The Intervention Book: Stories and Solutions from Addicts, Professionals, and Families

The Intervention Book: Stories and Solutions from Addicts, Professionals, and Families

by Kathy L., Brad Lamm

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Millions of viewers have watched Dr. Drew conduct professional interventions with celebrities who are struggling with addictions. But we can’t all afford a professional intervention. The Intervention Book offers real-life stories and step-by-step advice for intervening in a loved one’s life.

In The Intervention Book, Kathy L., the 12-step recovery columnist for BellaOnline, one of the largest sites for women on the web, offers a comprehensive guide to understanding and staging interventions. She begins by explaining the concept of intervention--the critical waking up point when the addict accepts that addiction has taken over his life. She walks readers through the different types of interventions, and offers advice from professional counselors and family members who have used interventions successfully.

The Intervention Book includes stories of real people, more than twenty first-hand accounts from recovering addicts and alcoholics, along with their friends and families who have been through interventions and started recovery.

For anyone who has a friend or loved one struggling with an addiction, this book offers faith and hope of a life in recovery.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781609255916
Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser
Publication date: 09/01/2011
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
File size: 682 KB

About the Author

Kathy L. is the 12Step Recovery Editor for BellaOnline. Her articles have been used to help counselors, therapists, support groups, and individuals dealing with addiction and recovery. She is a mother and grandmother and currently resides in Arizona. This is her first book.

Brad Lamm is a regular on Dr. Oz, the author of How to Help the One You Love, the founder of Intervention Specialists, and cocreator of Addicted to Food on the OWN network.

Read an Excerpt

the Intervention Book

Stories and Solutions from Addicts, Professionals, and Families

By Kathy L.

Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC

Copyright © 2011 Kathy L.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60925-591-6


To Family and Friends Who Want to Intervene

The best thing you can give yourselves ... is the gift of possibility. And the best thing you can give each other is the pledge to go on protecting that gift in each other as long as you live.

—Paul Newman

I know how difficult it is to watch a loved one spiral downward because of an addiction. Actually, since I was the addicted one, I know that however much I might have believed I was the victim, the real victims were my family and friends who cared. If it were not for their love and support, I would not have been able to begin recovery and maintain my sobriety.

Intervention does not have to wait until the addict is facing illness and/or death. It does not have to be put off until she is facing homelessness or the legal system. Intervention can begin long before an addict reaches a bottom.

No one knows when or what that bottom will be, because there are no predictors and it is different for everyone. In other words, what are you waiting for?

There are many ways you can intervene, but none are easy. If the addict could be reached through normal conversation, there would be no reason for me to be writing this today. If it were easy, professional interventionists and most of the rehab facilities out there wouldn't need to exist. It requires time and patience, support, education, and, most of all, taking care of you and your family first.

Intervention does not have to wait until the addict is facing illness and/or death.

I have been told that where there is an addict, you'll have one or more enablers and codependents. This is what makes addiction affect an entire group of people, most often a family. There is an amazing trickle-down effect within the family, and so even if a person thinks he is the only one affected, he is wrong.

This is a real-life example of what happens within the family starting with one addict and one enabler. I have a friend who is a single mom with four adult children. The youngest is an alcoholic. My friend knows this. Everyone knows this. No one is in denial except for the alcoholic himself. She also knows she should not be doing the things she is doing to support him, but as a mom, she just doesn't know where to draw the line. The enabling doesn't stop with her, though. It has spread into the larger family unit through her. The extended family includes her other children and their spouses, her parents, and all her brothers and sisters and their spouses. Because my friend is loving and kind and would give away her last cent, the entire family wants to help her. Unfortunately, the kind of help she asks for always revolves around her addict son. For example, she may need to borrow a car because her son needs transportation to work. He totaled his vehicle, and so in order for him to make some type of a living, he needs to get to his job. So family members offer to help her by giving her their cars. They all mean well, but they enable her to enable him. This is the spiral that destroys families slowly but surely.

She needs to get help, if not for him, then for herself. An analogy that makes sense is with the safety instructions you get before flying. Before taking off, the flight attendant goes through the whole safety routine. One of the demonstrations is for the oxygen mask. The attendant clearly tells travelers how to put on the mask in the case of a sudden drop in cabin pressure, but the most important thing conveyed to passengers is that if they are traveling with children, they must put on their own mask first and then help the child.

I could not think of a better example illustrating how the parent, spouse, or other family members of an addict must get help first before helping their loved one; even if the loved one doesn't want an "oxygen mask."

Family members or friends who are concerned with the addiction(s) of a loved one can take care of themselves first and foremost by attending 12-Step meetings. They are available and free! It is the first step toward understanding. It is the first step in taking control of your own life and not permitting it to be ruled by an addiction. Everyone hears his own story in these rooms (similarities, not differences), and the support a family receives gives them the strength and the impetus to move forward. Twelve-Step meetings for the family may be the launching pad for seeking counseling for themselves and for their addicted family member. Many family members go into residential treatment programs, as many facilities have designed therapy programs specifically for families.

I have made sure to include a few stories shared by those not addicted. The stories of "Kelly," "Tracy," "Jody," "Lori," and "Katherine" are of family members and loved ones who have lived through addiction and recovery and offer their advice on what worked for them.

If you have intervened in your addict's life and both of you are working a recovery program, congratulations! You can be assured that there is a place in heaven for you! If you have an addict in your life and are not sure what steps to take, I hope that you will find some of the answers here. You can be instrumental in the intervention if you are willing to understand the addict's disease and listen to those who will support you. Your choice may be to consult a professional for a formal intervention. It may also be your choice to intervene in smaller, less formal ways. It is up to you; there is no totally correct solution for everyone. The important thing is that you find help in some way.

Regardless of how you pursue intervention, I hope and pray that you will find freedom for yourself and for the addict in your life.


Formal Intervention

The real gift of intervention is that I want to relieve the family of the burden of thinking that they have to take care of the person for the rest of their lives. They really need to let go of that in a loving way, not a walled-off way, and give the person the dignity and respect to be their own individual and take care of themselves. If everyone does that, the cream rises to the top.

—Karen Zazzera, MC, LPC, BRI-II addiction counselor and interventionist

The word "formal" is not one you will see often to describe an intervention. I didn't make it up, but it is not a common term in intervention literature. For the purposes of this book, I'm using "formal intervention" to refer to a specific type of intervention that involves sitting down with the addict to confront the situation. It's best done with the help of a professional interventionist.

You might think that due to the exposure addictions now have on the Internet, on reality TV, and through the sensationalism that surrounds the fall of certain celebrities, more families and friends would pursue help for their addicted loved ones. The truth is more than 23 million Americans are believed to have an addiction, yet only 10 percent of those receive treatment. Many of the people not in treatment choose instead to dive headfirst into a 12-Step recovery program, just as I did.

More than 23 million Americans are believed to have an addiction, yet only 10 percent of those receive treatment.

So you have watched TV, and you think it looks easy enough to get the family together and try this intervention thing on your own. Professionals would advise against that, as there are many components of an intervention, and you don't want to compromise what is a great opportunity to help. In this chapter, I hope to give you a better understanding of what a formal intervention is so that you can make an informed decision about whether this option is right for your situation.

There are many counselors and therapists working in the field of addiction. There are psychiatrists, and there are psychologists. Some interventionists focus on addressing a particular type of addiction, while others are open to assist with any problems involving addiction. So, how can you find an advisor who's right for your needs?

The Association of Intervention Specialists (AIS) web-site ( is a good place to start. The AIS is a network of interventionists located throughout the country and abroad. All full members are Board Registered Interventionists, and they have met or exceeded the association's educational and performance standards. All members adhere to the AIS Code of Ethics. There are two levels of membership: full members and candidates. All members will be either a BRI-I or a BRI-II. A BRI-I title means that the interventionist holds credentials to work in the area of drugs and alcohol only and have been doing interventions for a minimum of two years. A BRI-II title means that the counselor is certified to hold interventions for more than alcohol and drugs (sex, gambling, eating disorders, and mental illness, for example) and has been doing interventions for at least five years.

At the time this book is being written, registration for interventionists is voluntary. Many universities and private companies offer their own certification programs, too. When researching a potential interventionist to assist you, check out the candidate's qualifications, experience, and success rate.

Because there aren't yet standardized certification requirements to be an interventionist, theoretically, anyone could take on the role of interventionist. In some cases, recovered addicts become counselors to help others with their recovery. Fairly new to sobriety themselves, these counselors could think their own recovery experience is all it takes to assist with staging interventions. But in fact, staging a successful intervention is a nuanced process, and it takes experience and education to plan it appropriately. And although addictions have many similarities, the approach to intervention isn't always the same. Compulsive gamblers, for example, generally have strong egos, so such a person might be approached with a different energy than the more fragile food addict would be. This does not mean that there are no qualified counselors out there doing interventions; it only means that before choosing an interventionist, you should have a good idea of their background and formal education.

We talk about bottoms quite a bit in recovery. I have to say that I don't know one addicted person, regardless of the addiction, who did not hit a bottom, some more than once. But a family doesn't have to wait for a bottom, until the addict has lost everything, to intervene. Putting off an intervention keeps the addict in her disease and the family in their disease also. Even if the intervention felt like a failure because the addict denied there was a problem, it most likely was not. It goes back to what I said earlier about putting a chink in the armor. Some addicts need quite a few of these before they consider recovery.

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Karen Zazzera, MC, LPC, BRI-II, of Scottsdale Intervention. Based on research I've gathered on interventions and the role of professional interventionists, I would say Karen's experience typifies how most interventionists work with clients. The intervention process begins with a phone call to the interventionist. Any concerned person could make the first call, but Karen told me the initial contact usually comes from a woman, perhaps the mother or wife of an addict. A first meeting is arranged so that the interventionist can do a full assessment and so the client can interview the interventionist. The trust and comfort level a client has for the interventionist is extremely important. If the client decides to proceed with an intervention, there will be two more preparatory sessions of about three hours. The sessions before the intervention usually involve the intervention team either in person or by Skype or conference call, family members, and perhaps close friends of the addict who is to be the beneficiary. There is discussion about not only the beneficiary but also how each family member or friend might be playing into the addiction (enabling). The family and interventionist also decide whether certain family members or friends should be present. The type of intervention is discussed as well as the strategy. The family and friends write letters to the addicted person, which will be read at the intervention. There is discussion about which treatment facility will be chosen and who will take the beneficiary to that center. Then a treatment plan might be established for the family members. The intervention comes next and could last from one to three hours.

The type of intervention depends on what the client is looking for, but in Karen's practice, she offers the "surprise" intervention (clinically called the "Johnson Model") and the "invitational" intervention. Depending on the particular addiction, she may recommend one or the other, but it usually is the family who chooses. Most families initially opt for the surprise because they believe if the addicts know what's going on, they won't show up. The truth is that they do come at least 89 percent of the time. The invitational intervention takes longer, and so it is harder on the family because during the family meetings, everyone—not just the beneficiary—is making commitments for a healthy change. Sometimes the beneficiary doesn't show up for the first scheduled family meeting, in which case another meeting, is scheduled, then another, until everyone can sit down together. The family system is imposed upon in an invitational. Often family members or friends may be flying in from other areas to participate, and doing this more than once is a hardship. It requires that the family change more for the invitational than the surprise intervention.

The weakness of a surprise intervention is that less is required of family members, and their own refusal to change can make the intervention ineffective. There is still a great deal of effort focused on the family for making commitments to change during the surprise intervention, but it is not as thorough as the invitational. There are times when the surprise changes to an invitational because the addict is told or finds out. It then becomes more of a family meeting to which he is invited to come. Regardless of the type of intervention, Karen's requirement of families is to "show up, speak your truth, offer help in a dignified and respectful way, stop enabling, go to family week when the beneficiary does enter treatment, and go to 12-Step meetings."

Show up, speak your truth, offer help in a dignified and respectful way.

Any type of intervention is draining. Most families are very emotional throughout the process, and the interventionist asks a lot of them. The family must make commitments and changes and be prepared to back them up. The family is as instrumental to the intervention as the addict is. Family members and friends must be totally on board and supportive. Most of the time, people want to do the right thing, and so once they understand that what they are doing is killing the person they love, they become willing to change. The interventionist finds out during the pre-intervention meetings if everyone asked to be present can actually be part of the process.

The interventionist is a moderator and a guide. The family members are the ones who really do the intervention and know the addicted person well and how to approach the issue. The family does most of the talking and is the true power behind the intervention.

When I ask Karen what happens if the addict refuses treatment, the good news she shares is that it doesn't happen often, but when it does, the family has already written the letter outlining the changes they are going to make to stop enabling the addiction. And that is a huge step on their part. An intervention never means someone is forced to go to treatment, because it is the right of each person to choose. I love the phrase Karen uses: "Addiction is not a choice, but recovery is." Each person in the family can go about their own lives knowing that they have done everything they possibly can. They can let go of guilt and complete responsibility for the addicted person. They will have learned through the process how each person must care for himself. This helps the family to break free from the addiction. They can still love the addict, but they do not have to love or honor the disease.

Addiction is not a choice, but recovery is.

The best-case scenario is that the intervention ends and the subject accepts the help offered. What next? First of all, everyone must recognize that the intervention is only the first step and the road ahead requires patience and action.

Whether the addict is going away for treatment or staying close to home, she may go through detox. Withdrawal can be life threatening. Every good treatment center knows the protocol. They know the correct "cocktail" of drugs to detox the person; they monitor and medically supervise. Detox usually takes the first three to five days of treatment. The amount of time is usually a best guess because family members often do not have any idea how much the person drank or drugged, and addicts tend to downplay the amount of alcohol or drugs they used. Not all drug addicts need detox, but most alcoholics do. Although some do not show serious signs of withdrawal, a treatment center may not want to take that chance. Withdrawal symptoms tend to emerge after the third day of withdrawal and vary from person to person.

Excerpted from the Intervention Book by Kathy L.. Copyright © 2011 Kathy L.. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Foreword by Brad Lamm          



CHAPTER I: To Family and Friends Who Want to Intervene          

CHAPTER II: Formal Intervention Shawna          

CHAPTER III: Informal Intervention          

Mary G.          

CHAPTER IV: Divine Intervention          


CHAPTER V: After Intervention, or the Decision to Recover          

Characteristics of Other Addictions          

CHAPTER VI: The Stories          





Tammy Jean          




Mr. R          












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