Alcoholism is a serious problem throughout the UK. According to charity Alcohol Change UK there are an estimated 586,780 dependent drinkers in England alone. Of these, less than a fifth (18%) are receiving treatment for their addiction.
The charity also reports that alcohol misuse is the single biggest risk factor among 15-49-year olds in the UK in terms of death, ill-health and disability. It also affects older people and is the fifth biggest risk factor overall.
As well as destroying your physical well-being, alcoholism can wreck relationships, careers and have a negative impact on every aspect of your life. Despite this, it is often difficult for people with alcohol addiction to admit that they have a problem.
Denial is a common characteristic of alcohol addiction, as is the compulsion to keep drinking despite negative consequences. Alcohol addiction can cause physical alteration of the brain, as well as psychological and emotional damage – all of which can make it more difficult for an addict to recognise or admit to their problems.
Friends, partners, family members, colleagues and others often spot the warning signs or recognise the symptoms of full-blown alcohol addiction even when the addict themselves either cannot or will not. In this case, staging an alcohol intervention can be very useful.
What is drug or alcohol intervention?
An intervention is when friends, family and loved ones come together to discuss the problems that the subject of the intervention is having. In the case of an alcohol intervention, the intervention will concern the subject’s drinking and its consequences. Participants will put forward their own observations of the subject’s behaviour and may also point out how it is affecting them and others.
The goal of the intervention is to get the problem drinker to recognise that they do in fact have a problem, allowing them to address their drinking. This may involve seeking professional treatment via an alcohol rehab or alcohol treatment centre. Some interventions are staged by friends and family alone, while others seek the help and guidance of a drug and alcohol intervention specialist.
What are the warning signs of alcoholism?
Drug and alcohol addictions are chronic, degenerative illnesses. This means that they get worse over time, so it’s important to address any problems as soon as possible. Staging an early intervention for drugs and alcohol can be valuable but what are some of the warning signs to look out for?
Friends, family and others might notice some of the following:
- Observing heavy or frequent drinking directly
- Problem behaviour when drinking
- Blackouts or loss of memory
- Evidence of drinking alone or in secrecy
- Choosing to drink over other activities, friends and family]
- Drinking at inappropriate times and places
- Becoming isolated and distant from friends and family
- Changes in behaviour
- Mood swings
- Neglecting themselves and others
Alcohol abuse intervention strategies
It’s important to prepare for intervention rather than going in with no real plan or idea of what you are going to say beforehand. There are a number of different approaches you can take and some will be more successful for certain individuals than others.
It is possible to engage an intervention specialist to help or take alcohol brief intervention training. If you decide to tackle it without outside help though you should make sure you have intervention strategies in place and you might want to make a script.
Participants don’t have to stick rigidly to this script but it will remind you of the things that you want to say to the addict. Otherwise, you could forget some crucial points or let things get out of hand as emotions tend to run high in these circumstances.
Every circumstance is different but there are some tips to bear in mind when doing an intervention with an alcoholic.
How to stage an intervention for an alcoholic
First of all, make sure that everyone who is going to participate is informed and onboard. These should be people who are concerned about and often people who are affected by the addict’s drinking and associated behaviour. Schedule several meetings so that you can discuss and plan the intervention thoroughly. If you have a professional on the team, they will be able to guide you during this process. You might even want to hold a rehearsal intervention.
Try to pick a date and time when most people are available but bear in mind that it may be difficult to get the addicted person to a particular place at a particular time. This is especially true if they have not been pre-warned about the intervention and they have a chaotic lifestyle or are unreliable – both of which are common for alcoholics. If you do pre-warn the subject of the intervention, there might be resistance and deliberate avoidance.
A neutral, private venue can be a good setting, such as a hired room in a community centre. It can be held within the alcoholic’s home or somebody else’s, but some locations such as the parental home may put them immediately on the defensive.
When the intervention starts, follow the alcohol intervention steps of speaking in an agreed order and at least broadly following the script.
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What to say in an alcohol intervention
Remember that an intervention is aimed at getting the subject to accept that they have a problem with alcohol. One way of doing this is to show them the harm they are doing to themselves and their loved ones. It is not a time to ‘settle scores’ and the group staging the intervention should all try to remain calm at all times. It’s almost inevitable that emotions are going to run high at such an event7, however.
It is important that you try to show the person love and support, whilst also being firm about the fact that they need to seek help. In this regard, it can help to have a follow-up plan already worked out about where they need to go to seek help. This might mean contacting the NHS or seeking help from professional experts like those in an alcohol rehab clinic.
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