How to Stage an Intervention for an Alcoholism

By The Fix staff 12/13/14

The Eight Steps of Alcoholism Intervention.


Having a loved one suffer in the throes of addiction to drugs or alcohol can be one of the most painful experiences you'll ever know. As an outsider, you can see the destructive path your friend, your spouse, your parent, or your child has taken, and you can't understand why they can't see it as well.

Sometimes it takes the help of those outside the addiction to help break the cycle. This is called intervening, and it's a difficult thing to do to someone you care about. Ultimately, however, it could save his or her life, and this is the whole purpose behind carrying out an intervention.

If you think an intervention is needed to help save your loved one's life, there are steps you should take to prepare.

Plan the Alcoholism Addiction Intervention

An intervention must run like a well-oiled machine. Everyone has a specific role to play, and all the actors must hit their marks for the endeavor to be a success. The most successful interventions are carried out under the administration of a professional intervention specialist who can help you plan the best way to enact them. Contact the Association of Intervention Specialists to locate a professional near you.

The intervention specialist will help guide you through the process of planning and carrying out an intervention, as well as being there in the room when it takes it place. This is the person who helps you decide on a long-term treatment plan once the intervention has concluded.

You need a professional on the team to help you understand how best to impart your information and what sort of consequences you should present.

Recruit Your Team

Your intervention team consists of people close to the addicted person. It can be close friends, family, schoolmates, coworkers, bosses, and others.

When choosing your intervention team, select people who are supportive and who truly impact the life of the person who's addicted. The addict must be forced to realize that there are very real consequences in place for not seeking treatment. Consequences could come in the form of a parent refusing to continue college tuition payments or a spouse promising a divorce. They could include a boss who threatens a lost job or a coworker who refuses to look the other way the next time money comes up missing.

The consequences that your team puts into place must have a very real impact upon the addict -- enough to make him or her want to seek treatment -- instead of reap the fallout.

Have a Treatment Facility Standing By

Before you attempt your alcohol addiction intervention, you should have a treatment facility on standby. Once the addicted person agrees to enter into treatment, they should go directly there immediately. This is the conclusion of a successful intervention, and it's important that it happen on the spot. Simply obtaining a promise from an addicted person is not enough. As the friend or family member of the addict, you're already aware of how little an addict's promise means. This is why it's vital to have the treatment plan in place before the intervention begins.

To this end, have a vehicle standing by to drive the addict to the agreed-upon facility. Do it right away and don't allow yourself to be persuaded to wait until tomorrow. Addicts can be very convincing when they're trying to maintain their habits. Recognize ruses for what they are -- ploys to trick you into letting your guard down so the target can continue to refuse facing his problem.


Practice makes perfect, and that's never more true than when you're planning something as important and life-altering as an intervention. Once your initial plans are in place, you should practice by having at least one rehearsal. Everyone who is included in the actual intervention should be present at the rehearsal to run through the script. The topics need to be presented in much the same way they will during the real event. This helps everyone become comfortable with what they're planning to say and to find the best way to say it.

Knowing what's going to happen before it actually happens gives you a better idea of how the whole program will run. It also helps to alleviate nervous tension among most of the players. If you feel confident in presenting your information to your addicted loved one, it will have a much bigger impact overall.

Choose the Place

Your intervention should take place in a non-threatening location -- someplace that's comfortable for the addicted person, yet neutral. You don' t want to stage an intervention any place that makes the person feels persecuted, such as the home of an in-law or in a very public location. Your intervention needs to be private, with only your team and the addicted person present.

Your location should be secure. Often, the targets of an intervention aren't happy to participate. In fact, they'll usually do nearly anything to get away from the consequences you're about to present them. You need a quiet location with a door that locks and people willing to physically prevent the addict from leaving, if needed.

Invite the Addict

When it's time to invite your friend or family member to the intervention, you'll need a good excuse. If you tell the addicted person the truth about why you need them at a certain place at a certain time, they'll never show. Use whatever excuse you must to get them there on time and then prevent them from leaving before you're through.

Sometimes this includes physically barring the door, chasing the addict down, or even physically restraining him throughout the duration of the intervention. Usually, however, once he realizes you're serious about keeping him in the room, he'll resign himself to at least pretending to listen. And then who knows? Hopefully, concerned words from those who care most about him will actually sink in and effect a change for the better.

Give the Ultimatum

Once everyone is present and accounted for at the intervention, it's time to present your arguments. Everyone must present their concerns, backed by the previously agreed upon consequences, to the addicted individual. Expect anger, disbelief, and an unwillingness to cooperate. Few addicts realize they are actually addicted, and they usually don't accept the accusation lightly. But if you've done your homework, and your arguments are convincing, the addict will be forced to listen at least. There's no guarantee he'll agree to seek treatment, but at least he'll know that people care enough about him to try and effect a change.

It's important, as well, to present your information and consequences in a helpful, as opposed to an accusing, way. Any intervention that's marked by blame and hostile accusations is destined to fail from the beginning. Have your trained professional on site to help you get your information across in a beneficial way.

Escort the Addict to Treatment

Hopefully, if all goes according to plan, your intervention will be successful, and the addicted person will consent to treatment. If this is the case, someone needs to escort them to a facility immediately. Waiting until tomorrow or next week will make your trouble all for nothing, as odds are good the addict will change his mind in the interim.

Once your friend or family member is safely engaged in treatment, you can relax for a moment. The first step is over -- he has admitted he has a problem. The journey itself, however, is far from over. Addiction recovery can be a long and challenging process at best. There will be anger and tears, blame, shame, and aggravation before your loved one recovers from his addiction. In fact, recovery is a lifelong process that begins with admitting the problem and never really ends.

It's important that you remain supportive of your family member throughout the recovery process. Having someone to lean on when the urge to use becomes overwhelming can make recovery a little easier on everyone involved. Remember not to resort to condemnation or criticism. Instead, do what you can to maintain a positive attitude and to be there when your friend needs your shoulder.

Also be aware that you may have to seek counseling and change too. If you played an active role in supporting your loved one's addiction, you will have to change in order for your loved one to remain sober. Be prepared for some work and a look at yourself.

After the Intervention

Drug and alcohol addiction intervention is only as successful as the person who's trying to beat the habit. It's entirely possible that your plans won't pan out, even if the addicted person enters treatment. The choice, inevitably, is up to them. If they genuinely want to get better and are willing to work to get there, a treatment center can work miracles.

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