What to Say During an Intervention

If a loved one is abusing drugs or alcohol, it can be extremely difficult to stand by and watch this person destroy their life. No one wants a loved one to be hurt. Unfortunately, this is the position that many family members and friends find themselves in when loved ones are abusing drugs or alcohol. It is natural to feel helpless, frustrated, disappointed and even angry.Excusing a loved one’s behavior or looking the other way only enables the loved one to continue abusing drugs or alcohol. While accepting the truth about a loved one’s addiction can be painful, doing so is essential to staging a successful intervention. Staging an intervention can be stressful and overwhelming. Reaching out to a professional drug counselor or addiction specialist will help you prepare for this intervention and feel confident in the things that you say.

Preparing for an Intervention: Practicing What to Say

Interventions are effective and powerful because they are an opportunity to express love, concern and compassion. Interventions should not be negative or confrontational. Preparing what you are going to say in advance will make it easier to express emotions in a positive and constructive manner.If you are unsure how to express your emotions, try practicing with a close friend, family member, religious/spiritual leader, or an addiction specialist/drug counselor. Write out what you wish to say in advance in a letter to your loved one. You can bring a copy of this letter to the intervention and even read it aloud if you prefer.

The following can be beneficial things to say during an intervention:
    1. Express love and concern. Let your loved one know that this is a safe place, that you are here to help, and that you are not judging them or punishing them. You might say, “I love and care about you, but I am also concerned by the things that are happening in your life.”
    2. Explain how their drug or alcohol use is hurting them and you. Give specific examples of times that drugs or alcohol have negatively affected the two of you. You might say, “You were an hour late picking our children up from school and when you did arrive, you had clearly been drinking, endangering your life and the lives of our children. I know if you were sober that you would never intentionally behave this way, which is why I am worried about you.”
    3. Encourage your loved one to accept responsibility for their behavior and addiction. Some intervention participants may say, “I had no idea my behavior was this bad – thank you for offering to help me because I did not know how to help myself.” Others may continue to deny that they have a problem. Either way, encourage your loved one to take the first step towards sobriety by taking responsibility for the way their alcohol or drug use has affected others. You might say, “When you got drunk at my sister’s wedding and started yelling at me, you embarrassed me and my family and ruined my sister’s special day.” Taking responsibility for smaller problems is the first step towards acknowledging the existence of a bigger problem.
    4. Provide your loved one with treatment options. Tell your loved one that you understand finding a treatment center can be logistically and financially difficult. If possible, present your loved one with different treatment options or offer to help find the right treatment center together. End on a positive note with hope for the future and the things you will do together after treatment. You might say, “I look forward to finally taking our family vacation to Hawaii after you finish treatment.”

    Even if your loved one chooses not to immediately get help following the intervention, do not consider it a failure. Interventions plant the seeds for recovery in your loved one’s mind. Interventions also teach family members and friends about addiction, including how you can better support your loved one without enabling their addictive behaviors.

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