It may not be obvious, but family dynamics can serve as a barrier to drug recovery treatment. Though a family may want nothing more than for a loved one to overcome addiction, old patterns within the family dynamic can hinder that step. An intervention is a way to unite a family in the common goal of getting the loved one into treatment. The group can achieve what an individual may find too hard to do on their own – breaking the behavioral cycles that keep the addiction going and that hold everyone down in an unhealthy place. This article, through a series of questions and answers, focuses on the intervention letter. This letter is a key part of the intervention process, whether it is run by the family or a professional interventionist.
First, a group of concerned individuals will plan an intervention. The person who is abusing drugs does not know about this plan. Second, the group will hold the intervention and offer the loved one treatment at a rehab center. Third, if treatment is accepted, the professional interventionist or a member of the intervention group will ensure that the person is promptly admitted to the rehab.
The intervention letter is relevant to the planning phase and the actual intervention. During the planning phase, each member of the group will write a letter that reflects their concerns and makes the offer for treatment. Each group member will read the letter to the loved one during the intervention meeting.
Jeff Jay, author of Love First: A Family’s Guide to Intervention, provides exceptionally insightful advice on why an intervention letter is so helpful. Jay points out that an intervention letter can:
Writing an intervention letter can also be cathartic. Drug abuse can silence everyone involved. The person who is experiencing substance abuse may become explosive when confronted, and loved ones may react by not verbalizing their concerns. Drug abuse can overwhelm the user and hold everyone involved hostage.
The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids has published an open letter from a father to his son about his son’s addiction. The letter likely reflects the feelings of anyone who loves a person who is addicted to drugs. The father talks at length about his own pain and the pain he imagines his son has experienced. The letter does not come up in the context of an intervention, but it is like an intervention letter in at least one critical respect: The expression of the father’s pain is self-empowering, and it is part of his own process of recovery. Members of an intervention group wear two important hats; they are taking action to get the loved one into treatment and, at the same time, they are working to heal themselves.
Author Jeff Jay also provides great guidance for writing an intervention letter. The following are some helpful tips:
Sample letters can provide helpful insight and inspiration for one’s own intervention letter. The following sample intervention letter is based on information from three sources, author Jeff Jay’s book, Love First, and other writings; advice from the Partnership for Drug Free Kids; and various sample letters.
Dear [insert loved one’s name],
[This section reflects that the writer loves the person who needs help and is grateful for some specific experiences they’ve had together. It also demonstrates their bond is not broken, though the relationship may be strained. It’s a good idea to address the person by their familial relationship, such as dad, mom, bro, sis, etc.]
I know we haven’t been talking much lately and we haven’t sat down together in a really long time, but I love you dearly, and I am happy we are here together today. You have played such a huge role in my life. I have so many memories of spending time with you. Remember when you taught me how to swim? I was really afraid, and you told me to pretend that I was a dog and to do the doggy paddle – you know how much I love dogs! I often think about what you said to me when I was having trouble in my new school, in the 7th grade. You reminded me that it’s more important to be myself than to lie just so people would like me. That helped me get through a tough situation. I couldn’t have done it without it. I trusted you to help me, and you did. I’ll never forget that. Thank you.
[In this section, the writer is clear that she is aware that the drug abuse is occurring. She cites specific examples of symptoms, signs, and the consequences of the drug abuse.]
I know that you have been abusing prescription pain pills since your accident. I know that these pain pills are addictive if you take too many, and you have been taking too many for a long time now. I don’t know if your doctor explained it to you, but addiction is a disease. Your body is used to the pills now, and it always wants them. People who work in addiction say that it would be really hard for you to stop on your own. I read about how pain pills make people feel and look, and I’ve seen you that way so many times. Last month, when I came home, you were standing in the kitchen acting dizzy, like you were going to pass out. You were just rocking back and forth and didn’t respond when I talked to you. I was so worried. I’m also worried about your weight gain and your diabetes. You eat so much more sugar than I know you should. I really don’t want you to have to go to the emergency room again, like last year. I love you so much. When you do drugs and don’t take care of your health, especially your diabetes, it really hurts me. I know that you would be worried about me if I have a disease because you really love me too.
[In this section, the offer to go to rehab is made. An ultimatum is also included, if the offer is rejected.]
I’m not the only one who loves you. We all do. That’s why we already reserved a space in a rehab program for you. We found you a great place. The people are really nice and they can help you; they’ve helped a lot of people. It’s hard for me to say this next part, but I have to, for you and for myself.
If you don’t go to rehab today, I am not going to protect your drug abuse anymore. I won’t tell lies to people for you anymore; you are the one person who always told me never to lie. If your boss calls and asks why you aren’t at work, I’m going to tell the truth. If people ask me what’s wrong with you, I’m going to tell them the truth. If my teachers ask me what’s upsetting me, I’m going to tell them the truth.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can get help. This disease is 100 percent treatable. Will you accept our offer and go to rehab today?
With all my love,
When writing your own letter, keep the goal in mind and remember that treatment can break the cycle of addiction. If you are in therapy, or start therapy, it can help to address this topic, as well as the addicted person’s impact on your life.
Focus on the positives. If you’re strong enough to provide help to your loved one, you are definitely strong enough to communicate your feelings and emphasize your support for the rehab offer.