Addiction Intervention Guide

Addiction Interventions: A Complete Guide for Family Members

This addiction intervention guide for family members should provide you with the help you need for your addicted loved one. The situation you're facing is certainly one that's hard to cope with. No one wants to go through what you're going through right now. However, with the right guidance and addiction intervention strategies, you can manage everything the correct way.

Finding out that someone you love has an addiction may be one of the most difficult things you ever go through. Your heart breaks for your loved one, and you want so desperately to be able to help. Let's go over the steps you need to take, one at a time. This will allow you to help your loved one the right away.

Intervention Step 1

Step #1: Preparing to Talk About the Addiction

Unfortunately, in many families, addictions are often ignored. This is because they are really hard to talk about, and difficult to deal with. No one likes confrontation, and we tend to tiptoe around issues because they're uncomfortable. This may be the case in your family as well.

If it is, then you'll have to take some time to prepare yourself to have this conversation. This might mean giving yourself a pep talk, or discussing the issue with a friend or someone else you trust. It can be helpful to get someone else's feedback. They may even be able to help you know what to say.

You can try saying some of the following phrases to yourself:
  • What I need to say to my family member is something that needs to be said.
  • I'm bringing the subject up for his/her own good.
  • I might be the only one willing to tell my loved one the truth.
  • If he/she continues along this path, it could be fatal.
  • I want to help my loved one the best way I can, and it all starts with having this talk.
Intervention Step 2

Step #2: Gathering the Important Information

Before you get ready to talk with your loved one about the addiction, make sure you're prepared. This will mean gathering up any important information you want to share. It might take a bit of research, but it will be helpful to you when you actually have the talk.

Some information you may want to consider looking up includes:
  • Warning signs of alcohol abuse, alcoholism or drug addiction
  • The long-term effects of drugs or alcohol
  • Options for drug rehab or alcohol rehab
  • Why addiction treatment is so effective
  • How your loved one can achieve his or her goals after rehab

Once you are armed with the proper information, you'll be ready to have your discussion. Don't be nervous. Be confident in what you are going to say. You may even consider having a "practice run" with a trusted friend first.

Intervention Step 3

Step #3: Talking with Your Loved One About Addiction

Once you're ready, it will be time to sit down and approach your addicted loved one about the problem. This conversation won't be easy, and you should be prepared for that ahead of time. However, it is very necessary. Let's break down the different sub-steps you should take.

You want to avoid having this conversation with your family member when he or she has used. You want them to be sober and aware of everything you're saying. Otherwise, they may react in extreme anger. Some people even become violent.

Some families have found that choosing to have the conversation first thing in the morning is best. This might be right for you as well.

Begin your conversation by talking about how much you care about your loved one. Tell them that you wouldn't even bother bringing the subject up if you didn't care. You don't want to ignore the situation any further because you're concerned about their well-being.

As you talk, make sure you are firm in what you are saying. However, you don't want to appear angry or unsupportive. Let your loved one know that you are there for them, and that they can depend on you. This is so important.

Even so, being supportive doesn't mean giving into their every request. This is where being firm comes in. You can be firm and still act and speak with love.

This is sometimes very hard for families to understand, but the addiction is not your loved one's fault. Yes, they had a choice to start using when they first had a drink, or used drugs. However, now that they're addicted, it's something they can't control.

You want to avoid placing blame on your loved one for the addiction. Doing so is only going to cause them to become defensive. This isn't how you want them to feel at all. You want them to blame the addiction for what's happening, and desire to get help.

This is where your research comes into play. Give your loved one all of the information you researched. Talk about the benefits of addiction treatment, and why you think it's a good option for them. Make sure they know what the signs of addiction or alcoholism are. Use real-life examples from your loved one's own life to draw the correlation.

As you're talking, don't become angry. Remember, this is someone you love very much. You don't want anger to be a part of the picture. After all, you're not angry at your family member. You're angry at the addiction.

Once you've given all of the information, ask your loved one to go to substance abuse treatment. After you ask, wait for their response. You may be surprised and hear them agree. If so, this is great news! It means that they had been thinking about it already, most likely.

On the other hand, they may also decline. If they do, that is their choice, but that doesn't mean you give up. There is more you can do to get them help.

Intervention Step 4

Step #4: Considering Your Family Member's Response

Your loved one may respond in a few different ways once you ask them to get help for their addiction. You should be prepared to hear one of any of the following:


If your loved one agrees, be ready to help them make the necessary arrangements. This might mean setting up a free phone assessment to get the process started.


Sometimes addicts aren't willing to make the commitment to go to treatment. They may tell you that they will soon. They may even say things like, "I just need to get through the holidays, and then I will." You should take this as a no, and not as a maybe. It's tempting to hold out hope, but most addicts will always have an excuse. That's just the way addiction works.


Most of the time, this is the answer that families receive. Their family members are just not ready to take the necessary steps to get help. Your loved one may even end up getting angry with you over the topic. If you receive a no, don't worry. You did your part. However, it's not over. There is still more you can do.

What is an Addiction Intervention?

If you have gotten a negative response from your loved one, you may want to consider an addiction intervention. These meetings are often very helpful for both families and their addicted loved ones. Quite often, the end result is that the addict does agree to get treatment.

An addiction intervention is a meeting on the topic of addiction recovery. The meeting will involve several different participants. People in attendance could include:

  • You
  • Your addicted loved one
  • Any other concerned family members
  • Any concerned friends of the addicted individual
  • An interventionist

Many times, addiction interventions are held at locations outside of the addict's home. They may be held in public meeting places, such as hotel conference rooms, or other locations.

The ultimate goal of an addiction intervention is to communicate the need for addiction treatment. This is done by allowing everyone the chance to speak and share their thoughts and feelings.

It's important to note that there will be no "maybe" answers accepted at an intervention. In the end, the answer is either yes, or no. We'll talk about what each of those answers mean for you and your loved one in just a moment.

When you have an intervention, this isn't something you'll need to go through on your own. Interventions are overseen by professionals in the addiction treatment field. These professionals are called interventionists.

Interventionists know the ins and outs of these important meetings. They know how to instruct and coach family members beforehand too. Their goal is for the meeting to end with a very positive result. They are very good at what they do, and the guidance they offer is so valuable for your family.

Before the intervention takes place, you'll be invited to sit down with the interventionist. Actually, this meeting will include all friends and family who plan to be present at the intervention. While you're together, you'll discuss various addiction intervention strategies.

During this initial meeting, your interventionist will ask questions about your addicted loved one. It's important for them to know as many details as possible. They will ask you:

  • What the certain addictive behaviors are that concern you the most
  • What types of substances your loved one is using
  • How long he or she has been using them
  • What changes you've noticed as the addiction has progressed
  • How you feel about the addict's substance abuse problem

Your interventionist will coach you on what to say during the interventionist. You will all be encouraged to write out what you plan to say ahead of time. That way, you'll get to say everything you want to say.

Also, your interventionist will talk with you about setting boundaries and limits. You may be asked to give an ultimatum, such as, "If you don't agree to get help, you have to move out." This is hard for many families to do, but it is incredibly effective.

It can be tricky to get your addicted family member to the intervention, but it can be done. Your interventionist will give you ideas on what you can say to your loved one. You may need to tell them that there is a different event happening that they wouldn't want to miss.

Don't be too concerned about telling this little white lie. Yes, your loved one might be angry with you for not being honest. However, in the end, it's in his or her own best interests. No matter what you need to tell them, they just need to be there.

Preparing for the Addiction Intervention

Once you have your instructions from the interventionist, you'll be ready to prepare for the intervention. If you have already had a conversation with your loved one, you've done a lot of the work. Still, you'll want to write down, word for word, exactly what you want to say. This will help to ensure that you don't forget anything.

As you write down your intervention letter, remember to appeal to your family member's emotions. People's emotional responses are often what get them to act.

That is exactly what you want your loved one to do; react in a positive manner. Be honest in what you say to your loved one as you write your speech. Your interventionist will coach you on exactly what to say, but again, be blunt. Don't sugar coat anything. If what you say makes you cry, it's OK. Don't worry about it.

You might want to read your intervention letter out loud before you read it to your family member. That way you can make adjustments and include anything you might have forgotten.

You may find it helpful to see a sample intervention letter. You'll notice that this one is filled with heart-wrenching truths and honesty. It's important to be blunt about how you feel and what you expect to change.

On the day of the intervention, you will play a certain role. Your role might be to bring your family member to the meeting. Or, it might be to meet them there. Either way, remain calm, and don't give away what's about to happen. Your interventionist will have helped you come up with a reason for the meeting.

Make sure you arrive at the time that your interventionist set the meeting for. If he or she wants you to be early, arrive early. It may be necessary to talk about what's about to happen before it actually happens.

Above all, stay calm and focused. Don't forget to bring your copy of your intervention letter with you. Everything will be OK, and you want to try to be optimistic about a good outcome.

As soon as your loved one knows what's happening, they're going to have a reaction. They may be angry about the meeting, and may storm out of it. If that occurs, the interventionist will know what to do. Or, it's possible that they could just come in and take a seat with all of you.

If your loved one joins you, be prepared for them to be pretty defensive. They may sit down on a couch or a chair and cross their arms. This is a pose that means they're afraid of being attacked. The interventionist may be able to put them at ease. He or she may be able to assure them that you're not there to attack them or yell. You only want to help.

If all goes according to plan, your family member will be willing to listen to what everyone has to say. Most of the time, people are willing to listen, even if they think they're not going to change.

Once the meeting begins, the interventionist will talk first. He or she will thank everyone for coming, including your loved one. It will be made clear that you're all only there to help, and you'd all appreciate a listening ear. The interventionist will wait until your loved one agrees.

At that point, the person who was asked to go first will read their speech. Your loved one will probably not be given a chance to respond until everyone has talked.

The last person to talk is usually the one with the most moving intervention letter. That is the person your loved one will be most willing to listen to. It might be a very close relative, or a very good friend.

Everyone will have a chance to share with your loved one and ask them to get help. Once everyone talks, your family member will be given a chance to say something. It's up to the interventionist as far as how much he or she allows them to say.

As the intervention is concluded the interventionist will ask your addicted loved one to make a decision. You will have all made arrangements for addiction treatment prior to the meeting. The interventionist will let your family member know this. At that point, the offer will be made to your loved one to get immediate help.

Again, the only answers that will be acceptable are yes or no. Your loved one may try to put off getting help, and if they do, it will be taken as a no. This will be explained to them if this is their response.

Depending on your family member's answer, here is what will occur next:

If your loved one agrees to get help: He or she will be taken immediately to the drug and alcohol rehab. Their luggage may have been prepared for them, or you may be asked to bring it later. It is so important to act immediately in the event of a positive response. Any delay could cause your loved one to change their mind.

If your loved one refuses to get help: You and the other members of your family will have been instructed on boundaries that will be put in place. Life for your loved one will change dramatically. You will need to be prepared to stick to the decisions you've made and the boundaries you've set.

The good news is that many addicts do agree to get treatment. This might be because they finally realize they need to get help. Or, it could be because they're so moved that so many people care about them. Either way, agreeing to go to drug rehab or alcohol rehab is a very good thing.

Your Role While Your Loved One is in Addiction Treatment

If your family member agrees to go to addiction treatment, your role will be important. You should be prepared for them to not be able to have phone calls for a few days. This allows them to get acclimated to the program. After that, you should be able to talk to them quite frequently. Check in as much as you can. Call, and schedule visits. They need to know that you're supporting them.

Also, at some point, you may be asked to participate in family therapy sessions.

These sessions are such a vital part of recovery. During these sessions, you'll meet with your loved one and their therapist. This will give you a chance to work out some of the issues that may be between you.

Addiction can quickly break down a family. Your relationship with your loved one may have been severely tarnished. You have all been through so much. Family sessions will help you to experience healing in your relationship. This will be helpful for you both.

Avoiding Enabling Behaviors After the Intervention if Your Loved One Refuses Addiction Treatment

Unfortunately, sometimes addicts do refuse to get treatment. While it's not quite as common, it does happen. If this is the case for your family member, you need to be prepared for it. This means avoiding any and all enabling behaviors.

Most families don't realize that they are enabling their addicted loved ones.

They think that they're trying to be helpful. What is actually happening is that they are allowing the addiction to continue. In some cases, they may even be encouraging it to continue.

Enabling an addict occurs when you take certain steps to make addiction easier for a family member. You may be enabling your loved one as a way to avoid having an argument with him or her. You may be seeing your family member's suffering and want to help make things easier. Both are forms of enabling.

Other ways you could be enabling your loved one include:

  • Giving your loved one a place to live rent-free
  • Providing food for your family member
  • Offering to watch your loved one's children when they've been using
  • Running errands that your loved one asks you to run
  • Purchasing drugs or alcohol for your family member
  • Offering financial support because your loved one isn't able to work at the moment

Again, you have the best intentions. However, these behaviors are dangerous. They only serve to make it easier for your family member to continue to use. In order to stop the addiction, the enabling also has to stop.

This can be hard to do; especially when you're really acting out of a place of love. However, it is possible. You just have to know how to stick to the limits you set.

Sticking to your new boundaries with an addict can be difficult. However, if you're careful, it can be done. The following are some suggestions to help you make these changes in your relationship.

Start by Having a Discussion on Limits

You may have talked about the new boundaries during the intervention. However, it's easy for your loved one to forget them. They will also probably think that you'll just go back to doing what's easiest, which is giving in.

You will need to show your family member that you mean business. The limits are there for a reason. Be firm when you have this discussion, but make sure they understand.

Enlist the Help of Other Family Members

It's much easier to stick to what you say when you have others to support you. Tell other friends and family of the new boundaries and ask them to be on your side. They will eagerly agree to help you.

This way, if your loved one goes to them to help, they'll give them the same answers. It will go a long way toward making sure it's not easy for your loved one to use drugs or alcohol.

Get Used to Saying No and Standing Your Ground

Just because you have set limits, that doesn't mean those limits won't be tested. They will be, and it will happen repeatedly. Be prepared to stand your ground. Get used to saying no when you need to. Be firm, but loving.

Continually showing your loved one that you are serious about this will go a long way. Eventually, it may give them no other choice but to get help to stop using.

Taking Care of Yourself After the Intervention

Regardless of what the outcome of the intervention was, you need to focus on taking care of yourself. This is probably something that you have let fall by the wayside. Many people do when they're caring for an addicted loved one. If you have, it's understandable.

However, now it's time for you to change that. You can take care of yourself in a number of different ways, such as:
  • Going for regular checkups to be sure you have no medical problems that need addressing
  • Talking with a therapist about the mental anguish associated with caring for an addicted family member
  • Spending time with your friends doing things you like to do
  • Keeping up with your hobbies and any favorite activities you enjoy
  • Taking time to read, go for walks, and do anything else you love to do

Our suggestion is that you do all of the above. If you do, you'll be caring for yourself well, both physically and mentally.

Addiction Intervention Guide

Ways to Offer Support to Your Family Member Going Forward

Of course, you want to offer as much support to your loved one as possible going forward. This is true whether they are in addiction treatment or not.

There are several ways that you can do this. These include:
  • Offering to take them to follow-up appointments.
  • Talking with them about the struggles they're facing in recovery.
  • Spending time with them to provide them with a distraction from using.
  • Refusing to use any drugs or alcohol when you are with them.
  • Helping them get involved in activities they love to do.

You continue to play an important role in your loved one's life. Your support means the world to him or her during this difficult season.

What to Expect After Your Loved One Completes Drug Rehab or Alcohol Rehab

After your loved one completes drug rehab or alcohol rehab, life is going to change. If your loved one lives with you, you may experience these changes firsthand.

One of the most important things you can do is to remove any temptations from your home. This might include any alcohol or any prescription medications. Both of these can be difficult to resist for a recovering addict. This is true even if your loved one suffers from an entirely different addiction.

You should also not expect your loved one to immediately change after drug and alcohol treatment.

It's nice to think that there could have been some magical experience that happened during treatment. Unfortunately, that is not the case for most people. Recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction is difficult. It takes time, and you will need to be understanding of this.

For example, your loved one may develop dry drunk syndrome. This is a condition that can cause him or her to continue to act like an addict without using. Many people go through this, and counseling can help. Even so, if you are supportive, it will be so much easier for you both.

What to do if Your Loved One Relapses

An addiction to drugs or alcohol is a relapsing condition. This means that relapses should be expected. This isn't good news for families who only want to see their loved ones recover. You never want your family member to return to using again. Unfortunately, it happens more often than it doesn't.

There are some signs you can look for that indicates that a relapse might be about to happen. These might include:
  • Hearing your loved one start talking fondly about when they used to use
  • Hearing your family member discuss how much better life was when drinking or using drugs
  • They begin thinking that just using substances one time won't hurt anything
  • They start acting and talking the way they did when they were using
  • They start spending time with people they used to use with
  • They become defensive when anyone brings up their addiction

If you know what to look for, you may be able to help prevent a relapse from occurring. However, if one does occur, you need to be able to know what to do next.

Additional Intervention Questions

If your loved one does end up relapsing, you probably won't need to schedule another intervention. However, if he or she goes back to the full-blown addiction, it might be necessary. It's important to keep that thought in the back of your mind.

What you should definitely do is talk with your loved one's counselor. Hopefully, he or she is still attending follow-up treatment. They need to be made aware of what has happened. They'll be able to give you specific guidance for this situation.

It's hard when someone we love starts on the road to recovery, and then relapses. However, it is to be expected because of the nature of the disease of addiction. Relapses do occur, but they're easier when you know how you should respond.

We have done our best to walk you through so many different scenarios involving your addicted loved one. It is our hope that this helped you tremendously. However, it's possible that you still have some questions that you'd like to have answered. If that's the case, we want to be able to help you with those as well.

Below, you'll see many different questions that families commonly ask. They may help you find the answers you're looking for.

If you've never seen an addiction before, you may not be able to identify it. Your loved one will probably assure you that they're not addicted. Most addicts live their lives in denial. They do this for a number of reasons.

The first reason is that they truly think they're in control of their substance use problem. They don't think that there's anything wrong with what they're doing. They also think they can quit any time they choose to quit. You may know this isn't true, but they believe it, wholeheartedly.

The second reason is that the addict truly just wants to use. He or she may be using to cover up anxiety, depression or another co-occurring disorder. At this point, using substances is seen as the only answer to their problems. They're happy in their addictions, and want to remain in them.

As someone who loves them, you need to know how to identify their addiction. There are a few ways you can do this.

You can start by looking for some of the more common signs of addiction. These can include:

  • Experiencing cravings for drugs or alcohol
  • Needing to use more drugs or alcohol to get the same effects
  • Going through withdrawal symptoms when unable to use
  • Constantly thinking about using drugs or drinking
  • Naming drugs or alcohol as their top priority in their life
  • Losing a job or having work or school problems because of substances

If you have noticed any of the above signs of addiction, your loved one is probably an addict. If you're still not sure, there's something else you can do as well.

You may want to try taking a family member addiction quiz. This quiz is extremely informative, and it will help you determine if your loved one is truly an addict. The results you get will also indicate to you how severe the problem is.

It's possible that your loved one is only abusing drugs or alcohol, and is not addicted. If this is the case, that doesn't mean you should ignore the problem. It is still a problem that needs to be addressed.

Continuing to abuse alcohol or drugs will eventually lead to addiction or alcoholism. This is something you need to be aware of, even if your loved one is not. You should follow the steps at the beginning of this page to talk about the problem.

Instead of drug or alcohol rehab, your loved one would benefit from counseling. It's important to get to the root cause of the problem. Why is it that your family member feels the need to use alcohol or drugs? Once that issue is addressed, the addiction may be able to be avoided.

Sadly, this is a question that so many families have on their hearts. They ask it because they truly don't understand why their loved ones continue to use. These addicts may even voice a desire to stop using. They just don't feel that they can. You may have wondered the same thing.

Your loved one has an addiction, which is also a disease. This is much like cancer, heart disease or diabetes. People with those conditions are unable to just stop having them. They also need treatment in order to recover.

Once you begin thinking of addiction as a disease, understanding it becomes so much easier. If your loved one does want to stop using, the right tools are available to help.

It would be wonderful if there was a cure for addiction. Unfortunately, there is not. Scientists have searched for years, hoping to find a cure. Again, addiction is a disease that is absolutely treatable, but cannot be cured.

Even so, keep in mind that staying in recovery is possible. Many people relapse back into substance abuse, but not all of them do. Your loved one can choose to remain in remission, and be successful at that goal.

How Can I do My Best to Offer Support to My Addicted Family Member?

The best way you can support your addicted family member is to avoid enabling behaviors. It is so easy to fall back into those old patterns of enabling. This is something you must steer clear of at all costs. The moment you begin enabling, you're giving your permission for your loved one to start using again. This is true even if you never verbally say that it's OK for them to use.

Also, continue to assure them that everything you're doing is out of love, even if it hurts. Tell your family member that you're there for them, and follow through on that promise.

How Can We Assist Your Family with Intervention Services or Other Types of Help?

No one understands what you're going through more than us, here at Northpoint Washington. We have worked with so many families. We've seen the devastation that drug addiction and alcoholism cause. We know it's hard, and we want to help you get through it.

We offer intervention services to families just like yours.

Just as the above information states, we'll walk you through every step of the process. It's so hard to get your loved one to see when an addiction is present. This might even be something you've been trying to do for years. With our help, it is possible to get him or her into treatment.

We know that you probably have additional questions you'd like to ask. If you do, we'd love to talk with you about how we can assist you.

Do you have a loved one in need of an addiction intervention? Don't wait any longer. Contact us today to find out what we can do for your addicted loved one and for your family.
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