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Intervention Letters: The First Step
Are you taking part in an intervention for a loved one struggling with addiction? If so, your efforts should be commended. It takes courage and bravery to face someone whose addictive behaviors have caused you great pain or concern.
The moments leading up to an intervention are full of uncertainty. It’s hard to know how your loved one will react, and coming up with the right words to say is difficult when emotions run high.
In order to keep things on track and ensure everyone’s message is heard, many intervention specialists recommend writing a letter to read aloud at the intervention. Intervention letters are a powerful tool in helping people suffering from addiction realize how their actions affect the ones they care about the most. An intervention letter can also act as a script, preventing you from becoming overwhelmed or freezing up when trying to speak.
Intervention Letter Writing 101
There’s no single, right way to craft an intervention letter, but it’s good to have some direction in mind before you begin writing. When brainstorming, try to place yourself in your loved one’s shoes. While their behaviors may have frustrated and saddened you, it’s important to remember that they’re hurting, too. With that said, it’s absolutely okay to express your feelings – both positive and negative – as long as they’re written in a non-confrontational way.
Try sharing your letter with others involved in the intervention. A second set of eyes might be able to identify words or statements that come across as angry or accusatory.
There are four steps you can take to write the most effective intervention letter possible. To make sure your loving message is loud and clear, begin by expressing how much your loved one means to you. Afterward, discuss a time when their drug or alcohol use impacted you in a negative way. After assuring your loved one that their addiction isn’t their fault, reiterate your concern and love before urging them to get the help they need.
The following examples are excerpts from a real intervention letter featured in the bestselling book Love First: A Family’s Guide to Intervention.
Begin with a statement of compassion.
Recall your relationship with your loved one and the times they’ve been there for you.
Dad . . . I know you love me very much, and you are very proud of me. I wouldn’t be where I am, or have what I have, if it weren’t for you. You taught me that I need to learn how to take care of myself before I rely on anyone else to do it for me. You encouraged me and supported me in my career aspirations. This gave me the confidence I needed to accept job positions that took me throughout the Midwest on my own . . .
Starting your letter off on a positive note helps to dispel your loved one’s defenses. That way, they’ll be more likely to listen to what you have to say.
Outline a specific example of their substance abuse and how it affected you.
It’s important for your loved one to know how their actions make you feel.
Dad, your alcoholism has been a part of our lives for a very long time. We didn’t get here overnight. It is running your life. When I call home to check in, if it is too late in the evening, you’re drunk. You get on the phone and your speech is slurred. When we talk later in the week you don’t even remember our conversations. Sometimes you’re passed out, and we don’t get to talk at all . . .
Using specific, concrete examples of your loved one’s substance abuse helps open their eyes to the reality of their addiction. Be sure to avoid language that might make your loved one feel attacked.
Show that you’ve taken the time to understand their addiction.
Let them know that you understand their addiction is a disease and isn’t their fault. At this point in the letter, however, it’s time to let them know how critical treatment is.
. . . I’ve taken some time to learn about chemical dependency, and I’ve learned that it is a disease that requires medical treatment. This is not a question of your willpower. It is a question of getting real help for a real illness . . .
When you educate yourself about your loved one’s substance abuse problem, you’ll feel more confident telling them that treatment is the most effective way to heal.
Repeat your love and concern, and ask them to accept help.
Tie it all together by presenting your loved one the opportunity for treatment and recovery.
I love you, and I don’t like seeing alcoholism sucking the life out of you. We’re all here together because we want you to accept help. We’re here to help. Will you accept our help today? Love, Your daughter, Tina
After you finish reading your letter, begin telling your loved about the treatment options available, as well as any consequences that may happen should they decline to get help.
A Life-Saving Message
The letter you read aloud to your loved one during the intervention could be the most important thing you ever write. Many people who’ve successfully recovered from addiction will say their turning point was the day they heard what their family and friends had to say.
Once your loved one realizes how their addiction has affected the people they care about, the next step is finding the right treatment that fits their needs. Everyone deserves a second chance and recovery at a licensed, reputable rehabilitation center is the best way to gain back your health and happiness.
Begin your journey today with a confidential phone call to one of our compassionate rehab specialists.
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