch, and the sight of addicts and alcoholics who live in squalor, commit petty crimes, hurt their closest relatives and seem to generally loathe being alive is hard to watch, sometimes because the situations so closely mirror what’s going on in the viewers’ own lives.

More than anything else, “Intervention” demonstrates that addiction and alcoholism have nothing to do with a lack of willpower or weak moral character, as so many people mistakenly believe. Once it’s understood that there are biological, genetic and environmental components to these illnesses that must be addressed, those affected are more likely to find the compassion they need to successfully compel an addict or alcoholic to receive treatment.

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And that, more than anything else, is a critical component to staging an intervention for the addicted loved one in your own life. The entire concept behind an intervention is to persuade the addict or alcoholic to agree to receive treatment for his or her illness. It isn’t designed to give emotionally aggrieved loved ones an outlet in which to vent their anger and frustration; it isn’t a tribunal that assigns guilt and punishment; it isn’t a way to beg or plead with the addict or alcoholic to get help.

In many ways, it’s a gathering of caring, concerned loved ones who hold a metaphorical mirror up to an addicted individual’s face and force them to confront the harsh realities and ugly truths of their deteriorating lifestyles. It’s designed to let them know, in no uncertain terms, that the person you know and love, the one locked away within the emotional and spiritual bars of addiction’s prison, can return to the light and love of their circle of friends and family members if they make the right choice.

That choice, of course, is to go to treatment. The road to such acceptance may be a short, straightforward one, or it may be a labyrinthine, winding mess of curves that takes a great deal of planning, work and execution. Either way, rarely have we seen an intervention fail when the right steps are taken. And that usually begins at a place of concern and love for the addict or alcoholic in your life.

At Cornerstone of Recovery, we have the tools you need to initiate this process, as well as a trained interventionist on staff with whom you can consult along every step of the way, and call in for assistance should an intervention process enter a more critical phase. Regardless, please know that our goal is to show all addicts and alcoholics that it’s possible for them all to stop using and drinking, lose the desire to do so and find a new way to live. Some of them may need a little help getting to that realization, but that’s where you and the intervention process enter the picture.