Anatomy of an Intervention

by The Discovering Alcoholic on December 23, 2007

I have taken advantage of the lull in business activity during the holiday season to clean up my home office. The combination of a very poor memory and the fact that I do this so rarely make the event more like opening up a time capsule than tidying up a work area.

One of the things that I found filed away through one of my long forgotten systems was a set of handwritten notes that I had put together in preparation for an intervention. It was from about five years ago and the intervention was a success with the adult alcoholic/addict taking advantage of the offered rehab and then continuing in a recovery program.

Even though the preparation helped me accomplish my goals, I was a little skittish reading through the pages. Kind of like reading a love letter from the past, I was afraid I might find myself going “how could I have been so naive!”. All in all though, after reading through the notes I felt they were adequate for the job and gave myself a mental pat on the back.

My first advice to the family that asked me to facilitate the intervention was to tell them to get a professional. At this time, I guess you could say I had done a few low intensity one-on-one interventions and mainly with younger individuals, but nothing in my experience really made me feel prepared to carry out a large scale intervention that involved an extended family and an older adult alcoholic/addict. The family was dead-set on using me though; they were well-landed old school Southerners that would not consider bringing in a stranger on this private issue.

So I did my best, and started off by doing quite a bit of research on the subject that became the basis of these notes. I gathered together those involved and told them what was going to be necessary. They were going to have present a united front, something which up to this point they had never done. I gave them a crash course on addiction and reviewed all the excuses, reservations, and tactics our subject would resort to in an effort to delay the inevitable. We arranged in advance with the insurance company and a treatment center so that everything was prepared, going so far as having her bag already packed. I even had a power of attorney drawn up and arranged to have it notarized on the way to the center.

Through all this process the thing that surprised me the most was that the difficult part wasn’t so much in getting her to go to treatment, but instead it was the emotional outpouring (especially from her mother) that occurred as they talked about the problem… in earnest and most importantly, together. Just doing something about the situation provided a palpable relief to this family that was probably even greater than what occurred with actually getting her into treatment. Looking through the bones of this process, I realized that not only did we perform an intervention in the life of an alcoholic/addict but through their own actions they had accomplished the same results as a family.

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