Intervention Mention

Intervention: action taken to improve a situation, especially a medical disorder.  

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink… but you can salt his food.

We didn’t do an intervention with Ted, we did a hundred of them. Not the kind that you see on TV, the kind parents do when their child does things — a lot of them — that don’t make sense. Things that are self-destructive and just keep coming. We intervened on those behaviors but missed the source. Addiction needed an intervention. Turns out his brave and loyal friend told us the depth of his problem and called the question with Ted. He went to treatment that week. Intervention.

There are many ways to do an intervention on someone who is persistently digging a hole into which they drop lower and lower. I’ve never watched the show but I’ve heard it’s intense. The interventionists I know are strong, gentle people and most have walked in the shoes of an addict or alcoholic. Those who haven’t walked in them have family members who have, which is why both parties picked that profession. They want to give families a leg up out of the deep and deepening hole and its digger because they know how dark it is in there.

Wait, isn’t the digger the primary focus of an intervention? Yes, but regardless of the success of getting a digger into treatment, the process helps the family. It unites them and often guides them onto a path toward their own recovery and Lord knows, we families need help for our own PTSD. And of course, the trauma may not be over so a change of direction for the family might prompt change.  May I say it; nothing changes if nothing changes? The interventions I’ve seen are like the lancing of a pustule; fear, pain, relief and necessary.

My interventionist friends tell me they don’t come in with guns blazing, but instead work ahead of time with the family. They ask how members feel about their loved one’s substance abuse and ways it’s affected them. It always affects them. The reach is far — siblings, grandparents, children, cousins. As Joyce Rebeta-Burditt says,  “Alcoholism is not a spectator sport. Eventually the whole family gets to play. ”

When Ted was in treatment we as his family were to write impact letters to him, how his drug and alcohol using behavior had impacted each one of us. He said his brother’s letter, which he read for the first time aloud in his group, brought the tears and deep revelation; what Ted was doing he was not just doing to himself. His brother had lost him, and the grief was profound. Do any of us really understand how much others care about us and how our choices impact their lives?  “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken,” C.S. Lewis reminds us, as if we need reminding.

Some interventions are high drama, some are surprisingly soft and tender. Some don’t “work” at that moment. The addicted person may storm, sneak or skulk out, leaving behind disappointed family and friends. But a seed has been planted, a new thought introduced. Maybe that seed needs some time. It took Ted about 24 hours. “Well, I didn’t have anything else going on,” he decided. He realized the alternative to getting help wasn’t a good one. Maybe that takes a month, a year, another couple feet deeper in the hole. In the meantime there’s some unity in the family, and in that sense, it worked. That statistic again — when family members attend Al Anon, their addicted loved ones  are twice as likely to seek help for themselves. Change.

“You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. But you can salt his food.”


Love First and  The 2nd edition of Love First includes a 7-point format for writing intervention letters, multiple techniques for staging an intervention and detailed instructions.

Love First

Readers will learn how to build an intervention team, answer objections to treatment and much more. It is a roadmap for the journey to recovery for the whole family, including what to do after treatment, such as developing a Relapse Agreement.

Angela Utschig Interventionist,, email: I have never used Angela’s services, nor any intervention service, but I’ve met with her to hear all about what she does and how. I liked her philosophy. She will travel.

It’s Not Okay to Be a Cannibal: How to Keep Addiction from Eating Your Family Alive by Andrew T. Wainwright and Robert Poznanovich. I have met these two gentleman who are interventionists.  When you read the short book, you will discover that they know what they are talking about. 

“What might work, might work.” — Father Martin, from his Chalk Talk on Alcoholism Helpful for understanding the disease of alcoholism. Considered a classic. The last five minutes encourage us to take the initiative and make treatment available and accessible to our addicted loved ones.