7 Tips for Writing an Effective Intervention Letter for Your Loved One
A clear growing trend for people with drug and alcohol addiction is for family members to pay for their rehab. But how do you handle that awkward conversation?
An intervention is when friends and family decide to step in as a group to help a loved one with their addiction. The overall aim of an intervention is to get the person to agree to go to alcohol or drug rehab.
However, an emotionally-charged situation like this can easily become unfocused and turn into a blame game.
Writing an intervention letter is an ideal way to make sure the point of your intervention stays on track. Plus, it will help your loved one to seriously consider seeking help for their addiction.
Why You Need to Write a Letter
Imagine for a second that you’re the person with an addiction. You turn up to your home or somewhere to meet a friend. When you get there, several friends and family are unexpectedly present.
They sit you down and tell you that the way you’re living your life is making them unhappy.
What’s your first response?
People will naturally feel defensive during an intervention. People with substance misuse problems often deny that they have an addiction, and will challenge anyone who says otherwise.
An intervention is always filled with emotion. Reading out letters helps everyone present to stay on track, provide an atmosphere of love and not blame, and help to frame their feelings in a constructive way.
7 Tips for Writing an Effective Intervention Letter
The aim of an intervention letter is to encourage someone you love to seek help and rehab for their addiction. It’s not an opportunity to vent every bitter feeling you have experienced about the person and their addiction.
Instead, follow these tips to write a heartfelt letter of love and support to encourage your loved one to take the steps they need to change their lifestyle.
1. Start with an Expression of Love and Gratitude
Make it clear that you are taking part in the intervention because you are concerned for the wellbeing and health of your friend or relative.
Instead of starting with a negative feeling you hold towards them and their addiction, open your letter with a positive statement. If you’re struggling to think of one, try one of these sentence openers to get you started:
- I love you because…
- I remember when we used to…
- I admire your…
Sharing a story of your positive memories together with the person in the past will help to reinforce your relationship, and demonstrate to them how much their addiction has changed things.
2. Avoid Guilt-Tripping
In your letter, acknowledge that their addiction is a disease. Talking about it in a medical sense will remove blame from them and avoid feelings of guilt.
While you may want the person to feel guilty about the way their addiction has impacted on you and others, now is not the time to bring those feelings up. Making your loved one feel guilty and ashamed could even cause them to dive deeper into their addiction.
3. Don’t Use the Word ‘Just’
Avoid telling the person that if they can ‘just’ pull themselves together everything will be fine. Or that if they can ‘just’ get a job, then their debts will disappear and they won’t have a reason to use.
It’s a small word, but ‘just’ implicates that addiction is a choice – not a disease – and should be easy to overcome.
4. Avoid Judgement
You may feel strongly against the use of drugs or alcohol, but try to understand why the person you love is choosing to use substances.
They may have a hidden mental health problem, be struggling with debts and related depression, or have been through an emotional or physical trauma that you may not even know about.
Avoid writing in your letter that ‘drugs are bad, OK?’. This only serves to patronize the person and highlight a lack of understanding about their problems.
Instead, try showing that you want to help them get to the bottom of their problems so that they can live a life without relying on substances to get by.
5. Refrain from Confrontational Language
If you feel like the person has hurt you, it’s alright to say this in your letter. However, try to frame it so that they can see why you were hurt – and offer forgiveness, too.
For example, if the person is unreliable because they never show up when you agree to meet, tell them how sad and worried it makes you. Explain that, when they fail to show, you imagine all sorts of scenarios – are they in hospital? In jail? Or worse?
This will frame the hurt they have caused you in a way that you can show your support and concern for them, instead of blaming them for the hurt.
6. Acknowledge Potential Causes and Triggers
Substance misuse often starts with other problems earlier in life. Or, it may be triggered by a traumatic life event such as a bereavement.
If you know that your loved one has certain triggers that draw them to use, talk about this in your letter. Make it clear that you understand what makes them turn to substances, and tell them how you will help them avoid those triggers when they get out of rehab.
7. Offer Active Help
Your loved one is likely to resist the offer of rehab at first. Be prepared for this and consider their possible objections and pre-empt them in your letter.
For example, if they have children and say they can’t leave them, offer to look after them while they’re in rehab. Or, if they say that rehab won’t work because their life is in disarray, offer to help them with their admin to help sort things out.
Countering their objections will help them to realize that you have considered this intervention very carefully. It will also highlight how much you care about their recovery and this provides them with encouragement.
How to Finish an Intervention Letter
At the end of your letter, it’s time to lay out the consequences if they choose not to go to a treatment program. Without a consequence, there is no incentive to drive them towards recovery.
For example, if you feel their addiction puts you or others in danger, make it clear that you won’t be able to see the person again until they have sought help. A dramatic statement it may be, but it is what some people will need to hear before they agree to rehab.
What to Do After an Intervention
As soon as your loved one has heard your intervention letter, and all letters written by concerned friends and relatives, they need to make a decision.
Do they go to rehab? Or do they face the consequences laid out in each letter?
If they decide to take your offer of rehab, make sure to arrange it immediately. Giving them too much time could cause them to change their mind.
Speak to a treatment center before your intervention. This will help you to arrange a quick transition into an available rehab center to make sure your loved one receives the help they need to overcome their addiction as soon as possible.