Alcohol Intervention – How to Help an Alcoholic

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Alcohol intervention - How to help an alcoholic

Intervention Definition

In 2015, 20.8 million Americans over the age of 11 were classified as having a substance use disorder. That’s a staggering number of people facing challenges.

The word intervene means ‘to interrupt’, or ‘come between’. It’s a relevant word for the friends, family or colleagues of people with substance and alcohol use disorders. They need to take drastic measures to interrupt the vicious cycle that a loved one is in.

Within the context of addiction, problematic behaviors, alcoholism and drug use, the word intervention means something unique. It is a planned, formal attempt by one to ten people to convince someone to seek professional help. This meeting usually comes as a surprise to the user.

Peer pressure pushes the addict to acknowledge that they have a problem. This is a necessary first step on the road to recovery.

Intervention for Alcohol Abuse

Alcoholism is a disease. At some point, friends and family of those with drinking problems realize that casual discussions about the problem have no effect. The person takes no action to address alcohol addiction.

This is the time to implement an alcohol intervention. The intervention is the final attempt to steer loved ones in the right direction. In this case, towards treatment centers, alcohol intervention programs and support groups.

When people who care come together and ask a person to change, they can make a powerful case. Loved ones can list specific ways that the addict’s behavior has impacted their lives negatively. These lists act as a wake-up call.

Loved ones can present ultimatums. They lay out everything the abuser stands to lose if they fail to get addiction treatment. The addict can, for example, lose access to money. They can be banned from the family home and from seeing their family.

Interventions should ideally take place before a user reaches rock bottom. They should also occur when the subject is less likely to be under pressure or under the influence of alcohol.

Signs When to Stage an Intervention

  • Binge drinking
  • Frequent alcohol-fuelled blackouts and memory loss
  • Alcohol consumption at unfit places and times
  • Mood swings
  • Poor decision-making and behavior that is out of control
  • Risky sexual behavior, especially as a way to fund a drinking habit
  • Physical health problems including high blood pressure, seizures and nerve damage
  • Mental health problems including anxiety and depression
  • Posing a danger to family members
  • Risking their own safety and the safety of others (for example, through drunk driving)

Do It Yourself vs Hiring a Professional Interventionist

The Mayo Clinic suggests that the intervention team should focus on presenting facts and solutions. An intervention team can consist of anyone who has a close relationship with the person.

They must not, however, have unmanaged substance issues of their own. If there are current issues with someone on the team, that person can have a letter read out in their absence.

The team can include trusted faith or community leaders and co-workers who are well-liked by the user. Children mature enough to deal with a potentially volatile outcome can also take part.

Addicts can react defensively, angrily and with violence. They may refuse to participate. In fact, team members are sometimes afraid to go through with interventions. There’s also the harsh reality of tough love if the intervention fails.

This is where a professional interventionist can make a difference. It’s possible to conduct an intervention without outside assistance. The presence of a trained interventionist increases the chances of a successful intervention.

Advantages of Using a Professional

  • Resources. For example, relevant material or advice related to what health insurance covers, waiting lists and so on.
  • Information about access to counseling for affected family members.
  • Education about preventing enabling. Tips for how to create the right environment for someone to maintain sobriety and avoid relapse.
  • Preparing for objections from the addict.
  • Calmness. The group is guided towards empathy. Training helps participants phrase intervention statements for positive outcomes. Team member language focuses on concern and care, and not on resentment.
  • Knowledge of the pros and cons of various treatment options. Recommendations of the most appropriate addiction centers for the addict. Perhaps there is a budget-friendly clinic with high success rates in a neighbouring state. The expert offers greater awareness.
  • Reinforcement at the intervention itself. Sticking to the plan and keeping things focused.
  • Guidance if the intervention does not go as planned.

Alcohol Intervention Methods

A successful intervention is one in which the individual chooses to make a change. They promise to get treatment and they keep their promise. Treatment is more likely to end badly if the alcohol abuser is pressured to attend programs.

The laws are different depending on the state. It’s usually difficult to force someone to enter treatment unless they commit a crime.

There are many intervention models to convince resistant addicts to take action.

The Johnson Model

In the 1960s, Dr. Vernon Johnson came up with the first Intervention method. In his book “I’ll Quit Tomorrow” (1973), Johnson outlined some of the principles that have underpinned other intervention approaches. For example:

Communicating with an interventionist.

  • Building an intervention team and setting a suitable time and place.
  • Researching.
  • Agreement about the goal of the intervention i.e., brief early interventions, Alcoholics Anonymous, detox, inpatient or outpatient treatment.
  • Arranging treatment so that a successful intervention can be quickly acted upon.
  • Writing letters to the user to be read aloud. These include stressful incidents and intervention consequences specific to the team member.
  • Holding a practice session with the interventionist to ensure a smooth process.
  • Conducting the structured intervention.
  • The alcoholic should accept or reject  treatment options.
  • Following through with consequences if the intervention fails.
  • The Johnson model is one of the more confrontational approaches, but one that has been fairly successful.

Its surprise tactics and firm repercussions if the addict dismisses the intervention (such as alerting authorities) sometimes elicit adverse responses. They can also lead to rifts in relationships which are hard to repair.

Families are sometimes hesitant to adopt this approach because they fear a total breakdown on the part of the addict. If a user may be prone to suicidal ideation or mental illness, an intervention can still take place. However, a professional should be involved to prevent things from going out of hand.

Despite its success, the number of social networks that execute a planned Johnson confrontation is in the minority at close to 30%.

The ARISE Model

This model was developed as an alternative to Johnson’s model. ARISE stands for A Relational Intervention Sequence for Engagement. It is an example of an Invitational method.

With an Invitational approach, intervention does not seem like an ambush to the alcoholic. Instead, they are invited to attend. There is transparency, respect and family trust. This model has a better chance at working when a family is connected.

The hope is that faithfulness to loved ones will prompt users to commit to a program. Research conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) suggests that 75% of alcoholics cite their families as the chief motivation for entering rehab.

ARISE is also linked to family therapy and what’s known as a Family Motivation to Change. In some instances there is a family history of alcoholism. Here, the family with prior experience are a driving force urging a loved one towards recovery.

The family takes the reigns and the interventionist plays a minimal role.

The Love First Model

The Love First model is not too different to the ARISE model. The addict’s support system are committed to respectful engagement. They focus on expressing how much they love the user and how much they want to see their circumstances improve.

Team members list the alcoholic’s former successes and potential future successes. They convey appreciation without condescension. This approach makes the user more likely to listen and act.

Final Note

Interventions are exercises in hope. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol, contact an interventionist as soon as possible. Doing so could be the beginning of a journey back to a healthy, productive life.

References:

http://edition.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/07/10/drug.intervention.jackson/index.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/when-your-adult-child-breaks-your-heart/201408/drug-and-alcohol-interventions-do-they-work

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK424859/

https://www.apa.org/pi/about/publications/caregivers/practice-settings/intervention/johnson-intervention

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/in-depth/intervention/art-20047451