Home for the Holidays: Addiction Intervention Tips

Thanksgiving is a family-centered holiday – one that often has family members who are scattered across the country convening in one location to catch up and reconnect. For many, this is a cause to celebrate in itself, and the holiday focused on gratefulness and incredible food is a choice setting for the reunion.

In families where addiction is an ongoing concern for one or more family members, however, the Thanksgiving holiday – in fact, all holidays or family events – can be stressful instead of enjoyable.

But what if the holidays were a time to address a family member’s addiction with love and resolve to create positive change? With everyone in the same place, there is almost no better time to hold an addiction intervention with the goal of helping the person living with addiction to not only recognize the need for treatment but to also agree to immediately begin the process of recovery that very day.

Staging an Intervention

The act of staging an intervention for someone who is living with addiction is an act of love. Though it may feel confrontational – and certainly, there is the chance that your efforts will be received that way – it doesn’t have to be. It can instead be a gathering of the people who deeply love the person in active addiction and genuinely want for the person to get the medical and therapeutic care that will help to stop use of all drugs and alcohol safely. Treatment can help the person learn how to begin living a life that is defined by health and wellness rather than discontent, ill health, and imbalance.


Not quite sure how to begin? You’re not alone. Here are some basic tips to get you started in the process of staging an intervention for your loved one this Thanksgiving:

  • Hire a professional. An interventionist or family mediator has years of education and experience in staging addiction interventions and will be able to answer all your questions. In addition, the interventionist can run the event itself and take the pressure of management off your shoulders. Though it is not a requirement that you hire someone to spearhead the endeavor, it can lend an air of formality to the proceedings and possibly increase the chance that your loved one will actually sit and listen to what you have to say with at least a somewhat open mind.
  • Gather only a few family members to participate. Rather than overwhelm the person with an audience of 10, 20, or 50 cousins and second cousins, aunts and uncles, instead include just a few people who have been the closest to the person in childhood and adulthood.
  • Choose healthy, balanced participants. Though it may go without saying, it’s important that the participants in an intervention do not have a substance use disorder of their own and that they are on good terms with the person living with addiction.
  • Remain nonjudgmental. It is normal to have significant emotions around a loved one’s addiction: fear, anger, sadness, desperation, and hope. It is important, however, to make sure that it is clear to the individual in question that he or she is not being “ganged up on” or blamed for the addiction. Ultimately, drug and alcohol addiction is a medical as well as a mental health disorder and, as such, it is not expected that someone living with the disorder will be able to heal through willpower or desire. Just as someone living with another chronic and deadly illness – like diabetes or cancer – would seek medical care, so too should the person living with addiction. Remember that and consider sharing that perspective so the person understands that you are not there to point fingers but to help the person recognize the need for treatment.
  • Plan the event in advance. If you have the opportunity, gather the people who will participate in the intervention prior to the actual event and discuss the details. Make sure everyone knows what to expect and what is expected of them. Also, take the time to ensure that everyone has a chance to ask their questions and work on what they will say to the person living with addiction.
  • Practice what you will say in advance. You likely have many things you want to convey to your loved one who is struggling with addiction, but at an intervention, you should take fewer than five minutes to share a personal story of how you have been most impacted by the addiction issue, your understanding of addiction as a disease, and the benefits provided by treatment.
  • Secure a spot in a drug rehab program for your loved one before the intervention. Ideally, you will have done all the legwork to enroll your loved one in treatment well before the intervention. Find the right program, get insurance issues nailed down, pack a bag, manage transportation, and determine who will escort your family member to treatment – which should start the day of the intervention. This is an important detail. The idea is that if your loved one agrees to enroll in treatment, beginning immediately will eliminate the possibility of postponement for any reason.

Start the Holidays Right

An addiction intervention is a positive event. Even if your loved one does not initially agree to get help, it can plant the seed for future enrollment in rehab. The person will know that help is available and that the entire family will be there, ready to offer support in recovery.

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