We all have friends and family members who like the odd tipple, but when you recognise harmful patterns in someone’s drinking habits it may be time to intervene. It sounds very intrusive and official, but what do we mean by an intervention?
The dictionary’s definition of intervention is “the act of interfering with the outcome or course of a condition or process”. We talk about medical interventions – trying to stop a disease in its tracks – and this is really what an intervention means regarding alcoholism.
So when should you pluck up the courage to intervene? You might notice a person’s mental or physical health declining; they could have lost their job or relationship due to drinking; or perhaps they’re putting their own or their children’s lives in danger through their alcohol addiction.
How you choose to tackle this, and to what extent, all depends on what you’re comfortable with and how you think they might respond. You could:
Find out more about staging an intervention. Speak to Delamere
Although alcohol addiction is a lonely and isolating condition, many different people are touched by someone’s struggles with drinking. While suffering in the grip of addiction, a person may not realise the impact their choices are having on those around them.
Family members are often the hardest hit. It could be that you’re living with the person who needs help or that you can see the effect on children involved. No matter how badly that person has behaved you need to dig deep and treat the situation with compassion. Put yourself in their shoes and try to listen carefully to their problems without letting negative feelings or past hurt cloud your judgement.
As a friend of someone with alcohol addiction you are in a great position to offer advice and support. Arm yourself with the facts before you wade in and learn how to sensitively approach the subject. One of the best ways you can prop up your friend is by planning activities together that don’t involve drinking.
If you notice someone’s work is suffering and suspect alcohol addiction may be the cause, you can help. As a colleague, you could try to have a quiet word away from others in a safe space. You could also gather a group of other workers together to approach the individual, but it’s important to consult a professional who offers intervention services to make sure you don’t do more harm than good.
If you’re the boss of the person with an alcohol problem it’s important you are fully aware of their rights before you embark on any discussions. Your HR department should be able to offer further advice. If you don’t have an alcohol policy at work you can get general advice on supporting employees with an alcohol problem from the Health and Safety Executive.
As a GP you can signpost someone to alcohol support groups and services within the local community, if available, or make a referral to a private clinic. If you’re a medical professional who is also the friend of someone with an alcohol use disorder you will be trained in the right language to use and can facilitate access to the most appropriate resources.
Let’s be blunt. An intervention could save someone’s life. When you’re living in the thick of it with a person who’s addicted to alcohol it can feel like a major challenge to make that first step, but the alternative could be catastrophic.
There are many reasons for not staging an intervention for an alcoholic. You might not want to upset the person involved. It might feel easier to ignore the problem. Or, in the case of co-dependency, you might be reluctant to intervene because you don’t want to change your own relationship with alcohol.
However, only good things can come from staging an intervention. It’s just about finding that courage and recognising the benefits for your loved one:
Addiction feeds off isolation. An alcoholic may feel it’s easier to retreat from the world, but when left alone with their thoughts it can make problems worse. By confronting the issue and drawing the person out of hiding it can improve their self-worth and help them to see that people do care for them.
Someone may realise they need help but might not know how or where to get it. You can do the research for them. Download information. Find your local support groups. Discuss with a GP on their behalf. Ensuring someone has the right medication to support an alcohol detox is essential to make the alcohol withdrawal process safe and comfortable.
We all know the health risks of drinking too much alcohol. High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, various cancers, the list goes on. But alcohol is also responsible for shortening lives. In the UK, alcohol kills 80 people per day and is the leading risk factor for death, ill health and disability for people aged 15 to 49 (1). It can shorten a person’s life by an average of 26 years. An intervention could not only help prevent serious mental and physical health problems, but it could also mean that person is here to be part of your life for much longer.
Staging an intervention for an alcoholic can protect other people, especially the vulnerable. For instance, children who live with a parent with an alcohol use disorder are six times more likely to experience domestic abuse, three times more likely to think about suicide and twice as likely to develop a problem with alcohol in the future.
If you decide to stage an intervention for an alcoholic it can ensure they get the help they desperately need and give them a better chance of remaining sober. With the knowledge that you care and are there to support them, there is more reason to be committed to their cause.
If you’re worried about someone’s alcohol problem, our intervention services can help you break down barriers, overcome their denial and get them the help they need. Our focal therapists facilitate open and welcoming discussions with family members, or other concerned parties, either at home or at our residential retreat in Delamere Forest.
Once they’ve decided to accept our support, we will invite them to stay at our purpose-built wellness centre where we can guide your loved one safely through a clinical detox. Your intervention will ensure that this is a safe procedure under the 24-hour surveillance of our highly qualified medical team.
We use evidence-based techniques, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), to get to the root of their alcohol addiction and help them develop coping mechanisms to use in the outside world. A full program of complementary therapies is available to help them work through their problems, from breathwork and meditation to art therapy and fire ceremonies.
Intervention is not about interfering, blaming, or shaming. Intervention is about stopping that process of self-destruction in its tracks and turning someone’s life around for good. We are here to help you achieve that together.
If you are concerned about someone’s alcohol addiction, call us confidentially to speak to a member of the team today. Contact Delamere
1. Local Alcohol Profiles for England: short statistical commentary, March 2023.
Alex is the Admissions Manager at Delamere. Alex has organised more admissions into treatment than most. Find out more about Alex on our team page.
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