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How to Write an Intervention Letter

An intervention is one of the most powerful tools a family can use in the fight against addiction. It is here that the people who love someone with an addiction have a chance to take a stand and make a difference. In the letters they write, they help to motivate the addicted person to make a change. Their words could restore hope, health, and happiness to the entire family.

Clearly, the letters people write are of deep importance. The words families choose really do matter. But writing a letter is not a hard or taxing project. In fact, it can get done in just seven steps.

The Process, Step-by-Step

In order to write an intervention letter, families need to:

  1. Start with an expression of love. People with addictions may say and do terrible things as the disease grows stronger. But deep down inside, these people may love their families deeply, and they may want to keep their families safe. Opening the letter with a statement of love helps to bring those feelings to the surface, and that statement helps to remind the person that the family is acting out of love, not resentment.
  2. Remember the good times. An addiction can blur the past, making memories harder to access and happy times hard to hang onto. This portion of the letter is designed to remind the person of how wonderful things once were before drugs and alcohol took the stage. All of the memories described here should not be associated with substance abuse. An analysis in Psychiatry suggests that drug and alcohol abuse typically begins when people are in their 20s, so families may need to reach far back to find happy and sober times.
  3. Describe the present. The real-time consequences of an addiction, according to the National Institute on Drug and Alcohol Abuse (NIDA), can include incarceration, debt, physical illness, and family strife. Any or all of these things merit a place in an intervention letter, as they demonstrate the difficulties the family is facing right now.
  4. Link the difficulties to addiction. Denial is a large part of life with an addiction, meaning that all the consequences the family mentions could be passed off as reasonable or understandable to a person with addiction. It is vital to break down that denial with real examples of difficulties caused by the addiction. Families can use outside sources, such as lab tests and employment results, to bolster their claims as needed.
  5. Outline how treatment helps. NIDA defines addiction as a treatable disease. Some people may need maintenance therapies for the rest of life, but the difficulties an addiction can cause can be addressed with treatment. Many people with addiction simply do not know that this is the case. Outlining the typical treatment protocol for the addiction (with the help of an interventionist, as needed) could be vital.
  6. Press for treatment. People with addictions need help, but they may be reluctant to get that help. Families can provide a push by devoting a few sentences in the letter to bold pleas for the person to accept help and enroll in care.
  7. Use a consequence, if needed. Some families know that their words will not get through until they make the problem somehow urgent for the person with the addiction. Using a consequence could make that happen, and a consequence could be almost anything. Some families suggest that they will no longer include the person in holiday celebrations unless the intoxication stops. Others hold back childcare visits. Some even withdraw ownership of pets, and based on an analysis in Wiredsome people care more about animals than they do about people.

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Using the Letter

An intervention is over when the person with the addiction agrees to get care. That means some people who write letters never read what they have written. Depending on the order in which the letters are read, the person may be convinced before it is the writer’s turn to speak.

Every letter should be written as though it will be read. Every letter should be revised as often as necessary until all the words ring true and have the ability to motivate the person to make real and lasting change. These letters are incredibly important, so it pays for families to get every single word right. That way, when the intervention day arrives, they will be ready to speak from the heart in a way that works. Everyone will benefit.