The TV show Intervention aired for 13 seasons before canceled in 2013. In that time, it aired more than 240 interventions, and the show’s producers claimed it had a 71 percent success rate. The show was dramatic TV, but it’s also not how interventions look in real life. The real-life interventions aren’t as slickly packaged and produced, and they’re just as likely to go wrong as to go right. If you want to help a loved one dealing with addiction, intervention is an option. But you have to do it right. Here are some points to keep in mind when you’re thinking about whether or not to plan an intervention.

Be careful

An intervention isn’t something you should plan in a matter of hours, or even in a single day. You can’t see a drunken friend on Friday and plan an intervention for Saturday. You need days, if not weeks, to truly get all the details of the intervention right.

You also need to consult with some professionals. This means people such as professional counselors and doctors who specialize in addiction issues. A professional who participates in the intervention makes it much more likely to be successful in the long run. They’re a neutral party with experience in drug and alcohol abuse.

Experts can also help you avoid certain pitfalls. You want to catch the addicted party a little bit off guard, but that doesn’t mean being confrontational. Getting in there and yelling about how disappointed you are in them is not the right approach. Writing a letter can be more useful. For one thing, it gives you a script to use if you get emotional. Thinking ahead of time about what you want to say is much more effective than winging it.

Be specific 

Specificity is going to help you a lot more than saying vague things such as “You’re drinking a lot,” or “You sure do seem to be taking a bunch of painkillers.” If you noticed specific things about how a person acted the last time they used the substance, then mention that. Say, “You seemed really angry and out of control after you drank all that tequila Friday night.”

Specifics force the user to think about the moment you’re referring to. If they remember it, they may feel ashamed. If they don’t remember it, that may be a sign they’re getting blackout drunk. That level of alcohol consumption is dangerous, and most people will feel unnerved when they realize they’re missing entire hours of their life.

Get evidence

This next option isn’t for everyone, but it can also make things more real if you get photos or videos of someone acting in a bizarre, out-of-control manner when they’re drunk or high. If you see them breaking things and dancing on tables, you probably can’t do anything about it in the moment except make sure they stay safe. But you can get evidence of that to show them later. It might feel odd to use your iPhone photo storage to get documentary evidence of someone’s addiction, but it’s harder for them to deny what’s happening when the proof is right in front of them.

Be prepared for failure

Finally, you have to plan for the possibility that the intervention won’t be successful. Be specific about what will happen if the person who is using doesn’t agree to get help. Saying, “I’ll be upset” is not specific enough, because presumably, you’re already upset. You have to think of things such as cutting off contact or severely limiting it if someone doesn’t get help. That doesn’t mean you don’t love them; it just means you can’t stand to sit and watch while they descend further into the depths of addiction.

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