Yes, an intervention is a lot like chess. It’s actually a good way to look at it. There are at least two sides, one playing against the other and, depending on family dynamics, even more sides than that can be at odds at different times.
An intervention is essentially any series of strategically based actions which result in an addict arriving at a well-chosen program, ideally on his own determinism. I include, “well-chosen,” because, without a program that has a good chance of success, an intervention is of little value.
Contrary to what many believe, an intervention is not necessarily a meeting with the addict’s family or loved ones, where he is confronted, given an ultimatum and a packed suitcase, although this is what is often visualized when the term, “intervention” is used. It is not a confrontation. In all the years I have worked in the field and the hundreds of interventions I have orchestrated, never once have I, or directed others, to confront an addict or alcoholic. An intervention is not group therapy. While therapeutic results happen in spades during an intervention, it is not a time to get the addict to admit to or otherwise confess to his addiction or it’s severity. The very condition the addict or alcoholic is in precludes this. The idea that an addict, “has to admit he has a problem” probably came as a misinterpretation of the first of the 12 steps. “We came to admit…” turned into, “He has to admit to us..” and the rest is history. Very counterproductive history to say the least.
Anything short of an addict being willing at the outset could be considered needing to do an intervention. You reading this blog may be the start of your doing one. It might be the first step. Anything that follows, if it results in either the person arriving safely at a program , or – at the very least – in knowing beyond any doubt that you have done anything and everything you possibly can, could be considered the intervention.
An intervention can take hours, days, even a week in some cases. It depends on the challenges that rear their heads and the blowback from the initial offer.. The only thing of any real importance is whether the person arrives at the program with enough willingness to start. That is the hallmark of a well-done intervention, not what the person admits, not unloading on him, not having his bags packed. Those are counterproductive actions. Even an addict in complete denial can succeed just as well as a person who goes in with bells on. Those who have become very stuck and bullheaded are usually quite strong individuals, and once they experience some relief from their afflictions and decide to pursue more relief, they often end up as counselors and even program directors.
The most common reason interventions “fail” is because families give up too soon, not because the addict is impossible to handle – although he may convince you otherwise. Families often believe that if the addict does not go into treatment immediately, the intervention has failed. This is simply not true. Part of any, solid intervention is a willingness of the family to persevere. The ability to persevere is made easier if the family recognizes, not only what they will do but what the addict will do in response and to work along a time line. This is what I am hired to help accomplish because while it sounds easy enough, it never is.
For example, if the family is going to ask the addict to seek help, the addict may pull Mom’s sheets on her drinking, or the brother for his use of “medical” marijuana. Family members often make the mistake of having no plan when these very predictable responses occur, so they falter and end up with a big mess on their hands, left feeling as though the situation is impossible to handle when all they needed to do was to create a plan beforehand, to script out and rehearse responses to potential objections. You’ll never regret taking time to plan, script, and rehearse. And, before you engage with the addict, go over it again and again.
An intervention is not a stand alone, “wake-up call.” You can read more about why in my book, More Than Hope in the chapter titled, The Confession. Suffice to say, addicts and alcoholics are almost always very aware they have a problem, they just don’t go around admitting it or opening up to family members about it. Some do but even then the actual problem is typically ten times worse than anyone really knows.
An intervention is a means to an end. It is essentially a game. The better one plays the greater his chances of success. I’m a good chess player by the way. Contact me anytime for a no strings, no pressure consultation.
“History, despite it’s wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage,
need not be lived again.” ~ Maya Angelou