The definition of intervention is the interposition or interference of one in the affairs of another. In addiction, an intervention is the interference of one, or multiple people, in the addictive behaviors and lifestyle of an addict.
When addiction sends an individual’s life spiraling out of control, the family, friends, co-workers, and associates of the addict suffer along with him or her. Subject to abuse, theft, heartache, financial troubles, loss of relationships, and deteriorating health, all at the hands of their addicted loved one, those around an addict can only take so much before they reach a breaking point. For most associates and friends of an addict, disconnection is much easier than it is for family members such as parents, children, and siblings.
Because addiction is a progressive and fatal disease, unless something is done to change the direction of an addict’s life, the unfortunate result is often death. Although addiction is a horrific disease that has claimed the lives of millions, it can be treated, and this knowledge makes the untimely death of any addict all the more tragic and unnecessary.
Why is Intervention Necessary?
Intervention is the most effective way to get an addict into treatment who has been invariably unwilling to get help. As addiction progresses, an individual becomes more tied to his or her disease, increasing tolerance, dependence, and unmanageability in life. Often, despite wanting to change, many addicts simply cannot see their way out of the cycle of addiction, as it maintains and increases a very powerful hold on all who fall victim to it.
Intervention is necessary for both the addict and his or her family and loved ones for two primary reasons:
- If it is not treated, addiction will take the life of an addict, one way or another.
- Family and other loved ones of the addict suffer greatly at the hands of said user, and cannot sustain the pain and trauma they endure so long as they continue an unhealthy codependency with their addicted loved one.
Despite a single person being addicted, addiction is a family disease. It threatens and hurts all those around the addict in multiple ways, on a regular basis. Even if a loved one has managed to disconnect him or herself from the addict, the pain of the loss of a friend, companion, and family member is haunting and painful.
There are a variety of reasons why an addict may not be willing to enter into addiction treatment, and the justifications he or she may give are limitless. Loved ones may hear excuses like:
- “I can’t leave my girlfriend/boyfriend or wife/husband.”
- “If I go away, I can’t work and make money, then my house will be repossessed, I’ll lose my car, can’t pay bills, etc.”
- “I can’t leave my dog/cat/bird alone.”
- “I don’t need to go to treatment. I’ll stop when I’m ready. I’m just not ready yet.”
- “I wouldn’t have to use if you would just…”
And the excuses go on and on.
This is not the result of an addict being an immoral person or anything less than an honest and respectful human being. This is the addiction talking, and it is important to understand that an addict is not behaving as the person loved ones once knew. He or she is sick, and cannot think rationally, as a result of addiction and the fact that his/her entire life revolves around it.
Understanding that loved ones are dealing with an incapacitated individual in the addict makes the necessity of an intervention more intuitive. Just as a child needs to be guided to do the right things, so does an addict. The difference is that it’s much more complicated and painful with an addict.
Whereas the justifications of an addict as to why he or she is unwilling to enter treatment can be ridiculous, the actual reasons are more logical.
- Addicts are enslaved to their drug of choice, and despite the simplicity, one may see from the outside, an addicted individual is trapped in a cycle of needing his or her drug to feel normal, and feeling like life will end without it.
- Most addicts have attempted to stop using on their own at some point during addiction and have faced the difficult, and with some drugs, life-threatening, effects of withdrawal. An experience this traumatic would instill fear in anyone who knew it was coming again, even if it would be in a medically supervised and safe environment.
- Most people fear change and uncertainty. An addict going into treatment knows he or she is going to be asked to change everything about the people, places, and things with which his/her addiction is associated, and that can be a terrifying thought.
- The overwhelming majority of addicts suffer from some form of trauma or unresolved issue(s) in their lives, which act as a catalyst and contributor to their addiction and addictive behaviors. These problems may have been repressed and out of the conscious mind, or they may be at the forefront in an addict’s daily thought process. Either way, when the idea of confronting these issues comes to mind for a user, this too can be very scary.
Fear is the main inhibitor for any action an individual refuses to take, and this knowledge must be at the center of any addiction intervention.
Models of Addiction Intervention
Intervention on an addict can be a nerve-wracking experience for those close to him or her. Depending on the family dynamics, the addict, and the circumstances surrounding the addiction, there are several different models of intervention that can be employed. Below are five common models:
- The Johnson Model
The most common model of addiction intervention is the Johnson model. Utilized by most interventionists, the Johnson model follows the belief that an addict must “hit rock bottom” before he or she gets help. If an addicted individual has anyone or group of people he or she can rely on for money, resources, a place to live/sleep, transportation, or posting bail at the county jail, he or she will never get better. These people who help the addict are considered to be enablers, and without them, according to this model, the addiction cannot be sustained. The components of the Johnson Model are as follows:
- A team comprised of friends, co-workers, and family members is put together and is led by a professional interventionist.
- The group meets with the interventionist to discuss what they would like to see the addict do about his or her addiction. They also explain how their loved one’s addiction has affected and hurt them, and they are asked to be as accurate as possible.
- The theme of the intervention is heavily reiterated as being of concern and caring, rather than anger and blame.
- Any information or statements made to the addict should be on the subject matter of the addiction, and not the past or other lingering problems.
- All statements should be backed up by evidence or a factual story void of personal perspectives.
- The goal of the intervention is not to punish or gang up on the addict, but rather guide him or her to treatment.
- A minimum of three treatment options are presented to the addict during the intervention.
Typically, the Johnson model intervention is planned in secret and carried out under what are usually false pretenses to lure the addict to the intervention location. This is a confrontational model of intervention, and is often intimidating to the addict, but has proven very effective in many situations.
- Invitation Intervention Model
The invitation model is very similar to the Johnson model but lacks the element of surprise. In the invitational intervention, a workshop is scheduled between the family of the addict and the interventionist; however, the addict is invited to attend with no false pretenses or element of surprise. This workshop is focused on the entire family and focuses on how to make the whole unit stronger and more functional. With full knowledge of what will happen, an addict is given the option of attending or ignoring the invitation. Whether the addict shows up or not, the family members will go ahead with the workshop in efforts to strengthen themselves in the midst of a loved one who continues to be trapped in addiction. The theory behind the invitational model is that when the entire family unit changes, the addict will be forced to change as well.
- Field Intervention Model
The Field Intervention Model is a combination of the Johnson Model and the Invitational Model. This type of intervention involves the same preparatory manner as the two aforementioned models. However, the field model is adaptive, depending on the situation. If an addict has a strong potential to be hostile and/or violent towards the idea of going to treatment, the intervention plans may change to confront the addict without his or her knowledge. However, if it is likely that the addict has had enough of his or her addiction, but just doesn’t know how to ask for help, or cannot see the way out, the intervention will likely take the invitational route to guide the addict into treatment. This model is based on the same principles and dynamics of either the Johnson or Invitation Intervention models, depending on the circumstances surrounding the addict.
- Systemic Intervention Model
This model of intervention varies from the Johnson Model in the sense that it is not confrontational in any way. Systemic interventions involve the loved ones of an addict calling an interventionist. However, instead of holding secret meetings, the interventionist goes straight to the addict to invite him or her to meetings to discuss the situation. From there, several more meetings are planned and executed between the interventionist, family, and addict to discuss the addiction, and the best plan to move forward. In the event that the addict refuses to enter treatment, the family has the option of:
- Continuing to work within this model by attending intervention meetings
- Immediately move into group therapy sessions to learn how to deal with their addicted loved one without the addiction controlling their lives
- Leave the Systemic Model and try a confrontational approach such as the Johnson Model
- Complete the Systemic Intervention Model meetings and learn ways in which to overcome codependency with the addict
This model is intended to help the family and loved ones of the addict just as much as the addict, him or herself. The idea surrounding the systemic model is that no matter what an addict chooses to do, his or her loved ones must be able to get out from under the depression and damage of the addiction.
- Motivational Intervention
Contrary to all other models of intervention, the motivational model focuses on the addict, and does not include the family aspect. The interventionist works directly with the addict, approaching him or her with listening, compassion, and empathy, and tries to build trust in an effort to instill life improvement behaviors and habits. Although this model lacks the confrontation of other models as well as family therapy to heal those close to the addict. While there is still a possibility of denial and resistance from the addict, this model of intervention may be most effective with one who is already close to being ready to enter treatment, but does not have the means or courage to ask for help. This may also be particularly effective in one who is emotionally sensitive, and will likely not respond well to confrontation.
There are many other models and forms of interventions that can be employed with an addict who is resistant to treatment. Families and loved ones of addicts have tried countless methods to get them into treatment. While some have found success with one method, others have experienced complete failure. No one approach will work for every person, and for this reason it is imperative to understand the individual who is suffering from addiction, the nature and severity of the addiction, and the family dynamics that may affect the outcome of an intervention.
Interventions Can Save Lives
No matter what the addiction, or the individual addict, interventions can help to save lives. When addiction traumatizes the lives of addicts and their loved ones, it often seems that there is no place to turn, and happiness can seem to be out of reach. The one most important thing to understand about an addict is that the person he or she is in addiction is not the same person his/her loved ones know. Underneath the addiction, the real person still exists, and is fighting to come back. Addiction robs people of their core and essential being, and has such a hold on their brain, that they cannot get out of it alone. Addicts need help to overcome their addictions, otherwise they could do it themselves. Interventions can bring addicts to the realization that people do care about them, want them to get better, and will do whatever they can to facilitate the path to sobriety and happiness. Addiction can be treated, and countless addicts have found sobriety through addiction treatment that started with an intervention by those who care the most.
If your loved one is suffering from addiction, please call us now to speak with a trained counselor about how we can help you determine the right model of intervention for your addicted loved one, and start the process of getting the addict and all others involved on the path to recovery from this horrible disease. We understand the pain of addiction, and no one needs to suffer for a moment longer. Let us help you get the help you and your addicted loved one need. Call us now.
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