Alcohol Intervention: 5 Things To Know First
Alcohol interventions are not like those on TV. In real life, Dr. Phil/Drew/Etc and his producers will not be around to generate artificial storylines and keep the dialogue going. When you do an intervention, it’s very important to first plan what to say, when to say it, and what kind of conditions you may lay on the table. Because of the fraught emotions involved and the serious life choices that may be up for discussion, learn these simple intervention tips that can help your alcohol intervention go great—or as well as these things can, anyway.
1. Intervene for the Right Reasons.
Interventions are by their nature emotional events that are often tinged with humiliation, fear, and other intensely unpleasant feelings. It should go without saying that interventions should not be held unless they are coming from a legitimate love and concern for the affected person. Unfortunately, families or friend groups with toxic dynamics don’t always have the best intentions in mind. Trying to make yourself feel better, seeking revenge, or other drama-y motivations have no place here! If your reasons for staging an intervention are based in anything other than love, forget it.
2. Don’t Hold an Intervention with a Drunk Person.
For a variety of reasons, holding an intervention with someone who is inebriated is a bad idea. Try inviting the person to weekend brunch or otherwise showing up during a time when they’re more likely to be sober, like lunch during the week. If they show up to the intervention intoxicated, call it off! Trust us on this.
3. Do plan what you’ll say.
Dr. Phil might make it look easy on TV, but interventions can be surprisingly tricky. Especially once the person in the spotlight starts arguing or becoming defensive—something you should unfortunately expect—the whole thing can fly off the rails quickly. Make sure you have a specific recent incident paired with your observations of behavior patterns. Keep these things as factual and specific as possible: “I feel like you drink too much” is not nearly as effective as “I’ve noticed that for the last year, every time we socialize you always end up so drunk, I have to call you an Uber or drive you home.” Then practice using the words, “I’m saying this because I care about you”, instead of any other accusatory phases. Even if you also feel like screaming or lobbing insults, keep your tone and word choice positive. An intervention is not the time to berate the person with a whole list of everything horrible the person has ever done while drinking; they will feel bad enough as it is. If this seems like too much to ask, go back to rule #1 and reevaluate if you’re really the one who should be conducting the alcohol intervention.
4. Don’t Bring Everyone
More is not always merrier, including during interventions. Put yourself in the shoes of the person who is subject to the intervention and imagine the feeling of being cornered, even if it’s by well-meaning loved ones. Pick the people who are going to participate carefully, with an eye towards fewer people if possible. Also, interventions are an emotionally difficult thing for everyone present—so make sure that the people involved have a genuinely deep connection with the alcoholic. Doing these things will make the meeting go more easily for everyone, while respecting the dignity of the person experiencing the alcohol intervention. Speaking of privacy: everyone should put their phones away, be present, and probably avoid streaming the proceedings on Instagram live.
5. Do Bring a roadmap.
Don’t go to all of the trouble of holding an intervention if you don’t also have options to offer the alcoholic. This could include a list of nearby 30- or 90- day programs, or pledges to help find an appropriate program with the person’s insurance. Remember, if the person agrees to go to detox and rehab, they may also need support discussing the situation with employers, including needing to obtain FMLA paperwork if possible. Finally, part of the roadmap to sobriety also includes boundaries. While you should never use threats during an intervention, saying that you will no longer be able to spend time with the person unless they get help is valid. Once you’ve drawn boundaries, help the person—even if it doesn’t seem like it— by sticking to whatever you’ve said you will (or won’t) do.