The A&E show Intervention ran for 13 successful seasons for a very good reason: this is compelling stuff. Watching tearful families confront their addicted loved ones, seeing the realities of addiction and how it affects individuals and those close to them, this is the content that makes for the best reality television. Especially for any viewers with the good fortune to never have been touched by the demon of addiction, watching lives collapse and loved ones scrambling to pull them back together again is an emotional roller coaster, ending with a warm fuzzy feeling that this person will get better.
Watching real, live interventions is exciting. We wonder how the addict will react. Is she going to cry and submit? Or will she throw a chair through the window and refuse to get help? What we don’t see is what happens after a successful intervention. All we get is the excitement of an intervention and this can be misleading. What is an intervention really, and how does it help the addict? What goes into a good intervention and how can it go wrong? Should you stage one on your own or do you need the help of a professional? And what happens next?
Intervention is Motivation
The main goal of an intervention is to motivate an addict to recognize his problem and to accept help for it. An intervention can be held for someone addicted to drugs or alcohol or for someone with a behavioral addiction, to say shopping or gambling. Denial is a common trait in all types of addicts. An addict does not want to admit to having a problem for a variety of reasons: the stigma and shame of being an addict, the inevitable treatment, and the need to give up the vice. Hearing from loved ones about how the addiction is affecting everyone is a powerfully motivating tool for eliminating denial.
An Intervention is a Process
If you think you can sit your loved one down and have a simple heart-to-heart about her problem drinking and that you’ll hug and cry afterwards as she promises to get help, you’re kidding yourself. An intervention is a well-planned process that involves several people and it may not stick the first time. To stage an intervention with the best chance of success requires a plan, practice, outlined treatment options, and specific consequences for the addict if she refuses help.
Intervention is for the Professionals
To hold an intervention that is not likely to deteriorate into rage, violent outbursts, and a situation that is worse than what you started with, you need the help of a professional. Imagine you were about to be confronted by a group of people and told that you had a problem and needed to change. How would you react? Think of all the possibilities and you may never stage an intervention. Having a professional on hand is crucial for keeping the peace and for ensuring that your addicted loved one will cope in a healthful way with the realities of his situation. You also need to be sure that you have options for your loved one. You can’t just tell him he has a problem and leave it at that. A professional can help you find a treatment program.
Interventions are exciting and fun to watch on television. The drama of addiction is particularly engaging when it isn’t your life. The reality for an addict is not so much fun. If you have been watching a friend or family member struggle with addiction while in complete denial, an intervention could be the motivating tool you need. Most people confronted in this way do end up getting help. Take the step to intervene, but do it right and don’t just get caught up in the excitement of reality TV.