Deciding to host an intervention for a family member or loved one is a difficult decision. It can often feel like a last resort in order for someone to realize the extent to which their addiction has affected their lives and the lives of those around them. Interventions are very intense and emotional experiences for every person involved, and as such, carry a large degree of risk when implemented. Not only is it important to know about the various ways that interventions can affect someone suffering from addiction, but it is also important to ensure that the intervention itself is practiced and delivered with intention. Intervention letters are a great way to ensure that these highly emotional events stay on track, and don’t get derailed or undermined beneath the intense weight of intervention itself.
How to Know When an Intervention Is Appropriate
Interventions are often the last resort. They can come as a last-ditch effort for a family to make one of their loved ones understand the extent of the impact that their addiction has had on both their lives and the lives around them. They often come after other attempts to talk someone into recovery have failed, or individual conversations seem fruitless. Someone who suffers from addiction may not know the extent to which their actions affect those around them, and they can often feel very isolated in their addiction. However, if other methods to show how destructive their substance usage has become have failed, interventions may be necessary. Know that holding an intervention itself does carry its own risks, but the benefits are often worth it if the intervention is successful and the individual suffering from addiction agrees to seek treatment. For this reason, it is also highly advised that someone employs a professional intervention specialist in order to facilitate the intervention and be present to help answer any questions from any individual involved.
Knowing the Risks of an Intervention
Before someone hosts an intervention, it is important to be aware of some of the risks involved. While they may be necessary in some circumstances, it is common to receive pushback during an intervention. If hosted without being prepared, it can compromise many different things. It is common for someone to feel cornered or attacked when they unsuspectingly walk into a room and are confronted with an intervention. Irritability and anger are to be expected from someone suffering from addiction in this situation, as they feel blindsided and outnumbered. Because of this, they will look for ways in which to shift blame and focus off of themselves, and will often try to find ways to use one’s own words against them as a defense mechanism. Interventions, if they fail, can also deteriorate trust due to this seemingly unsuspecting attack. If an intervention fails, it is unlikely that the person suffering from addiction will seek the aid of anyone involved, in the future. They are a kind of all-or-nothing gambit that families may have to face, making it all the more important that family members are prepared for the difficult conversations ahead, and have rehearsed and planned out what they want out of the meeting, as well as how they are going to handle the highly emotional atmosphere. It is also another reason why having professionally trained intervention mediators involved in the process is paramount to help ensure that this effort has the highest chance to be successful.
What Is an Intervention Letter?
In short, an intervention letter is a plan. It is a prepared speech that will be read to the loved one suffering from addiction, chronicling the ways their addiction has impacted their relationship with the reader. It is a personal approach to the effects of addiction that involves personal stories, memories, and hopes for what someone would do next. They help keep conversations on track, and ensure that someone is saying precisely what they want to say without getting tripped up in their intense emotional state. These letters are structured in a way that isn’t so much telling someone to go to rehab outright, but rather exploring the ways in which sobriety would improve the relationship and affect the people around them, thus enticing them to want to go themselves. Intervention letters are edited and concise, and are meant to help each person speak clearly, while still coming from the heart.
Intervention letters also provide help in the recovery process, if the individual who is suffering from addiction decides to heed the suggestions of their loved ones. It can serve as a starting point by helping them set personal goals for their recovery. The letters can also provide a point to look back on after someone has made progress in both their usage, as well as their relationships, so they can measure their progress.
Five Elements of an Effective Intervention Letter
Learning how to write an intervention letter can be tricky, but each component has a reason for being included. While it is important to ensure that someone is getting their point across, they also don’t want to fill up too much space, ensuring the person suffering from addiction has a chance to process and internalize what they are being told. Remember that multiple people will also have letters prepared, and each letter is just as important as the next. As a result, rehearsals and edits are essential in preparing for a successful intervention.
Reinforce the Relationship
When crafting an intervention letter, the person hearing them will already be on high guard, expecting to be attacked. Begin the letter by reinforcing the love and relationship that each person has with the individual. This genuine affection shows that each person is committed to helping the person behind the addiction, and sees them as more than the addiction itself. By being genuine about this aspect, it humanizes everyone involved and sets the precedent that everything following these statements is just as genuine. Use loving and compassionate language, and use personal nicknames and intimate language to help them understand that not only are they more than their addiction, but they are still an important and loved member of the family.
Talk About the Medical Side of Addiction
In order to continue to humanize the person beyond their addiction, it is important to let them know that their addiction is a medical disease. Addiction itself has nothing to do with a moral failing of any kind, and develops without intention. Nobody sets out to become addicted to any kind of substance, and it often develops without the person being aware of how frequently or intensely they are using the substance. This section of writing an intervention letter is also intended to take blame out of the equation, and create a scenario where someone is standing with the individual suffering from addiction as a unified front against the addiction itself. By outlining the biological components of addictions and their chemical effects on the brain, it also shows the person the reason why professional help is necessary for addiction. Overcoming addiction is more than a question of willpower; it is a medical condition that affects many components of someone’s brain, as well as their lives.
The Personal Story
This is the part of the intervention letter that will differ the most from person to person. It is a unique story told of an event where the person’s addiction and usage has impacted the reader in some detrimental way. This is the time to tell personal stories about what happened at a particular time, how that made the reader feel, and how that has affected them beyond just when it was happening. In this section, use concrete examples and evidence, and not speculative stories or feelings. A story of when someone “thought you might be drunk” will not be as effective as citing a time when their intoxication was undeniably true. Lastly, use this section to explain how you would have preferred that moment to unfold if the person had been sober, and what that would mean to you personally. These sections are difficult and filled with painful memories — and therefore can be difficult to write and recite. However, they are a necessary part for someone to hear so they can begin to understand how far-reaching the effects of addiction truly are.
Go into an intervention prepared. It may not be enough to say, “This is why you need to seek treatment.” Rather, it is more effective if research has already been conducted to identify nearby facilities that may be able to help them. Research different detox and treatment facilities, as well as the various programs they offer, and note how they might be able to help. If someone feels that one particular facility may be best for the individual suffering from addiction, note the reason why. Having suggestions and information available during the intervention — such as pamphlets or literature on the facility — can take a lot of stress off of the person and allow them to more readily accept help. Be knowledgeable about these places and how they operate, and field as many questions as possible before calling about specifics. This can potentially help your loved one choose in the moment, and can ultimately encourage them to commit to a treatment plan. This section of the letter also outlines positivity and showcases that recovery from this disease is possible.
This is a difficult part, as it involves consequences if someone refuses treatment. This section can outline the various ways that family and loved ones have been supporting the individual, even without the individual knowing. This can be in the form of food or money that someone may not realize they are taking advantage of. This is used to outline how serious everyone is about getting a person the help they need, and also to showcase how much they may need it for themselves. Consequences can be personal, or more direct, as in not covering rent for someone else anymore. Enforcing these consequences is by far the most difficult part, as it may feel like someone is betraying a loved one in need. However, these are necessary for someone to know how truly impactful an addiction may be. It is also why banding together as a single unit is extremely important — it can create a unified front for a family to help support each other through this difficult time.
Below is a sample intervention letter that can be used to learn more about the ideal tone, or as an intervention letter template for someone to create their own, personalized, impactful intervention letter.
Sample Intervention Letter
I know that we’ve always shared a lot with each other. You used to drive me to Little League and showed me how to throw a ball. While I may not have always wanted to practice every day, I always knew you were doing your best to help me succeed. Even today, each time I hold a bat, I think of you showing me the proper stance. “Pick up that elbow. Watch the ball. Aim for the fences, and run like nobody can stop you.” Even if you weren’t in the stands, each ball I hit was because of you. You’ve always been someone so strong. From when you picked me up over your head, to when I was feeling down about a breakup, you’d help me stand back up and wipe the tears away. That’s why I know that you can be stronger than your drinking, too. When I take out the trash, I can count the bottles — I hear them clank against each other. I know I can help, because you showed me what it means to be there for someone else.
I also know this isn’t your fault. Addiction is a disease, and I don’t want you to think that I blame you for it. It’s a complicated disease that requires a medical approach, and it isn’t something anybody can control without help. So let me be that help, and let me help you find a place where we can begin to tackle this addiction together.
Friday night, two weeks ago, I tried to call you. I was out with friends like I said I would be, and needed a ride home. You picked up the phone, but you weren’t really there. I could hear you stumbling through bottles. You’d try to talk to me, but your speech was slurred. I knew you couldn’t get in the car to get me. I was scared that you’d even trip down the stairs and hurt yourself. I had to call a cab to take me home — my friends had left because I was supposed to have a ride. When I got home, you didn’t come to say hello. You were already passed out. I know you wouldn’t have noticed what time I got home, and was unsure if you’d notice if I came home at all. Now, when I go out, I am sure to make plans and coordinate rides with my friends, just to be sure I can get home each night. I want to rely on you like I always have in the past, and I want to be there for you like when you were there for me.
Nearby is Chateau Recovery. It’s a place that may be able to help you beat this like I know you can. You’ve always taken pride in whatever you do, and the programs there work with you to figure out where you want to go. This is a way for us all to continue living with our father, as well as getting him back. I know you want to be there for us, and we want to be here for you. We’re all here for you, we just need a little help to get you through this disease.
I know this is tough, but the baseball season is coming up. If you want to continue drinking, then I can’t have you at my games. I learned to play baseball from you, and I want to show you how much I’ve learned, and how much the team and I have grown. But if drinking is going to continue to be part of your day, my baseball career won’t be. I love you and want to help you, but you have to choose to change yourself, as well.
Chateau Recovery is a place where each individual is encouraged to set and pursue their own goals in sobriety. Our highly trained team of professionals is here to provide support and guidance throughout your path to recovery. They can go over the various treatment options with you and make adjustments to fit your unique needs and goals each step of the way. Sobriety is a long-term journey that typically involves a variety of difficulties, but the team at Chateau is here to help instill the skills and knowledge necessary for success, including grounding techniques, education, and behavioral therapy. It is our goal to ensure that each person is able to heal and grow so they may chase their own personal goals beyond addiction.
To set up an appointment, learn about the programs available, or simply speak to a professional about your unique situation and how Chateau Recovery can help, call today at (435) 222-5225.