Alcohol Intervention

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Here are a number of useful alcohol intervention tips if you are attempting to convince someone to get help for their problem.

There are basically two types of interventions–formal and informal–and we are only concerned with the formal type here. Informal interventions are basically just conversations–short, unplanned confrontations with the alcoholic to try to get them to stop drinking or using. If you are considering a formal intervention, then you have already tried and exhausted a series of informal interventions at this point.

This is not something that should be rushed into, as there is a chance that the net outcome of an intervention could actually make matters worse. Therefore, we will start by examining the question:

Should we do an Alcohol Intervention?

A formal intervention should not be the first reaction from a concerned family. A series of informal interventions–simple confrontational conversations–should have been tried up to this point. The formal intervention should only be considered when other efforts have failed, or when the person’s life seems to be spinning hopelessly out of control. The addict in question should have suffered a number of different consequences from their addiction already, yet remain stuck in denial. This is an appropriate candidate for a formal intervention. If someone is simply suspected of addiction or alcoholism, but hasn’t suffered any real consequences or demonstrated their addictive capacities, then that is a poor candidate for an alcoholic intervention.

This is going to boil down to a personal choice, or a gut level feeling with the people who are closest with the alcoholic or addict in question. Chances are good that family relations are already strained because of this persons addiction, so understand that any attempt at a formal intervention could ultimately fail and result in even more tension and resentment than before. Things could get worse, not better. The intervention is a calculated risk. We are going to make every effort possible to maintain the peace during the intervention, but the risk of resentment is still there. Therefore, the decision to organize and perform a formal intervention should not be taken lightly. If you are not willing to risk further agitation with someone, you might be better off trying more informal conversations with them first. You can always encourage various friends or family members to do so without organizing a formal intervention. It is only when all of that has failed, over and over again, and the addiction continues to get worse and worse, that a formal intervention should be organized.

Do we need professional help for the intervention?

There are professional intervention services and agencies that you can hire to help you with this process. They often have an individual–usually a counselor in recovery themselves–who can come and help conduct the intervention with you. This intervention specialist also helps by speaking to everyone who will be at the intervention, and instructs them on how best to communicate with the addict/alcoholic in order to convince them to comply. If you can afford such professional services, then this might be a good option for you. Keep in mind that those services are not cheap, and the outcome is far from guaranteed. A formal intervention is a step towards recovery, but having a paid professional does not ensure success. The determining factor is going to be the addict’s ability to break through their denial, and their willingness to try to change. Professional interventionists don’t have any magic tricks up their sleeve–all they can do is teach you how to communicate with the addict in a loving and supportive way. The remainder of this article is meant to serve as a substitute for those professional services, and hopefully you can use the information here to organize an effective alcohol intervention by yourself.

Planning the intervention

Drug Intervention
Photo by madmonk

Do not feel overwhelmed at the idea of planning an intervention. You are going to reach out to someone and try to make a difference in a loving and supportive way. As long as you are genuinely concerned, the following principles and ideas should be sufficient to guide you.

Basically, you are going to get organized and do some thinking about what the best approach will be. You are going to decide on a handful of close people to have at the intervention, and we are going to decide how they should best approach the situation. You are then going to set a time and a place to do the intervention and provide some brief coaching to the participants beforehand. Then you will do the intervention and hope for the best. You are going to try to reach out in a loving and caring way. The idea is not to force a change, because that is impossible. Forcing someone to do anything will only push them away from you. This is the best we can do….to intervene in hopes for a change.

Who to Involve

At one point in time, popular opinion held that you should get anyone and everyone associated with the person involved in the intervention. This would have included any friends, family, coworkers, classmates, and so on. More recent studies are showing greater success with a more limited selection of people–maybe about six to ten individuals. Obviously, the people selected to be at the event should be close to the alcoholic, and they should be able to describe how that person’s drinking or drug use has affected them. Don’t involve kids. If the person has drinking or using buddies, those are going to be poor choices as well. Many times the alcoholic will be in a relationship with someone who is also addicted–again, this makes a poor choice, even though they might be really close with their partner.

Here is another idea, but this one must be handled extremely carefully: Get the employer involved, if there is one. This can be very effective if it is done properly, but there can be a lot of problems with it. You don’t want to go to their employer and get them fired before you even get a chance to do the intervention. But most employers will be understanding and helpful if you approach them properly, and ask for their cooperation in sending the person to treatment. Ask their boss if they would be willing to give them leave to go get help, and guarantee their job when they come back. If the alcoholic has any sort of personal relationship with their boss, you may even want to have the boss present at the intervention–this can be extremely effective.

When and Where to do it

Drug Intervention
Photo by *clarity*

A successful alcoholic intervention requires proper balance. On the one hand, you want to be loving and supportive and reach out and offer help without antagonizing or threatening the alcoholic. On the other hand, a bit of leverage can be useful in convincing the person to agree to treatment. When and where you do the intervention can play a big part in determining the outcome.

Think about your history with this individual and their pattern of drug or alcohol use to determine if there are any obvious opportunities for interventions. If they are a binge drinker, you might be able to stage the intervention so that it follows a day or two after the binge ends, before they have a chance to start again, and also when they are most able to listen to your arguments. Obviously, staging an intervention when someone has been using or drinking is not going to be very effective. You have to plan it out so that the person is relatively sober and at least somewhat receptive to what you’re saying. For some people, this might be after a night spent in jail for a drunk driving offense, or perhaps after losing their job or some other catastrophic event occurs. Doing the intervention after one of these events will take some patience, but it might make it that much more effective. You can still organize the intervention and alert the people involved to be ready for when you think the time is right. Timing can be everything. It’s all about when you think the person might be most receptive to listening and making the change.

Where you do the intervention might be equally important. There is potential to do something sneaky here and put the alcoholic in a corner–manipulating them into a situation where they are forced to listen to you. This is probably not a good idea. If the person feels threatened and manipulated, they are likely to shut down and things will just get worse. Try to find some neutral ground–a setting that is comfortable for everyone without being too threatening to the alcoholic.

Remember that it is very scary for an alcoholic to walk into an intervention. If the situation is too overwhelming for them, they will just shut down and refuse to cooperate. You are seeking a balance here. The idea is to be loving and supportive and yet still try to elicit compliance. If you are too overbearing or try to manipulate them too much, things will turn out badly and the intervention may actually be counterproductive.

If you choose to involve the employer, here is another idea that has shown some success recently: have the employer tip them off a few days in advance. Have the boss say something like “I need to meet with you on Friday after work for a quick meeting. It’s about your…..drug problem. Don’t worry, you’re not being fired. I just need to talk some things over with.” This way, the person is expecting a confrontation and won’t feel completely ambushed. This has been shown to have better results than catching the person completely off guard with the usual “surprise” intervention.

Specifying the Goal of the alcohol intervention

Those who organize interventions recommend that you come up with a goal ahead of time. You need to have a very specific and realistic goal for the intervention or it is likely to fail. It is not enough to get everyone together and simply express concern for someone’s drinking or drug problem. Having a specific goal is important. “We want you to stop drinking or using drugs” is not a realistic goal. While this is ultimately the desired outcome, it is not specific enough to be actionable. You need to have a very specific action that you want the person to take. The most popular example of this is to have them agree to go to a treatment center. Ideally, admission to an inpatient treatment center should be the goal of most interventions, because the controlled environment guarantees at least some period of sobriety, which then gives the person a fighting chance at staying clean and working a program of recovery. Anything other than inpatient treatment as an intervention goal runs the obvious risk that the person will simply continue using drugs or alcohol.

Unfortunately, most drug and alcohol treatment centers do not take clients on a walk-in basis. Part of your planning process will be to locate a treatment center and contact them well in advance of the intervention (at least two weeks prior). If you can set the person up for admission at a later date, then the intervention can be scheduled around that, so they can go directly to treatment if they agree to do so. This is the most ideal situation and best possible outcome for an alcohol intervention: for the person to agree to go directly to inpatient treatment, and having the ability to do so immediately.

Remember to emphasize that the goal is for the person to get help….the emphasis should not be on abstinence. Telling someone that they have to stop using drugs and alcohol forever is likely to just shut them down, and they will likely be more defensive. Get them to agree to treatment, where the emphasis will eventually be on abstinence anyway. Don’t put them off by overwhelming them with what sounds like a death sentence to a using drug addict or alcoholic.

Overcoming Objections

Drug Intervention
Photo by barto

The overall strategy that should guide the intervention is a loving and caring concern for the person involved. However, you are attempting to coerce this person into doing something that is going to be a bit scary for most people. To agree to suddenly stop using their drug of choice and enter a treatment facility is a really big deal for most addicts and alcoholics. They are going to have objections, and you need to know how to handle these objections. The best way to do that is to anticipate those objections and figure out a suitable answer in advance. For example, you might anticipate that the person will say that they cannot possibly go to inpatient treatment because they would miss to much work. You could either work something out in advance with the employer, or you could point out that the person isn’t going to be able to keep the job much longer anyway due to their drug use. For every potential objection they might have, you need to either work something out for it in advance, or have a reasonable and logical argument prepared to deal with it.

Setting Boundaries and Consequences

An intervention is a formal opportunity for communication to occur. One of the goals of the intervention should be for you and the others involved in the intervention to set some boundaries. These boundaries should include what behavior is unacceptable to them. For example, you might say “It is completely unacceptable that you continue to drink and drive on a regular basis.” This can then be followed up with the consequences that you will enforce if the behavior continues. “If you continue to drink and drive, I will call the police when I see it, and I will not bail you out of jail if you get arrested.” Or, you might say “I can no longer accept that you are using drugs more and more frequently these days….if you refuse to go to treatment, then you’ll be kicked out of the house.” The consequences you set should be specific and enforceable. Do not set consequences that you do not intend to follow through with.

To recap: If you are serious about planning an intervention, then here is what you need to do:

1. Decide whether or not to do the intervention
2. See if you want professional help and whether or not you can afford it
3. Decide who to have at the intervention and where to do it at
4. Specify the goal of the intervention and schedule at a treatment center if possible
5. Anticipate objections and rehearse overcoming them
6. Define your boundaries of acceptable behavior and determine consequences if they don’t comply

The final preparation will be a coaching session with all of the people who will be involved with the intervention. This will help everyone to be on the same page, and also to know a little bit more about what to expect during the intervention.

If you found this information helpful, then please share it with others..


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  • Intervention

    It is always important to come from a loving and caring place when you perform an Intervention. You want the addict to know that they are loved and you don’t want them to die and this is their chance to change their life.


  • Crystal Dalryple

    Thank you for much for this information. I am planning my brothers intervention now. I was desperate and your web site has give me focus on how to help. Hopefully you have helped me save his life.

  • Patrick

    Good luck with your intervention attempt, Crystal. I hope everything works out for the best. God bless you and good luck.

  • Ilona

    I am so glad I found this website. I need to help my daughter. She doesn’t live close, this makes it even harder.
    Thank you for the Information.

  • Patrick

    Hi there Ilona

    Good luck to you and your daughter. Be sure to take things slow and don’t expect a miracle right away. Sometimes you have to plant a seed that won’t produce immediate results, but it is still worth planting! Good luck to you and God bless.

  • Petina

    Thank you for the great advice ; i need to get help for my sister and didn”t know on how to go about it. Thanks to people like you’ my family and i know exactly where to start and what to do.
    Regards Tina

  • Jackie

    If my sister does not get help with her addiction she is going to die. I fear for her and her children everyday. Her husband is also an addict and so is most of our family. Her husband is extremely abusive, and I fear she is not going to live whether by drugs or by the hands of her husband. I live 2000 miles from her. What do I do to save her?

  • Patrick

    Hi there Jackie

    That sounds like a bad situation that your sister is in. Being 2000 miles away certainly doesn’t make things any easier. Even if you were there you might not be able to force a change, so perhaps the best you can do is to be supportive and encourage her to seek treatment. Unfortunately, there are no magic words….sometimes the best we can do is to pray for them (and sometimes that is enough)….

  • Kay Marshock

    Are there any free treatment programs for a 28 yr old addicted to opiates? We live in rural TN. Thank you.

  • Patrick

    The age shouldn’t matter unless the person is under 18, then it is a whole different ballgame I believe (as far as treatment goes).

    I’m not sure how it works in TN Kay, but here in Michigan there is usually a way for an addict to get help. People tend to pay for residential and detox treatment either with insurance, Medicaid, or by a grant through the State of Michigan. I’m not sure if TN has such grants or not available to people. Probably over half of the business at a typical treatment center here in Michigan might be through these types of grants. Unfortunately, I really don’t know much about these grants (such as who would qualify for them), but I know that many many addicts rely on them to get help. Hopefully you have some sort of similar funding in TN.

    Your best bet is probably to call a few treatment centers in your area (you might have to travel a ways) and start asking questions. Good luck to you and your family.

  • Andrea

    My sister-in-law is living in a tent in Minnesota at age 50. She has a history of addiction to meth and other drugs. But after 10 years is still in denial that she even uses drugs. My husband and I want to help. She has burned bridges with eveyone else in the family. Including her own sons.
    (she is my husbands sister) I will call treatment places tomorrow. I hope we can do something. Is it ever to late?

  • Adeline MacBeth

    I just left my partner and now-ex-fiance because he cannot stop using pills, particularly opiates, and mostly Oxycontin. When they aren’t available, he turns to whatever else he can get his hands on. He recognizes he has a problem, and has made many proclamations of change and leading a conscious life…yet, the desire is always too strong. I’ve left because there doesn’t seem to be anything else I can do. I am afraid that he hasn’t got any sort of fighting chance unless he gets into a inpatient program, but without insurance or extra income – it’s virtually impossible. I live in California, home to endless rehab/detox centers, but can find NOTHING affordable, sliding scale, or even with a manageable finance option. Does anyone have any suggestions??

  • Patrick

    Hi there Adeline, thanks for your comment. I’m not sure how things work in California, this will vary by state, but in Michigan, most people in his situation can get funded through the state of Michigan (via a grant) for about 10 to 14 days in an inpatient setting. So you might call some treatment centers and/or helplines and see if they have any state funded options available.

    Some doctors are also helpful in guiding patients through opiate withdrawal, though I have no specific experience with this. Might be worth making some phone calls over, though. Good luck to you Adeline and I hope your ex can find the path….

  • brittany pilato

    thanks so much now i think i know what im going to do…i really want to help out my dad i just really hope that this is going to help and he just isnt going to hate me after..but i have some of my family to help me so im going to try…i just really dont want to see my daddy die i want him to be able to live and see the day i get married and have kids..i dont want him to miss it for the world…well i hope this helps me save my daddys life…
    thanks alot….

  • Patrick

    Good luck to you Brittany, hope everything works out for the best for both you and your father.

  • Laurie

    Thank you for the info on how to find treatment withoutinsurance or available funds. My son is 20 and has been out of control since the age of 15. At that time I tried court ordered treatment centers which of course when he came home did good for a awhile and at 17 moved out. And has moved from friends to friends to live. I let him move back in last year with hopes that we would be able to provide the setting in which he would see what he is missing with family and leading a sober life. It was like reintroducing a stray He is addicted to crack, marijuana,and who knows what else. After several failed attempts of going to NA mtgs and making him leave..this last attempt of letting him back in has failed once again. I thought things were going well, and I came home yesteray to find him drunk, and irratic. During this time he was crying and saying how he keeps messing up and there are voice in his head and that his is crazy. I found that he has taken money – $40 that I was holding for him as well as a bottle of vicodin that I had for a recent dental surgery. He’s still sleeping and I don’t know how to approach this so it doesn’t set off a fuse.. as I have a 2 yr old here with me, my 18 year old son just left for college and my husband is on the road for business. I’m hoping you see this right away as I really need help! Thank you!

  • Lia

    Hi, I’m not sure if you check this. I live pretty far from my family at the moment – i’m away in college. My neighbor called me tonight to tell me that the situation with my brother is much worse than I’d thought (he’s still pretty good at hiding his problems.)
    I don’t think (after reading this) that his situation warrants a formal intervention yet. He has a prestigious job and he is doing well- actually, he just got a promotion. However, he drinks a lot (but only at night and probably 5 nights a week?) He doesn’t always get totally blacked-out drunk but he does so on a regular basis. He also uses a lot of cocaine. I’m not sure how much but I would guess at least almost every day. I feel, however, that the situation is dire because he has a lot of health problems. He has a bad liver and has been told by his doctors that he can have “a glass of wine occasionally.” – like when out to dinner with clients every once in a while. In addition, he has numerous heart problems. He is on medication that is for people 50 years older than him (hes only 28) and it is still not working. His blood pressure is unbelievably high. My friend told me he shakes all the time and that he cant sit down, barely sleeps at all, and she can’t think of any negative force in his life, that he is always the one looking to go out, get drunk, etc.
    I’m so afraid that he is going to drop dead of some complications because he is being so self-destructive. I don’t know what to do. My sister and i spoke tonight and we thought that the two of them might come see me. The two of us could try talking to him. I don’t want to make him feel trapped though. But, in the past when either of us have tried (or any friends) to confront him, he gets mad or denies any problem, he lies about his medications or about his state of health and he walks away. The thing is, I think he is scared about his health because he does break occasionally and tell me what his doctors say… Really confused. If you have any advice I’d be so grateful.

  • Kara

    I just recently found out that my parents have been using cocaine…my brother first told me about it, that he found some in my mom’s purse. I didn’t believe him at first, but I began paying attention to my mother’s behavior…she say’s that she can no longer smell things, she is always sniffing and itching her nose, he always says she is getting a sinus infection, the other night she came home and had this enormous amount of energy, she stay’s up all night. My mom is the worst, but I believe that my dad does it when he is out drinking. They also have no money, they both have good jobs, yet they have bill collectors calling everyday and they have no good excuse for where all there money is going. The signs are all there, but I have no hard evidence that they are using all I have is hear-say. I’ve never confronted them about this because I’m not sure how to go about it. Do you have any advise for me? What should I do?

  • Alcoholic Intervention

    Great tips and it is natural that the person will be defensive. I think love and concern need to truly come through to help someone with any problem. Showing someone what they’ve lost in life can be helpful too and if they see it’s their own actions that caused things there is less likelihood to blame others or circumstances. Compassion is an important tool to have the wisdom to guide someone.

  • Mary Ann Whiteman

    I read your article & agree that I’m not
    covinced that intervention is the route
    to take. Is this discussion to talk
    about intervention or other options
    as well? If so, this is a basic article
    discribing the procedure involved.

  • Looking for help in CT.

    My family and I are planning an intervention for a cousin that I’m very close to. This website helped alot. She is addicted to Xanax/Alcohol and we think she is an escort because she doesn’t work and always has alot of $$$. This is gonna be difficult because it’s not only the drugs/alcohol it’s the whole lifestyle she’s leading..I’m scared that she will go deeper into this if we don’t do it correctly. Do u have any helpful hints. It would be appreciated..Thank you

  • Patrick

    Hi there CT

    Actually my knowledge of interventions has kind of stagnated since I wrote this article, although I have continued to learn more about addiction and recovery in other areas.

    I tend to lean more towards not intervening as much these days, and more towards informal interventions. But I still think there is a time and place where the situation calls for a formal intervention….I just think it is less frequently then what most people expect. Good luck to you at any rate, that is a very dangerous combination of drugs and alcohol you are dealing with there…..definitely push for a medical detox.

  • JD

    My family has an extremely difficult situation and I am seeking advice. We are at the cross roads with my mom. There has been several serious consequences and subsequent actions due to her alcoholism. Any type of intervention doesn’t have any effect, and extreme things have happened. This addiction has been very real for as long as I lived. Me and my sibling had to go through the DSS process back in the day because of this; my father had to move cause of this; the police have been called numerous times in the past because of this; she has fallen down the stairs because of this, and luckily didn’t do any serious damage; we have had to carry her limp body to the car because she couldn’t move; we have seen her so bad many times to the extent that we stress out whether or not she is going to live; more recently in August, we found her incapacitated on the living room floor, we had to call the ambulance, they had to pump her stomache and admitted her in the hostpital for 4 days. She got set up with a psycho/therapist after her release and we thought that there was finally a light at the end of the tunnel, but she is still drinking. Its random and sporadic. She sees the psycho/therapist once a week, but the habbit always comes back, and for some new reason it seems. The doctor has prescribed meds for her anxiety, but now this is just something new for us to worry about. I still live with her and she is on a 3 day binge right now. We are scared and at our wits end! Its so bad that she has no comprehension of the lit ciggarette in her hand. She gets so violent and completely involent, that it is impossible to deal with. She will stay up until 7AM hollering for no reason, making us all feel bad about personal situations. She is seriously in danger and dangering all those who live with her. We love her very much, and there is a very apparant psychological issue here, as she has no recollection of anything she says or does when she eventually wakes up sober. The person she is when she is not drinking is the most loveable, caring, senstive, amazing person and mom you could ever know, which makes it all the more difficult to deal with cause its like there is another person that lives within her. She knows she has a problem, but any intervention has not had any lasting effect. Even the ambulance, the doctors, the sometiems long sober intermissions aren’t gaining any positive traction. I just got a call from my sibling. She called my work line to tell me that my mom is a mess right now. I don’t know what to do, and sadly, my hope is diminshing. Please help! Any suggestions

  • Patrick

    Hi there JD

    There is hope for your mom. I have hope for her. The reason that I have hope is because I see people like this who come into the treatment center all the time, who are hooked on both booze and anxiety medications.

    This is a particularly dangerous combination of drugs and my main message to you as such is this: convince her to seek a medical detox. It would be far safer for her to continue drinking then it would be for her to stop everything cold turkey without medical supervision. Coming off booze is dangerous, but coming off booze + anxiety medication is much, much more serious (based on what I have seen at the detox center over the past 4 years).

    So that is point number one: get her to a medical facility if she is going to stop or at least dry out. Get her to rehab. Get her to treatment.

    Point number two is how to convince her to do this. There is no magic bullet of course, as you are well aware of by now. I wish I had some profound wisdom for you here but I have said it all before on this website in various articles and that is really the extent of my knowledge. Sometimes the best you can do is to offer her support and let her know that you will take her to treatment when she is ready to make a change.

    Treatment works and I don’t see someone like her making a change without treatment. Therefore I think the best you can do is to push the idea bit and let her know that you will take her when she is ready.

    Good luck to you and your mother, JD…

  • Kerstin Custer

    I have an alcoholic brother who is turning for the worse recently, I have tried many informal conversations with him and other family members… but he continues this path… I am truly scared and worried to do a formal intervention with him because he is a bit aggressive and can easily over react. Today a few of my family members will come over to my house and discuss options to express our concern for my brother. I am just wondering if a formal intervention is the way to go… I have expressed different ways in which he could seek help, he’s tried one program but it wasn’t for alcohol and drug abuse… my brother recognizes he uses alcohol and drugs a lot and knows it isn’t good, but still hasn’t sought help or made a change in his life… I’m just wondering if perhaps a formal intervention is the way to go…?

  • Patrick

    Hi there Kerstin

    I am actually leaning toward “no” in this case but I would hate to mislead you… what you might do is to hit an Al-Anon meeting and share your dilemma with them, see what their advice is. They can get down to the details with you and give you an expert opinion from a whole group of people…..good luck.

  • cw

    I have a very close friend that was clean fro 1 1/2 years. She lost her first child to her in-laws due to drugs. She got pregnant again and did drugs until she was 7 months pregnant. She went to rehab and got clean and this lasted 18 months. She started back this past fall and has gotten clean a couple of times but goes right back within a week. I have had several informal interventions with her and have offered several suggestions because she says she wants to stay clean. Her parents recently took away her toddler due to her drug problem to be sure the toddler is taken care of. She swears she wants to clean up and get her baby back. She has many people that wants to help her and she knows this. Do you suggest that we have a formal intervention or what?

  • Patrick

    To be honest, CW, I have my doubts about the usefulness of a formal intervention in that kind of situation.

    Think about what an intervention really is: it is a wake up call to show a person that everyone still cares about them and wants to see them get help.

    In my opinion, losing custody of your children is a much, much bigger wake up call than a formal intervention.

    Seriously, if that has not deterred this person from addiction, what makes you think getting everyone together and confronting her is going to make any difference? I really don’t have any suggestions at this point because it sounds to me like you have tried everything that you can. The problem is on her end. You have extended your hand to help her and she has refused it over and over again. What can you do?

    Good luck to her at any rate and I’m sorry I could not be more helpful. It is a tough situation though….

  • ranee

    no insurance and spouse laid off after working all his life because of the economy with a wife who is an alcoholic and also a 32 year old daughter we need help

  • Patrick

    Hi Ranee

    Get to a support group of some sort. I recommend Al-Anon. You can get more specific advice and guidance there.

    Best of luck…

  • jeanette

    I’m planning an intervention for my alcoholic brother. I’ve been looking for websites that explain step by step of what to do. I’m so glad I found this website. I know how to do it now and I hopefully will save my brother’s life. Thanks

  • Sue

    I am almost embarressed to write this. I have been sober for 18 years through AA. My son grew up going to open meetings with me and conferences. Of course, I knew he would probably drink. I was not under the illusion that if he learned about drinking that would stop him.
    My problem is, we have talked about his drinking. I dont preach to him but my family does not know about his consequences. As I type this he is sitting in his apartment, with staples across his head and 2 black eyes from a bar fight. The police said, the men tried to kill him. He is 24 years old and has had more consequences through drinking than I ever did.
    I have a big family and they would help in any way I asked. They love my son. He just never wanted anyone to know of his consequences. I am planning an intervention with him and some of my family members. Just hope I am doing the right thing and he does not get a resentment to where he never wants to be around them because he feels guilty.
    Thanks for putting this website together. Your comment about alanon “smacked me in the face”. I have never been to an alanon meeting. It was suggested a year ago that I attend but being stubborn, I thought it did not apply to me. After reading the comments section, I know I am in the same boat. Thanks again.

  • Patrick

    Good luck with that Sue. Hopefully he comes around to a decision….

  • jeffg

    I have a brother addicted to oxy codon pain killers. About 4 months ago he overdosed and had to be revived. My family and I thought this would be a wake up call and he would finally end his addiction but when I went home for thanksgiving I found a prescription bottle with plenty of evidence that he is injecting the drugs through his veins. My parents are divorced and as of today he has been kicked out of both of their houses for stealing money and not being trustworthy. I live 3 hours away from home so I cannot physically do anything but I am very concerned for my brothers, and also my parents well being. What can I do for my brother and also my parents? thank you

  • Joshua


    I’m a Certified Drug and Alcohol Interventionist with a near 100% success rate helping individuals into treatment on the same day of an intervention. I’d be happy to talk you through some steps to help your parents and brother now. Email me if you like or call me direct 561-706-9939.


  • kb

    I have a question, don’t know if anyone can help. I live far away from my brother. After visiting at Christmas I told him I can not spend time with him any more as long as he continues to drink. His wife is an alcoholic whose employer has sent her to rehab and yet she continues to drink. So she’s no help. Now he says he wants a “truce.” Am I supposed to say I will NOT communicate with you unless you either try to get help or try to quit drinking? And why is Antabuse so frowned on, when it seems like a foolproof way to keep someone from drinking?? I’m at my wit’s end and I fear for his two kids.

  • EA

    my 18 year old sister is a severe alcoholic. i know she uses drugs, but i am not sure of what kind and how often. she is living with her boyfriend who has been to many different rehabs across the country and either gets kicked out or just leaves the program. he was addicted to intravenous heroin and alcohol. and is exceedingly wealthy and pays for all the drugs and alcohol, he is an ultimate enabler. he tells her that i am a liar and that i am trying to control her life by trying to help her, and that i am really not trying to help her at all. they hang out with two guys that the boyfriend met in rehab who have relapsed. my sister just got out of jail for putting a ciggarette out on her boyfriends neck and for punching him repeatedly in the face resulting in a black eye. someone that was in the house called the cops on them, and the boyfriend wouldnt press charges. i tried to pick her up from the jail and the boyfriend lied to me about what time she was getting out so i couldnt. i was going to try to have an “informal intervention” with her. i am at a loss. she was completely un phased by this experience, and is always un phased by the catastrophes that come from her addiction. i just recently found out that she was date raped by an acquaintance who house she was couch surfing at awhile ago, and my mother says that she fears that, that wasnt the first time she was date raped. she is showing signs of jaundice and is sick alot of the time. she can not control herself. this time it was a cigarette but maybe next time it will be a knife, and i am terrified and feel nausea and overwhelmed from trying to help her. she has been stealing money from me and i just dont know what to do! i have been searching online for hours trying to think of something.
    she is also the most avoident person there is. please any advice will greatly help!

  • Patrick

    Well EA that is not a good situation. I am afraid there might not be a whole heck of a lot you can do at this point.

    Sometimes you just have to be ready to help them when they say they are ready. Sometimes you have to give them the space to feel some pain. Natural consequences teach us eventually. It just sucks because I know it is a risk to watch someone self destruct like this.

    Good luck.

  • Anonymous

    My question is once you decide to do an intervention, and you organize the people involved, you let them know the structure of the meeting and where it will take place, How do you state why we are all here? What should the introduction be? For ex we are all here because we love and care about you…… What should you say next to start it off?

  • Patrick

    @ Anonymous – you have to dive in and get honest…..”We love you and we care about you and we want to see you get help. You are self destructing and we can’t stand to let it keep happening.” etc.

    At some point you have to just come out with it and not beat around the bush, I think. They have to face it for what it really is. No need to sugarcoat it, really…..

  • Anonymous

    Thank you that makes alot of sense if you have any extra info that could help me please email me!!!

  • dona stockyj

    Hello, we have a cousin with health issues trying to deal with her duaghters addiction/alcohol, she is 35, no insurance needs a facility for free treatment..she is willing to go as an outpt..i gave my concerns to all involved..she has pulled all the manipulative stunts there is…she needs in pt, but they feel that she needs to work …how does one keep a position, but doing what the Lord has inspired me to do..keep a list of options in case she rings again …we’ve set limits calling when sober…and boundries…but they’ve all been i feel personally my involvement is to be loving and keep encouraging this young woman to get treatment…now i’m on my knees…its gonna take a lot to be strong parents of this young woman, give her the tools and let her learn to work a program and treatment…i have dealt w this on all avenues…father, relatives, husband(who i’m proud to say has been clean for 19 yrs, has not gotten the help i feel would be beneficial to continue this current life style..)its always possible of any stage of the game…prayers and going to Kensington of Troy Mi..are of great help..but its always a challenge…thank u djms

  • maha

    hi my name is maha hamade,im 21 years old…i met a great guy called karim,he is a telented and smart and sweet,he is addicted to drugs and heroen,and here in lebanon are not having a good people that help such people i met him in my piano lesson,and i didnt say any thing bas it appeared that he is a drug adicte,i started searching for help even before i told hi that i know,he have a lot of bad things in his life,and im soo tierd trying to save this guy,i talked to him today and told him a lot of things,but i didnt blam him,and i told him that am here to help and support him,but the problem is that detoxification and helping this kind of people is too expensive and me am not a rich person but my heart and my mind want to help him so bad..i swear that ill sell a part of my body to help him,please help me to help this guy case helping him is helping 10000000 people please i need some one to help me case am dying..thnx
    with all my respect maha

  • maha

    ana this guy want help he is bagging for one,but no one is helping him,his girlfriend passed away from overdosage 3 years ago,and that helped hi to stop but he returned to forget her,he is in a big mess,and his family are careless,no one in this life want to help him waht shall i do to save him?

  • mother of 36yr old son

    Josh,I hope your still out there.. read your letter to Jeffg, can u help me.. will wait for a response here before i call u! i have been at my wits end..My only son an he is addicted to Oxycontin an Crack, to make a long story short..we, stepfater an I an his 2sisters, have helped in anyway,we can.. he had been living with us for over a an out.. we’ve been tricked an lied to through the year an he has been using ever since. he had a wife an has a 5yr old son, not living with them, but he is still allowed to visit his family..we all have been helping him, keeping him in cash, clothes, bike,(which he has pawned bike & tv) too.. well in the begginin the first year, he wanted the help an took all the help he could, the ride, an the inconvince, was never an issue,. we all wanted to help him an each other. well he left again like many times before. but always coming back cus he wanted to change, stop using. get clean an sober.. well everytime he left i made sure he always had a paid cell phone.. he has been in DACO outpatient as well..he has all the help he needs an he has abused us all.. so now his sister’s somewhat closed there doors.. we will never give him a dime again, which he had manage to take an take more an more each time.. he is good at con-ing us (is what i call it)i feel he does not want the help.. everytime i let him back he has new rules to follow..well he has been gone over 2weeks now, asking to come back, cell bill is due now (as we speak, an i told him) yes! but no more cell, no more buses, no more nothing, what else can i do, or should do! I have paid out more an more money to him some of it not knowin he was buyin drugs, (see i thought he was getting well) 1 example he got a check in his name for #1245.00.. he cash it, gave his wife 300. an the rest in his arm or in his nose, or both.. an it only took a couple of days, an he was broke again, an that story i have not told his dad,.. I dont want to say No to him, i want an can help him, even thou it is taking a toll on me, i work 2 jobs, second job 18hrs a week an 1st job 40hrs aweek. been doing this for 2years, i cant seem to be able to quit cuz he keeps me from paying my debt’s down. I go to a support group & (an church) now since the last 6mos. I read all of the above notes, and it sounds like every1 is in the same boat as i..but i dont seam to be getting the answer’s i need, or someone tellin me what to do..I dont know what to do anymore.. I might go ahead an pay his phone bill, only cus i think he needs that to keep in touch with us.. he is a very loving, kind person, an loves us all..but he has a problem, after (an maybe he never was) clean, sobber, whatever, he goes rigth back to using again, first intercation is when he fine’s a friend we dont get to meet, an he see’s all the time just to hang out.. he is up 2 no good.. anyway, he did not like my new rules, call’s it jail, dont know if i want to come back an live like i am in dont know what to do with my son, like all my kids, i love them all equally ..only 1 service we did not try was the methadome service, or take to wein u off opiods. Right now i let go! let god!, an work my steps, an read read read.. tried of reading, what else can i do????

  • Rebecca Savage

    Thanks for the information. I am planning an intervention for my 20 year old sister for alcohol and I am desperate but so afraid that she will feel completely betrayed and it will ruin our relationship. She trusts me and I do not see it going well. But at least now I have a little more knowledge.

  • Ginny

    This is a very useful article. My children are planning an intervention with their father this friday. My daughter found this article. I am so scared. After 37 years of marriage, I feel my life in 2011 will spiral out of control. My family is changing rapidly. I know I have to set boundries not only with my husbands alcoholism but with my children to, if I am ever going to survive. My husband has been a severe working alcoholic for over 9 years now. 365 days a year and wasted every night. He however manages to go to people do not think it is a problem… he doesn’t start to drink until he comes home. He however is losing track of where he is at times and doesn’t remember what happened most times. His mother and grandmother both had dementia in their early 60’s. My husband will be 60 this year. I am so afraid not only for my husband but for me. I am not happy the way my life has turned out. I try to change but always quit because of no support or just plain fright. I do not want to start over again but it looks like I might have to. Thank you for listening and giving advice. Pray for us.

  • Winifred Okolo

    I have a friend who is a full blow addict, his life is a mess and he doesn not want to get better.If he does not change he could go back to jail or die.He avoids me now because he knows I do not approve of his drug friends who are users and want to get what they want out of him.I do love him and care about him, but I cannot kill myself running him down. He of course lies all the time, and says that he is my friend and that I am his only real friend, then I realize he is not capable of being a “real” friend when he is under the influence.

    A few years ago I had to cut off another boyfriend because of this behavior. I have friends that say I am beautiful and I deserve so much better than him.He does not treat me very well anyways. I just moved to a new city and I have to focus on my recovery and my life too. He takes total advantage of me and he mistreats me. Even his own friend treats me better than him. I now have to cut him out of my life for now.

  • Tracy

    If you dont cut him out of your life you will have no friends… After awhile youll only have memories of being beautiful…
    One day you will look up and realize all that truly matters is lost!

  • Sally

    My boyfriend of 2 years is chronic binge drinker type of alcoholic. He used to use meth for several years and had to replace all of his teeth. He hasn’t used meth the whole time we have been dating to my knowledge. When you look at him, you can see he has had a rough go but he is a beautiful man and has the biggest heart. He went to treatment one time 20 years ago but it didn’t curtail his drinking. He said he wouldn’t drink anymore around me and hasn’t but sneaks it. He is able to go a couple weeks without drinking then starts sneaking. He can become very aggressive when he drinks too much and is verbally abusive. This aggressiveness has gotten better since he is not also on drugs…I notice a huge difference. He knows he needs to try and quit but this feeling doesn’t last long and he has never said he won’t drink anymore but really has made a conscious effort to do it on his own and even went on medication 2 different times but only stays on it for a month or two then quits.

    His family and I are considering doing an intervention but he is very reaction prone unless he is in remorse stage (after a night of binging is always the best time to talk to him…I can say anything and he listens, apologizes etc) We all feel very used. He has no job, no place to live and recently lost his car. God help us he is 50 stuck in a teenager mentality. It is excruciatingly painful to watch.

    We LOVE him SO MUCH. He is like the brother in The Fighter…funny and warm, but then completely addicted on the flip side.

    Any advice regarding intervention would be much appreciated. Thank you and sending strength to all those suffering from addiction and to those whose lives they touch.

  • Patrick

    @ Sally – I think you nailed it yourself…the key is in the timing. Wait until he is primed and ready to be in the “remorse stage” and then have a basic plan in place to confront him and convince him to go to treatment.

    I do not believe you necessarily need expert intervention services. My belief is that you just need to call up local rehabs, get organized yourself, and have a bed lined up and waiting for him if he decides to go.

    Good luck.

  • betty

    i have been through hell with my son for years. recently had to drive several states away to pick him up after he was removed from his fathers home then lived in homeless shelter til his time ran out then stayed in an unheated storage shed during a bitter winter. when he called after being involved in a violent beating, he agreed to go to rehab if i would come get him. the trouble is he is on a long waiting list and as each day passes he becomes less keen on the idea. the intervention plan seems like a good idea and i like the idea of consequences. i hope we will both survive the weeks before a bed becomes available. at least i have a plan when that day arrives.

  • Patrick

    @ Betty – Yeah it is super frustrating that most rehabs do not take people on a walk-in basis, and they are usually by appointment only. Most of them schedule people a week or two in advance. This is not really conducive to getting people to go when they are on the brink of a decision.

    One way around that is to pay cash for rehab. Generally most treatment centers will take you on a walk in basis if you pay cash up front. Not a viable option for most of us but I thought I would throw it out there anyway…

    Good luck.

  • mary balcerzak

    I am seeking professional intervention for a serious alcoholic and the family has tried everything, we need help asap. how do we get this, and where do we get this, and how soon can we arrange this, the person is high risk for harming herself, and in danger, please help asap., thank you from family and friends.

  • http://google Mapula Masha

    I just realise that my brother is uses drugs and that his situation is getting worse. Be advise how can we help him.

    He has a stable job and I am scared he is going to loose everything including his son.
    I am really scared………

  • Patrick

    Well Mapula, you gotta confront him if you want to see anything change. But be advised that he might not be ready to hear it yet.

    A good intervention is really about timing.

    I wish you luck….

  • Persephone

    Make sure that you put everything on the table. 12 step programs (and the majority of treatment centers ARE 12 step based) are really not for everyone. In dire circumstances, this can seem of little importance, but one of the worst experiences can be being told that one must go to a 12 step based program–or lose their families. There are other options, and these should be made known as well.

    (I do NOT work for any entities in addiction treatment, I have no conflict of interest here, just so no one thinks I’m not a mole. I do have the right to voice my concerns, however, and this is something people tend to ignore when talking about sending family members to al or nar anon, so thanks for the opportunity!)

  • http://AlcholPrevention Betty Coulter

    how do you get someone to help themselves… sister is a violent drunk, many times…..thrown items..fights with everyone…….it’s at the point, when she gets drunk/forgets where the pills and whiskey are she goes after my MOM…..which is NOT, tolerated…….where do I go to get her help and/or commit herself…..should I advise her work she is a danger, she works at a HOSPITAL not sure with the sever Alcholism issue she has…..she can go ALL day no drinks…..I am scared someone is going to get hurt and I want to prevent it…ASAP.

  • Patrick

    @ Betty – Well if you are in certain states then you could possibly look into the committing process. Not available everywhere though.

    Other than this there is no formal way of forcing anyone into treatment.

  • Dave

    Check with the clerk at your local courthouse. In Massachusetts, there is a law that allows a spouse or blood relative to commit somebody for up to 30 days in a detox facility againts their will. You will need to fill out some forms and go before a judge to petition the court for an arrest warrant. There is no charge for it. The police will pick up the person and take them to court for a hearing. I did it for my brother 3 years ago.
    In Massachusetts, I believe it’s chapter 123 section 35 of the penial code.

  • Kate Elise

    I have never, ever, written to anything like this and I don’t even know if this will help but I’m at my last straw and I see it as my last option.
    My boyfriend of 2 years is a binge drinker and drinks to take drugs..
    He has a panic disorder and anxiety which makes him think that he can’t be on drugs without being drunk.
    When he is not drinking he is the sweetest, most beautiful person ever to have stepped foot on this earth!
    But as soon as he mixes the 2 (being drugs and alcohol) he becomes this demon! Abusive, nasty, horrible person that cares for no one except himself.
    He has hurt me and the people that love him in more ways than one yet still denies he has a problem.
    According to him, alcoholics are people that need to drink everyday..
    Whereas, he doe’s not.
    Wednesday’s used to be his ‘drinking day’ but he got caught drink driving and is now doing the Traffic Offenders Program Wednesday nights so he is unable to drink that night.
    He has now changed his ‘drinking day’ to Thursday’s which ruins our whole weekend if we have something planned.
    He doe’s not see that he is doing anything wrong when he drinks, he thinks that everyone is against him and that we’re all just out to ‘spoil his fun’!
    His parents feel helpless as they had to kick him out when he was younger because of it.
    I think an intervention is the only thing left to do if he doesn’t agree to go to counselling, (which I’m pretty certain he won’t) but I’m afraid that if I DO go ahead with it, after everyone leaves it will be MY fault and he will take it out on me!!
    Any suggestions?

  • Patrick

    @ Katie – anyone who has a designated “drinking day” already has an OBVIOUS problem.

    Tell your boyfriend that NORMAL people do not have to regulate their drinking to a single day….they can drink any darn day of the week, without having consequences or getting into trouble.

    If he does not have a problem controlling his intake, suggest that he drink every single day. Why not? Any normal drinker could do this without creating chaos in their life. Obviously, if he has to regulate his drinking to a single day each week, then he is basically practicing “damage control” on his own disease. He knows that he cannot function if he drinks every single day so he has to make rules for himself in order to function. NORMAL DRINKERS do not have to make rules about drinking in order to function well. They can take or leave it, the alcohol does not spin them out of control.

    He needs help, and I would say that you should start setting some healthy boundaries yourself. Forget about how sweet he is when he is sober, tell him that you are going to take action and that you are not willing to live through a lifetime of his addiction. An intervention does not have to be an ultimatum, but maybe it should be in your case. Are you willing to stay with him for the next 5 years if he continues to drink and drug? If not, then tell him that, during the intervention.

    Don’t make hollow threats. Figure out what you are willing to cope with, for yourself, and then spell it out for him. Ultimately it may come down to “either he gets help or you walk away from the relationship.” But you really have to figure out for yourself if that is the path you want to take. Because it is very likely that you would be walking away. Not a winning situation, I know. No easy answers.

    But, he may never stop drinking if you continue to stay with him through all the rough times. Walk away, and he just might wake up and try to change his life. You never know. So YOUR job is to figure out what you can live with.

    Don’t hold out infinite hope for his recovery. At some point, force the issue, before it drives YOU crazy.

  • Lisa

    We are planning an intervention for my 22 year old son. He is an alocoholic. I’ve offered to send him to treatment but he refuses. He has been arrested for underage drinking and selling drugs. He has a felony conviction. I think the only reason he’s not doing drugs now is because he is still on probation. He drives drunk, although we try to limit the availability of our vehicles. He has been getting prgressively more aggressive each time he is drunk. It’s getting scary. I never thought my own child would steal from me or that I would be afraid he would try to harm me. I keep kicking him out but then he says he’ll quit drinking so I let him back in. This intervention is my last resort. He has a 2 year old daughter. I’m worried she’s going to grow up without a father or become an alcoholic herself.

  • Joyce

    I have been trying to help my niece with her alcoholism for quit some time now and from what I have read on this site we did it all wrong bit when she call me crying saying she wanted me to help her and to pick her up I couldn’t resist the chance on finding her and bringing her home we haven’t seen or heard from her in years and I finally got a phone number from her so called mother that thru her out in the street and took her two babies away from her because of the choises she made so when I found her I was extactic but we took her to her dads which is out in the boonies as she put it which she has not seen him in several years more then me but she got really sick to where she was taken to the ER and was given am anti-depresent and in two days thirty pills were gone and she drank a half of bottle of nyquil I was so mad at her but didn’t show I asked her why and she said all she wanted to do was sleep so she didn’t have to feel the tremors my brother could not take seeing his baby like this any more so on the way back where she was living I was trying to talk to her and I did get her to laugh a little but I tried to talk her into going to the hospital and check herself in and see if they could help her find some kind of counseling or something to help her with this but she said NO!! she just wanted to go home that we overwhelmed her with all this and that she wasn’t ready, I don’t know ever since then my daughter has been there every day at her apt and took her to social services to help her get some ins and food stamps now we fins out she is pregnant 10 weeks OMG this makes number 6 (kid) she is 31 or 32 she don’t need anymore I can’t afford an intervention person but she really needs one badly please please our family is the only one that cares but don’t know what to do anymore we have exhausted our self and money on her we are living pay check to paycheck and me I am not working I live 60 miles away from her that’s why my daughter has been trying to help her but she has a 7 year old her self and works part time and goes to school she is so upset at her self because she feels like a failure and I keep telling my daughter you have done everything you possibly could don’t think like that we are a very caring family and we can’t just let this go can you help us please!!!!! ????

    Thank you for listening

  • Heather

    My dad is a thriving alcoholic…or shall I say functional for the most part that recognizes the addiction but does not want to seek formal in patient or out patient treatment. Reading through the intervention process I am still really torn on what to do. His biggest consequence up to today is his marriage to my mom – after 40 years together she divorced him and he has convinced himself they ‘just didn’t have enough common interests anymore’ so it was for the best. He owns three successful businesses, is in a new relationship, and tends to drink alone when my family and children are not around. He drives drunk, but hasn’t been pulled over … Has been leaving work early and found at home obliterated ….several times before he has come to see me, he has clearly had drinks and is just sobering up. He calls me a couple evenings a week and is slurring or can’t hold a conversation, then doesn’t remember our conversations the next day. I don’t know what to do – my children want their grandpa back and are willing to participate in the intervention….but I know my dad doesn’t want treatment and is worried about who will run the business’ while he is in treatment. Advice?

  • Evie

    My son is 20years old and in college. He is doing alright but he is so bright he could be doing much better. This boy is beautiful and bright but has been smoking pot since he was 15 and now he is smoking pot and doing opiates. He has had several traffic tickets and has been in 3 accidents in 1 year. They were not bad accidents-where anyone was hurt, but he is still not focused. My husband (his parents) and I finally took the car away after this last accident and he is without a car for the first time since he was 16. He is open to getting help and I am working on that now but the actual treatment is too expensive and there are counselors on our insurance. Do you think I need to take out of school and bring him home?

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