Are Intervention Services Helpful in Getting Someone to Stop Using Drugs or...

Are Intervention Services Helpful in Getting Someone to Stop Using Drugs or Alcohol?


I have a heavy bias in this regard because at one time, intervention services were used on me to try and convince me to attend rehab, and things ultimately did not work out.  I was not really willing to go and I was not really willing to stop using drugs and alcohol at that time.  But I let myself be convinced to attend treatment and in the end I did agree to check in some where.  Because I was not ready to stop I quickly relapsed and so the whole thing was sort of a big waste of effort, time, and especially money.  But I suppose it was part of my path that was necessary to eventually get me to seek sobriety.  Whatever.

So I have a heavy bias against intervention services but I cannot help but think that they are a waste of money.  The fact is that if you hire someone to help you with this it is generally pretty darn expensive, and I don’t think they bring anything to the table.  What I mean by that is this:

The person that you are trying to get clean and sober is trapped in a cycle.  They are constantly self medicating and they don’t know how to live clean and sober.  The only way that they will break out of this cycle is through a major shift where they completely surrender and decide to give something else a chance to work in their life.  This is the “moment of surrender” and some addicts and alcoholics will go their entire lives without ever reaching this point.

Now an intervention is an attempt to get this person to reach this point of surrender but you have to realize that it cannot really do so in a direct way.  That is the myth that sells the service and that is the hope that people cling to: that the intervention can just magically convince this person to stop using drugs and alcohol and change their life and then everything will be better forever.

The intervention CAN actually influence the person but you have to give it proper credit: it is only one small factor out of many.  It might nudge a person closer to change, it might push them a small bit towards rehab, but it is not the huge game-changer that most people hope that it is.

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For example, say that your son is using heroin and using whatever opiates he can get his hands on.  You organize a major intervention with all of your family and even some of his friends that do not use drugs.  The intervention occurs and catches the kid off guard and maybe he agrees to go to rehab.  He may or may not agree to go but ultimately he will probably leave and use again at some point.  I believe this will almost always be the case in a situation like this because the kid was not ready to stop using on their own.  If he was he would have asked for help and initiated recovery on his own.

But now the kid leaves treatment, he ends up relapsing, and he might even resent the people who organized the intervention.  More excuses to use and self medicate.

What is the alternative?  The best one in my opinion is for the intervention organizers to instead go to Al-anon meetings and learn the basic principles that they teach there.  It is not so much that an intervention is a mistake, it is more that an intervention is an expensive and misplaced attempt to help.  This is not always the case, but I would argue that if you instead go get a strong foundation in Al-anon and organize your own intervention (for free) that you would be further ahead.  I would also argue that the second option (and the free one) is more likely to produce a real change in the addict much faster.

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