When someone’s life is spiraling out of control because of alcohol or drug use and their family has tried everything to persuade them to get help, an intervention is typically the last resort. Most people are familiar with the basic idea of an intervention.
A small group of family and close friends meet their loved one in a neutral space and take turns explaining why their substance use has gotten out of control and they need to accept help.
The intervention letter plays a central role in this process. There are primarily three reasons participants read prewritten letters instead of just improvising a list of familiar complaints. First, the intervention needs to be focused and everyone needs to have a chance to speak.
That means you can’t have people going off on long tangents about their loved one’s substance use. Second, on the other end of the spectrum, the stakes in this situation are high and it’s a kind of public speaking exercise and you don’t want to find your mind suddenly going blank when it’s your turn to speak.
Third, an intervention is an emotionally charged situation and it’s important to stay as calm and on-topic as possible. Reading from a letter helps keep you from getting distracted or drawn into arguments that could undermine the intervention.
It’s important to note that an intervention should only be conducted with the help of an experienced intervention specialist. This is someone who can help coordinate all aspects of the intervention, including the planning, rehearsal, treatment preparations, and the intervention itself.
Most people will only be involved in one intervention and the guidance of an experienced interventionist is invaluable. Keeping all of these things in mind, here is how you write a powerful intervention letter.
Open With a Statement of Love and Support
Always remember that the whole point of an intervention is to convince your loved one to get help. It’s not to unload on them or feel righteous or vindicated. Whatever has happened in the recent past, you should be writing from a place of compassion.
Start by telling your loved one what they mean to you and consider including specific examples, such as a positive experience you shared or a time they helped you out. When people decide to get help, it’s often because of their family, so start with that connection.
Emphasize That Addiction Is a Disease That Needs Treatment
Addiction is complicated but we now know that most of the factors that lead to addiction are completely out of our control. These include factors like genes, trauma, early childhood environment, and mental health issues.
Emphasizing that you know your loved one’s addiction doesn’t mean they’re a bad person or that they lack decency or willpower, but rather they have a condition that needs to be treated.
Cite Specific Times When Alcohol and Drug Use Was a Problem
This is the part of the intervention most people are familiar with—the part where family and friends try to drive home just how destructive their loved one’s addiction has been. This is the point where people go hard with their emotional appeal.
However, it’s typically more effective to let the facts speak for themselves. Choose a few incidents that show how bad your loved one’s substance use problem has gotten and describes them as specifically as possible.
Stick to incidents you’ve experienced first-hand. This gives you more credibility and leaves plenty of material for the rest of the intervention team. So, for example, you might say something like, “Last Tuesday, you were drunk and angry and you smashed a chair against the wall.
Then, the next morning, you asked me what had happened to the chair. I was terrified and your son was terrified.” When you stick to facts, there is less room to argue about interpretations. Throughout the intervention, the evidence gradually accumulates and becomes impossible to ignore.
Ask the Person to Accept Help
After you’ve described a few relevant incidents, reiterate that you believe addiction is a disease and that your loved one needs help to overcome it. Ask them to accept the opportunity that is being offered. Emphasize that they don’t have to be unhappy and that life can get better.
State the Consequences of Not Accepting Help
At this point, you may want to add any consequences your loved one will face if they don’t accept help. This is only done in a few cases. You should get guidance from your interventionist on whether your letter should include an ultimatum.
If you do include an ultimatum, it’s crucial that you are prepared to follow through. If you’re a parent threatening to kick your child out of the house, you have to do it if they don’t get help.
If you’re threatening to take the kids and leave, you have to be serious. If you make a threat and don’t follow through, your loved one will see there are no consequences for their actions and keep doing whatever they want.
Get Feedback From the Group and the Intervention Specialist
Although you will probably write the first draft on your own, you should get feedback from others, especially the intervention specialist. Take this feedback seriously. There may be things you really want to express but the intervention may not be the right time.
Keep the goal in mind: You want to convince your loved one to get help. This is a team effort and the whole thing has to work together. If something gets cut from the letter, you can always discuss it later.
Interventions led by skilled specialists are very often successful at getting people into treatment but there’s no time to waste. You have to be ready to send your loved one directly to treatment before they can change their mind.
At Hired Power, we provide intervention services as well as transportation services to make sure your loved one gets from the intervention to the treatment facility. We also provide transitional and recovery services for clients leaving treatment. To learn more about our services, call us today at 800.910.9299.