Is an alcoholism intervention right for your situation? Read the pros and cons of staging an intervention and apply them to your unique situation to decide
An alcoholism intervention is essentially a meeting where one party (e.g., loved ones, coworkers) points out the destructive behavior of someone who needs help due to alcohol abuse. Ideally, the end goal is to get the alcoholic to stop drinking, but is arranging an intervention for an alcoholic loved one a good idea? There’s no concrete black and white answer to this question. Like all humans, no two alcoholics are the same, so each individual circumstance is going to be different.
Things to consider before you decide on an intervention
Before staging an intervention, make sure you’ve exhausted all other possible solutions. For example, have you tried having a heart to heart chat with your alcoholic loved one about how their behavior is impacting you? This might be a good place to begin, and it could also be a good idea to try setting a few ground rules along with potential consequences. For instance, perhaps you’re married to an alcoholic and their drinking is beginning to impact things like your finances, the well-being of your children, your own personal sanity, and the list goes on. If you’ve asked your spouse repeatedly to stop drinking with no success, the consequence might be that you plan to leave the marriage or take a time-out if they continue to drink.
If, however, communicating and setting clear boundaries is ineffective, then it might be time to stage an intervention. If you do choose to go the intervention route, make sure that you’re working with a professional interventionist. Interventionists will not only provide guidance along the way while you’re organizing the intervention, but they can be present and help you prepare for any potential pitfalls. Keep in mind that a traditional intervention doesn’t include the alcoholic in the early stages. He or she should have no prior knowledge of the intervention. This will help you to avoid confrontation in advance, and it will also help to ensure that the alcoholic attends the intervention. Finally, you should be prepared for numerous possible outcomes, and know that interventions don’t always work.
With all of that out of the way, here are some pros and cons of staging an intervention for an alcoholic loved one whose drinking is heavily impacting the lives of those around them. Let’s start with the cons:
CONS of staging an intervention for an alcoholic loved one:
It could potentially anger the alcoholic
This might be obvious to most, but some people aren’t prepared in advance for the alcoholic to get angry at their own intervention. Just know that this can happen, and it happens often. The alcoholic is being confronted with something that he or she doesn’t want to look at––namely, their alcoholism. Furthermore, they’re being put on the spot in front of loved ones and people they care about. These people are typically family members and very close peers.
It could lead to violent outbursts
If the alcoholic is prone to fits of rage, that anger just mentioned could turn violent. Hopefully, this doesn’t occur, but if it does, your interventionist should be prepared to handle this while helping to calm the alcoholic down. Rarely does an intervention lead to actual violence, but this is just one more reason why it’s so important to have a professional interventionist present.
It could destroy the trust between you and your alcoholic loved one
This can and does happen. Keep in mind that you and the others involved in the intervention are, in fact, going behind someone’s back that you care about. The alcoholic may become angry and lose their trust in you for a very long time. This is a tricky one to swallow because you know that you’re coming from a place of love, but the only thing the alcoholic might recognize is the betrayal. Having said that, if you feel like the alcoholic’s life is at risk, their feelings toward you could be a moot point for the time being. You can always work to rebuild the trust later.
Finally, an intervention might not work
Once again, no two alcoholics are the same. Interventions work for some and they don’t work for others. If it doesn’t work, you’re not a failure. You’ve done your best and you never know how the alcoholic might have internalized what he or she experienced at the intervention. They may return to you later for help. Just make sure you’re going into it with an open mind, and know that they don’t always end positively.
On the flip side, interventions can and do often end well. Below are the potential pros of staging an intervention.
PROS of staging an intervention for an alcoholic loved one:
It allows the alcoholic to understand how their behavior affects everyone around them
Oftentimes, alcoholics are completely unaware of how their actions impact their loved ones. Most people who struggle with alcoholism are in denial. Interventions can help shine a light on how damaging their drinking is, and it often enables them to finally recognize that there’s a real problem that needs to be addressed.
It gives alcoholics the opportunity to share their needs and feelings
Knowing what’s truly going on in the mind of an alcoholic loved one can be useful information for family members and others who are close. This isn’t to say that anyone else is causing the alcoholic to drink and no one should ever blame themselves for a loved one’s drinking. Alcoholism exists independently of outside influences, but giving the alcoholic a platform to share their feelings can enable others to sympathize. This can help to further the communication down the track.
It gives loved ones the opportunity to share their own feelings
This can be healing for everyone involved. Not only does it allow the alcoholic to recognize how deep of an impact their drinking is having on those they care about, but it allows loved ones to get their feelings out in the open. Healthy communication can be the very first step toward growth and healing for everyone, including the alcoholic. It’s an opportunity to start setting healthy boundaries and to avoid letting feelings stay bottled up for too long, as this can often lead to codependent and/or passive-aggressive behavior.
Finally, interventions can potentially lead to the alcoholic entering into recovery
This could either be through an inpatient or outpatient recovery program (rehab), 12-step recovery, or similar. The bottom line is that the outcome of interventions is often positive, thus leading to the alcoholic getting sober and hopefully staying sober over the long term.
While interventions don’t always work, many happen to be quite successful. If you succeed in convincing an alcoholic loved one that they should enter into recovery, remote alcohol monitoring is a great way to incorporate some accountability into their program. Products like BACtrack View are easy to use and they allow alcoholics in recovery to share photo-verified records of their sobriety with those they care about in real-time. It’s a great way for them to stay on track, keep family members in the loop, and it’s also an encouraging tool for the alcoholic to have on hand.