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Clinical Social Worker/Therapist

The first question I ask of anyone who wants to break free of addiction is, "Are you willing to do whatever it takes?" Conditions and contingencies get us killed. What we're unwilling to do becomes something our disease will use against us.

In a very real sense it doesn't matter what we want, feel, or know. It's about what we need and in this context, willingness is everything.

There are countless pathways to recovery but none of them are walked alone. Shame and fear are our biggest obstacles. Too often we struggle alone based in the misguided notion that we are protecting our loved ones. I've sat with no small number of folks who wished they could break through, stop pretending, and reach out for help.

In the following model you will find out how to plan an intervention for yourself - what needs to be done based on what's possible and not at all on what's comfortable.

Changing How We Conceptualize Intervention

There are only two ways recovery gets initiated:

  1. An individual seeks help
  2. Concerned people in their life intervene

In an intervention, folks come forward and typically offer some level of support. When we come forward ourselves, we generally do so without supportive others, without plans, and generally with very few resources.

Treatment professionals offer strategies for attaining abstinence and preventing relapse. We typically find that the more people we involve, the better our chances of success. My experiences as an addictions interventionist left me wondering: What if the individual seeking help could receive all the benefits of an intervention?

First Things First

See your Primary Care Physician (PCP). We always urge folks to err on the side of caution. Determine what risks are involved in withdrawing and what steps need to be taken to ensure your medical needs are met. Talking with your PCP is a starting point to determine what level of care options are available:

  • outpatient addiction treatment
  • intensive outpatient
  • medically supervised detox
  • residential rehab

Developing a Plan

The most effective interventionist I ever worked with taught me to keep it simple, "It starts with accountability and responsibility. If you don't have those you don't have anything. Make a plan and share it with good people. Do whatever you have to do to ensure that you stay clean and sober."

The only "must have" to start the process of building your own intervention is at least one person who truly understands both addiction and recovery. This person can be a friend, family member, a peer in a 12 step community, a recovery coach, or a professional addictions counselor/interventionist. The choice of these should be based on who you believe will do the most to hold you accountable. I favor 12 step folks and professionals because they'll be the least conflicted emotionally about calling us out on our self deception in no uncertain terms.

Take Stock of Your Resources:

  • Family (immediate and extended)
  • Friends (current and old)
  • Religious Community
  • Community Resources (Grassroots Movements, Civic Organizations & Health Clinics)
  • Local Recovery Communities (12 Step Meetings & Fellowship)
  • Workplace (coworkers, supervisor/manager/owner)
  • Health Insurance Benefits
  • Financial Options regarding treatment
  • Past experiences in recovery

Keep It Simple

The purpose of examining resources is two fold:

  • Who are the stakeholders (people invested in attaining the solution)
  • What can they contribute to the process (emotional, financial support and pragmatic support like transportation and child care).

These determinations will allow you to share with folks how (if they're willing) they can best be supportive. Good intentions and vague offers of support are not sufficient. We won't be asking folks to commit in the moment but offering them clarity will ensure they understand what they're agreeing to and give them an active role in supporting our recovery.

Plan the Gathering

Choose a date and time in which folks won't be rushed. An intervention doesn't need to be an all-day event. It's best to allow a minimum of two hours and a maximum of four. Pick a site that has enough room and is accessible to folks you most want present (consider driving distance and basic facilities).


Phone-call invitations tend to yield a lot of questions. One of the benefits to staging your own intervention is that you tell the story fewer times. I suggest sending invitations via email or social media if you're confident folks check them often enough. If any of your guests are elderly or not techno friendly, mail a card or letter.

Share a short sentiment that you need their support in making a major life change. Ask that they hold their questions until the event. Thank them for their patience and understanding and for being a part of your life.

Choose a Facilitator

Having a neutral facilitator is key. Emotions are likely to run high and the folks you'll be talking with all have a personal history with you. Ideally, a professional interventionist or experienced addictions counselor will fill this role. More affordable options include hiring a recovery coach or life coach. If finances do not allow for hiring a professionals or paraprofessionals, asking someone with long term recovery experience is still a very strong option. Ideally, this would be a sponsor or other strong supporter from a local 12 step program.

Follow Through

It's impossible to predict how the intervention itself will unfold. You can guarantee success if your expectations are simply to:

  • Share the truth about your addiction.
  • Ask for what you need.
  • Seek accountability and support from the folks in your life who matter to you.

After the intervention you will be free to schedule time one-on-one and fine-tune plans. If we maintain contact, honesty and consistency, we are going to experience unprecedented success. Addiction affects every life, directly and/or indirectly. Allowing others to be part of the solution strengthens community and weakens the grip of addiction on us all.

About the author Jim LaPierre:
My story is I'm forever a work in progress and I love connecting with REAL people who are doing great things. I'm blessed to be making a living doing something I love. I'm a proud dad and the luckiest husband ever. I'm an aspiring author - check out my recovery blog at: recoveryrocks.bangordailynews.com Thanks! Jim
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Page last updated May 07, 2015

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