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Stop the Stigma – 11 Harmful Myths About Addiction

Convincing yourself, a friend or a loved one to go to treatment could be one of, if not the, hardest things you’ll ever have to do in your life. And the myths surrounding addiction don’t make it any easier. Not only do these false facts hurt families and friends, they stand in the way of helping people get the help they need to get better. They also stigmatize those struggling and negatively impact views about treatment and recovery. Truly understanding addiction is the first step towards healing, so it’s time to separate fact from fiction. 

Myth #1:  Addiction is a choice.

Reality: While it’s true that it is a choice to use a substance the first time, no one actually chooses to be addicted to it, in the same way they wouldn’t choose to get cancer or diabetes. In fact, addiction is a consequence of a number of contributing factors including genetics, which account for up to 50% of a person’s likelihood that they’ll develop one.  It’s an important distinction, not only for the person suffering and how they perceive their own condition, it’s also important for loved ones to understand so there’s no blaming and shaming.

Myth #2: Willpower is enough to break an addiction.

Reality: Perhaps one of the most common myths out there, addiction has forever been referred to as a moral failing and those who suffer simply aren’t strong enough to overcome it. Many believe that addicts are broken or have something wrong with them. In reality, strength of character has literally nothing to do with it.

For those who are vulnerable, substance abuse leads to profound changes in the brain. When addiction takes hold, self-control and the ability to make good decisions goes out the window and gets replaced with an intense impulse to do more. Interestingly, these brain waves operate on the same circuit as survival, meaning those strong urges are no different than the need for food and water. That might help explain the compulsive and often puzzling behaviour around addiction (for example, how people keep using even though the world is falling apart around them).

Myth #3: Only certain types of people have substance abuse issues.

Reality: Science has confirmed that addiction is, indeed, a chronic brain disease that can happen to literally anyone, it does not discriminate. However, many assume that if someone has a stable job, they come from a good home or are considered successful in their professional lives, they couldn’t possibly be suffering from addiction. In reality, addiction can and does affect all kinds of people: mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters.

Myth #4: Treatment is a miserable and isolating experience.

Reality: It’s quite the opposite, actually. Though the person struggling may be away from their loved ones, addiction therapy is a community full of like-minded people sharing similar experiences, as well as counselors and medical staff. While the emotional work can be challenging, these group settings can help people set and achieve goals towards recovery, while getting cheered on by others along the way. This is also a time to relax and reflect away from the usual triggers, while enjoying a number of leisurely and creative activities.

Myth #5: People have to hit rock bottom before they can get better.

Reality: Not only is this myth untrue, it’s extremely dangerous. The longer a person waits, the sicker they become and the harder they will be to treat. More importantly, the possibility of deadly consequences goes up significantly. Recovery can begin at any point in the addiction process–and the sooner, the better. People that get help before their illness is so severe have far more resources to draw upon, including family and friends, to help them recover successfully.

Myth #6: If someone relapses, they’ve failed.

Reality: Relapse is not defeat. Though it may seem like failure, it’s actually a part of the recovery process. It does not mean that the individual, or sobriety, is a lost cause. Getting better is a long journey that involves changing deeply embedded behaviours, which sometimes results in setbacks. It doesn’t mean previous treatments have failed, as there is still progress that has been made in the process.  

It also may be a sign that the treatment plan needs to be changed. Relapse prevention strategies may need to be put in place to help identify the early signs of relapse and provide coping skills to help with the cravings and stressors.

Myth #7: Going to treatment will fix the problem.

Reality: As already mentioned, addiction is a chronic disease, meaning it’s a long-lasting condition, and while it can be controlled, it cannot be cured. While it’s true that most people live long and happy lives after rehab, recovery takes commitment, support and ongoing vigilance. Treatment is a huge first step toward health and wellness, but it’s only the beginning. People still need to work on themselves. That’s why extended care, aftercare, and community programs exist, so the individual can continue to have a support system to help manage the disease long after rehab is over.

Myth #8: People can detox on their own.

Reality: Not only is this a huge myth all around, for the person suffering from addiction, it can also be another manifestation of denial. While the idea of self-detox sounds much easier than committing to an entire treatment program, the latter has a ton of the resources needed to not only tackle the disease head on, but help the individual avoid the severe discomfort of withdrawl. In treatment centres, there are doctors on hand who can prescribe medication and assist with the process in a safe, professional setting so it’s done as comfortably as possible.

Myth #9: It’s easy to spot someone struggling with addiction.

Reality: It’s not always as transparent as it seems.When most people think about addiction, they picture an old man in tattered clothes holding a brown paper bag and stumbling around. This is one of the biggest addiction stigmas in existence. In fact, many of those struggling go to great lengths to cover up their addiction from loved ones or employers to hide their shame. Unfortunately, this often keeps the person in the cycle of abuse longer allowing the disease to progress further and further.

Here are some signs to look out for if you suspect a loved one is suffering from addiction:

Myth #10: Addiction treatment is too expensive.

Reality: Substances themselves and the long-term effects of substance abuse are far more expensive. In fact, not seeking treatment can be more devastating to a family’s finances in the long run. While it’s true that some treatment programs can be pricey, there are always financing options available and payment plans that can be worked out. Many substance abuse treatment programs are also covered or partially covered by private medical insurance.

Myth #11: An intervention can do more harm than good.

Reality: Many are adverse to holding an intervention for fear that it will be an angry confrontation and they don’t want the person to feel like they’re being ganged up on. Not surprising, as many people who face interventions do feel as though they’re being ambushed by their loved ones and left with feelings of shame, embarrassment and guilt.

However, when done properly with the help of a professional mediator, interventions can be a very effective solution. Mediators not only help guide the process, but they also let friends and family members focus on the issue at hand in a calm and productive way. When an intervention is planned carefully and thoughtfully, the individual is much more likely to be open to getting the treatment they need.

If you’re concerned about yourself or someone you love, the best thing to do is reach out. Though it may seem scary at first, it has to start somewhere. That momentary discomfort doesn’t even close to compare to the dangers of ongoing addiction. Remember, there is no time limit in the process of recovery, everyone is different so it’s important to take it in strides. Rest assured, that no matter how much money you have, what the substance is, or how bad the situation, there is always an effective treatment option available. 

How Insomnia Affects Mental Health

How Insomnia May Be Affecting Your Mental Health

Are you finding yourself tossing and turning, and having trouble sleeping through the night? If a psychological cause is not to blame, it may be related to your mental health.

According to a recent large-scale study conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, people who have been diagnosed with mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression are more likely to suffer from poor sleeping patterns compared to the general population.

In a seemingly continuous loop, poor sleep contributes to poor mental health, and poor mental health contributes to poor sleep. As the two are so closely connected, treatments which aid in better sleep can result in improved mental health, and treatments to improve mental health issues can contribute to better sleep.

During the sleep cycle, brain activity increases and decreases during different stages. In NREM, or non-rapid eye movement sleep, overall brain activity slows down, with some quick bursts of energy. In REM, or rapid eye movement sleep, the stage most closely associated with dreaming, brain activity increases rapidly. Both NREM and REM stages are important, as the increasing and decreasing of brain activity aids in thinking, learning and memory, and impacts emotional and mental health.

Getting enough sleep, particularly REM sleep, allows the brain to process emotional information. While a person is asleep, the brain works to evaluate and remember thoughts and memories. A lack of sleep can harm the retention and development of positive emotional content. This lack of positive content can influence mood and emotions, and is linked to mental health disorders and their severity, including the risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviours. Although some people believe that alcohol can aid in getting a restful sleep, in reality, alcohol prevents the body from entering REM sleep, and is also related to waking up multiple times throughout the night.

Sleep and depression

While it is estimated that 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression, about 75% of these people also suffer from insomnia. Growing evidence suggests that poor sleep or insomnia may induce or exacerbate depression, which may even be heightened for those suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder. However, with sleep and depression so closely linked, a focus on improving sleep may prove to be a relief for some of the effects of depression. Alternately, a significant increase in fatigue and sleeping that seem out of the ordinary may also be signs of depression.

Sleep and Anxiety

Those suffering from anxiety may find themselves having trouble falling asleep due to worries and a restless mind, and this hyperarousal is a direct contributor to insomnia. In some cases, sleep problems can become a source of worry, making it even more difficult to drift off. With sleep and anxiety being so closely related in a bi-directional relationship, a lack of sleep may actually trigger the development of anxiety in those who are at high risk.

How to get a better sleep

Most people can stand to improve something about their daily sleep routine, which could positively impact their quality of sleep. Some basic healthy sleep habits that a mental health and/or addiction treatment can help to implement are:

What to do if you are experiencing chronic trouble sleeping

Sometimes we need professional help with our sleep hygiene and routine. As mental health disorders can disrupt sleep, poor sleep can also disrupt mental health. While this may sound like a negative feedback loop, focusing on methods to improve sleep may work as a preventative measure to aid in mental health. Speaking with a trained medical professional, such as a doctor or psychiatrist, is the first step to getting your sleep and mental health on track. A number of treatments may be recommended, from prescription medications to sleep apnea machines to cognitive behavioural therapy.

Our team of doctors, including a psychiatrist on staff, nurses, and counsellors are trained to help those struggling with their mental health. If the topics covered in this blog sound familiar and you need help getting your mental health and sleep patterns under control, we can help. Call us today at 587-350-6818. [phone number will change to 1-866 on web automatically]

If you or someone you know are having thoughts of self harm or suicide, call 9-1-1 immediately.

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Eating Disorders and Similarities With Addiction

This article was originally published February 5, 2020. Written by Hillary Webster and Munis Topcuoglu (EHN Canada). Updated February 3, 2021. 

My Friend Jane

One weekend afternoon, I was chatting with a friend. We’ll call her Jane, for privacy’s sake. It was wonderful to catch up and share what was going on in each others’ lives. At nine months old, Jane’s puppy was fully-grown and adorable.

After some light and casual conversation, she broke some startling news:

“I’ve started an eating disorder treatment program.”

Eating Disorders Aren’t Always Obvious

Now, I can’t say I was completely shocked. My friend had mentioned she had restricted her eating before. She said she would often “forget to eat” when she was stressed. While Jane was always very thin, the fact that she would eat in front of me and celebrate when she gained some weight led me to believe that she was okay. I figured she must have a very fast metabolism. So, I minimized the problem, and perhaps Jane had done the same as well.

After more conversation, Jane said that cheerleading when she was in high school had pushed her to get thinner and thinner. She believed that was when her eating disorder truly began. Jane recounted to me that she fainted once when doing laps on almost no food—but it didn’t occur to her that she needed to eat more to fuel her activity. As someone who could stand to lose a few pounds, it’s hard not to say something like, “I wish I could just forget to eat too!” But instead of saying something insensitive, I asked Jane how the program was going.

People with eating disorders have a wide range of body types

Jane said that the program wasn’t what she had expected, but that it was going well. Size-wise, Jane was one of the smaller people in her Eating Disorder (ED) group. Even Jane admitted that she had expected people with eating disorders to be alarmingly skinny and was surprised to find out that people with eating disorders came in all sizes. She also recalled what it was like “coming out” to her family about her eating disorder. Jane used to avoid eating at family functions, saying she had just had a meal when, in fact, she hadn’t. Or, she would say that she had a stomach bug. She had no shortage of creative excuses.

People With Eating Disorders Need Everyone’s Compassion and Support

While Jane’s low weight and her habit of only eating food in very small quantities were on my radar as a friend, I never thought she had an eating disorder that needed professional treatment. What I’ve learned is that eating disorders can look very different from one individual to another. We should avoid judging or stereotyping people with eating disorders. Instead, we should listen, show compassion, and give them our support.

What Is an Eating Disorder?

Eating disorders are behavioral disorders characterized by unhealthy behavioural and thought patterns related to food, eating, and one’s own body weight and body image. The results of these poor decisions can be harmful to one’s physical health. In severe cases, eating disorders can be deadly. An unhealthy relationship with food can motivate harmful behaviours including binge eating, purging, food restriction, and excessive exercise.

Individuals with eating disorders often base their self-worth on their weight or body image. They often have other, concurrent mental health disorders, including substance use disorders, depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and borderline personality disorder. The most effective treatment programs are personalized according to an individual’s unique needs and provide integrated treatment for their concurrent addictions and mental health disorders.

There are many different kinds of eating disorders. The most common types are described below:

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa affects up to 1% of Canadians.[1] Individuals with anorexia severely restrict their food and caloric intake due to their intense fear of gaining weight or their need to feel that they have control over their bodies. Despite having dangerously low weight, patients with anorexia see themselves as being overweight. The extreme caloric restriction results in dangerous weight loss, interrupts women’s menstrual cycles, and can have numerous other negative health consequences. Some individuals also engage in excessive exercise, self-induced vomiting, and diuretic or laxative use. Anorexia can in some cases result in death.

Binge Eating Disorder

Individuals with binge eating disorder regularly eat abnormally large quantities of high-caloric foods in short periods of time. As a result, they become overweight and have a higher risk of developing heart disease and metabolic disorders. Individuals with binge eating disorder often also have psychological problems such depression, shame, and low self-esteem.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa affects up to 3% of Canadians.[2] Individuals with bulimia go through periods of binge eating, after which they purge the food that they have eaten. Most commonly, they do this through self-induced vomiting. Similar to individuals with anorexia, the self-esteem of individuals with bulimia very strongly depends on their body weight or body image. They often experience health problems due to their frequent self-induced vomiting, including tooth decay and damage to their esophagus.

Other Eating Disorders

Some individuals show a combination of behaviours that are characteristic of the eating disorders described above, or include other additional behaviours, making a clear diagnosis difficult.

Binge Eating and Addiction: Similarities in the Brain

Binge-eating and compulsive use of addictive substances often function through the same neurotransmitter systems and regions in the brain. Sugar and dopamine-enhancing stimulant drugs (e.g. cocaine or amphetamine) show strong similarities in their motivational mechanisms. On the other hand, sugar and opioids appear to have strong similarities in their reward mechanisms. Attempts to treat binge eating using pharmacological interventions have demonstrated further similarities and relationships. However, they have also revealed that, compared to addictive drugs, it seems likely that the brain’s motivation and reward processing in response to ingesting food is significantly more complex.

Hoebel et al.[3] observed that binge-eating sugar elevates dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens shell region of rats’ brains, similarly to a variety of addictive drugs. They observed that rats that binged on sugar for 21 days, followed by a 10-day period of abstinence, showed greater locomotor sensitivity to a single dose of amphetamine compared to control-group rats that had not binged on sugar. “Locomotor sensitization” is the consistently observed tendency of rodents to get progressively more hyperactive each day, in response to receiving a daily dose of a stimulant drug (e.g. cocaine or amphetamine) several days in a row.

Mendez et al.[4] injected rats with amphetamine once per day, for five consecutive days. After a one-month period of abstinence, the rats that had been injected with amphetamine performed significantly more lever presses to get sugar rewards, compared to control-group rats that had not been injected with amphetamine. Taken together with the results of Hoebel et al. this shows long-lasting cross-sensitization between sugar and amphetamine, in both directions.

Hoebel et al. also observed that when sugar-binging rats are injected with naloxone (an opioid receptor antagonist) they show withdrawal symptoms. This suggests that opioid signalling is likely involved in the enjoyment, rather than the motivation, of sugar binging. The finding that saccharin seems at least as reinforcing as sugar suggests that sugar’s reinforcing properties are more likely related to its sweetness and not to its caloric content.

Introducing: Comprehensive Eating Disorder Treatment in Toronto

Recovery doesn’t have to happen alone. Beginning March 2021, EHN Canada is proud to offer intensive, caring inpatient treatment at our Toronto facility, Bellwood Health Services, for adults affected by anorexia and bulimia nervosa.

We have a supportive, caring staff ready to support every step of the recovery journey. In addition to supporting a return to normalized eating, we focus on supporting the mental health of both our patients and their families. Using education developed by Terri Marques, Executive Director at Bellwood Health Services and a noted leader in the field of eating disorders treatment, we are launching Canada’s most comprehensive inpatient eating disorders treatment. Get the support you need, for as long as you need it, at Bellwood Health Services.

If you, or an adult you know, would benefit from our eating disorders treatment, please reach out today to get on our waitlist. Call us at 1-800-387-6198

Public Eating Disorder Treatment is Severely Underfunded

Although we may not realize it, we may each know more Janes who are quietly struggling with an eating disorder than we think. Canada is currently experiencing unprecedented demand for comprehensive eating disorder treatment, but funding that’s been earmarked for this treatment is not getting to healthcare professionals and patients who need it during the pandemic.

By writing to your local MP and the Minister of Health, you can make a difference for yourself, a loved one, or the approximately 1 million Canadians suffering from eating disorders.[5]

Please consider writing to your representative to share your experience with eating disorders and encourage them to deploy proper public funding for timely, effective, and safe eating disorders treatment. With your help, comprehensive eating disorder treatment can become more widely accessible to those who are in dire need.

EHN Canada Can Help You

All EHN Canada facilities offer personalized, evidence-based residential treatment programs for addiction and mental health disorders. Our facilities offer Eating Disorder Support for our patients who need it, but our most comprehensive Eating Disorder Program will be available in Toronto.

To learn more about this or any of our mental health and addiction treatments, please call us at one of the numbers below. Our phone lines are open 24/7—so you can call us anytime.

 


Further Reading About Eating Disorders and Addiction

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4438277/

https://www.ccsa.ca/sites/default/files/2019-05/CCSA-Eating-Disorders-and-Substance-Abuse-2013-en.pdf

References

[1] https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-619-m/2012004/sections/sectiond-eng.htm

[2] https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-619-m/2012004/sections/sectiond-eng.htm

[3] Hoebel, B. G., Avena, N. M., Bocarsly, M. E., & Rada, P. (2009). Natural addiction: A behavioral and circuit model based on sugar addiction in rats. Journal of Addiction Medicine, 3, 33-41.

[4] Mendez, I. A., Williams, M. T., Bhavsar, A., Lu, A. P., Bizon, J. L., & Setlow, B. (2009). Long-lasting sensitization of reward-directed behavior by amphetamine. Behavioural Brain Research, 201, 74-79.

[5] Statistics Canada, 2016.

 

 

Holidays with Your Family in Recovery: From Surviving to Cherishing

Written by Jo Colette, recovered addict, tattoo artist, and mom. The holidays with your family–whether in-person or virtual–can be stressful and demanding, but Jo shares how she survived her first Christmas in recovery back with her family, as well as her tips and tricks that you can use to thrive over the holidays.

This article was originally published December 17, 2019. Updated December 23, 2020.

My first Christmas in recovery, I’d been abstinent for seven months. I’d spent the last four years in a different province, thousands of kilometres away, lost in addiction. I had completely isolated myself from all of my family, apart from some scattered emails and late night calls to my mom. Even though they tried to check up on me from time to time, I felt alone and isolated in my struggle. The holidays were no different. My only reason for looking forward to the holidays when I was living with addiction was because strangers were more generous when I was panhandling for money, and soup kitchens served holiday meals that were slightly better than their usual.

My First Christmas Back with My Family Was Really Tough

By the time I finally committed to changing my lifestyle–to starting a healthy life in recovery–and made my way back to my hometown after all those years, I was an emotional and physical wreck. I spoke very little of my years of excessive drug and alcohol use. I tried to manage my early recovery on my own. By the time Christmas came around, I had gotten used to saying the words, “no thanks, I don’t drink”. But I couldn’t yet stomach talking about how I had been living a life of addiction and self-betrayal, of which I was completely and utterly ashamed.

We had a small Christmas that year, with my mom and my two siblings gathered together at her house for a casual dinner. Being back in the country home where I spent time as a child, seeing family photos, and smelling my mom’s wood fireplace burning might sound nostalgic and beautiful. But to me it was excruciating.

Everywhere I looked I was surrounded by memories that brought back floods of emotions. A school photo from the year that I dropped out of high school; paintings and drawings that I’d made as a young kid, which my mom had kept; journal entries; my childhood bedroom… all typical things that one might find on a visit back home for the holidays. But for me, these seemingly mundane items were intense reminders of painful moments from my past. They brought up feelings of shame for the way that I’d handled myself in addiction and remorse for what I’d put my loved ones through.

I ate the food my mom had made, participated in small talk, and put in my time with the visit—but when the time came for me to leave, I couldn’t have been more relieved to make my exit.

Making Plans and Taking Care of My Needs Helped Me Avoid Relapse

The holidays can be a tumultuous time in anybody’s life, but for those in recovery it can be especially trying. It is a time of year where everything is done in excess. Money is spent loosely. People overindulge in food. Alcohol usually plays a large part in the celebrations. Stress levels run high. The structure of most people’s everyday life is disrupted for what is supposed to be a celebratory occasion.

In order to make it happily through the holidays in recovery, I realized that I would have to take some steps to prepare myself to be able to not only enjoy myself, but also to be present, and spend real quality time with my loved ones. Handling my mental health and staying in a recovery-focused and grateful mindset became a much more difficult task when I was not paying attention to my basic needs, and allowing stress and anxiety to creep its way into my life.

Knowing that I would be in potentially triggering situations, I made a point not to ignore the simple things. I tried to eat well, sleep well, and not become preoccupied about finding the right gifts or getting swept up in the materialistic pressure of the holidays. I set very clear boundaries for myself. I practiced saying “no”, not only to substances, but also to situations or gatherings I knew wouldn’t be healthy for me. I made active choices to spend time with the people with whom I felt safe. Instead of attending parties or going out with acquaintances or friends who would be less sensitive to my needs, I picked safe environments where I knew I wouldn’t feel pressure to drink or do drugs.

Opening up to My Family Allowed Me to Become More Comfortable

Family dynamics can be tricky to navigate for anyone, but especially for people in recovery. Having family together for the holidays can sometimes mean having old wounds get opened up, or feelings of resentment or unresolved trauma to coming up. For myself, the root cause of my addiction came from an emotional need that was unmet in my childhood. Although my family was loving and well intentioned, the effects of my parents’ traumas and mental health issues trickled down to affect me and my siblings, each in different ways. Since my relationships with my parents and siblings had fluctuated and changed so much over the years, and was at times, completely non-existent, it was a foreign and uncomfortable feeling for me to reintegrate myself into my family holidays. But I was driven by a desire to start cultivating a new healthy relationship with my family.

I found it helpful to talk more about my recovery around people I could trust. Eventually I found myself feeling less pressure or temptation when I was offered a drink, and was actually happy and eager to explain why I was turning it down. Being around intoxicated friends no longer wore on me the way it had before. When I talked openly about my recovery, I was able to better manage the intense emotions that came along with integrating myself into my new life, and better equipped to answer questions that came my way.

If your family dynamic does not support your recovery, and if going home for the holidays will put you in a situation that endangers your recovery—then it is okay to decline an invite! You can propose alternatives to attending large family functions, such as meeting for a meal or coffee to spend some quality time. You can also bring along a close friend, or someone from your recovery circle, to keep you accountable and grounded at family gatherings. Don’t deny your own feelings out of a sense of obligation towards your family. Be true to yourself and comfortable with your own personal recovery process!

[Editor’s note: if you are doing your part by staying socially distant from family and friends outside of your household, you can still apply Jo’s advice in the strange and uncomfortable year that is 2020. Feel empowered to decline invitations for Zoom calls that endanger your recovery. Or find quality one-on-one time through technology or six-feet-apart walks with those whose support mean the most to you. Even when you’re socially distant, you’re not alone! You have the power and ability to safely connect with whomever you can share the most light and love with this holiday season.]

Now, shortly before spending my eighth Christmas in recovery, I eagerly look forward to spending time with my loved ones. Talking, connecting, and spending time with them, and being in the present moment. My son is almost seven, and sharing that time with him, my partner, and my family—healthy and happy—is a true blessing! I can watch my son open presents and share his innocent excitement around the magic of the holidays. I can appreciate the work my mom puts into cooking a meal for us. I am grateful that my spot at the table is not empty, that my mother will have her Christmas with me there, instead of wondering if I am hurt, in trouble, or even alive. It’s an exciting feeling to know that the holidays are coming up and that I will be spending them healthy, present, and happy to be there.

Seven Tips for Getting Through the Holidays in Recovery

If you or a family member is in recovery this holiday season, here are some tips to help cope with this potentially stressful time of year.

1. Manage your expectations

The holidays will be different sober. Finding new ways to enjoy them without alcohol or drugs will not be an instant process.

2. Validate your feelings

When triggers arise, like answering questions from family members about your abstinence, maybe being back at your family home, seeing people drinking in excess, or feeling alone or isolated, try not to minimize the way you feel. It’s normal for you to feel some heavy emotions, particularly at this time of year.

3. Have an exit plan

Whether it’s simply knowing when it’s time to go, or planning [a pre-set time or reason for when you need to log off from a Zoom call], don’t feel guilty for leaving when you have to. Your recovery is more important than staying in a situation where you’re not comfortable.

4. Be open with your family about your recovery

They may not know how to properly support you if you don’t tell them.

5. Don’t overextend yourself

Know your limits financially, emotionally, and don’t over-schedule your days. Putting unnecessary stress on yourself can increase your risk of relapse.

6. Reach out

If you’re struggling around the holiday season, reach out, attend a meeting, talk about it. Your needs do not come last! [Editor’s note: you can find online meetings, even if your local meetings have paused temporarily due to lockdown. Even if it feels unusual, there are still many people available to help you through during difficult times!] 

7. Help others

This one is huge for me. There are many opportunities to volunteer or help out in your community during the holidays. Helping people in need, or who have less than I have, helps me appreciate how fortunate I am to be in recovery and be grateful for my progress. [Editor’s note: many organisations are approaching the holidays differently this year as local safety by-laws differ from place to place. Where safe to do so, you may be able to find local initiatives to lend a helping hand. You can also find virtual volunteer opportunities!] 

If you have any questions about this article or anything else related to living in recovery, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me on Instagram: @jocoletteart

 

EHN Canada Can Help You

If you would like to learn more about the addiction and mental health treatment programs provided by EHN Canada, enrol yourself in one of our programs, or refer someone else, please call us at one of the numbers below. Our phone lines are open 24/7—so you can call us anytime.

 

Starting Addiction Recovery During the Holidays: The Best Time to Go for Inpatient Drug or Alcohol Rehab

The holiday season is often extremely stressful both for people with drug or alcohol addiction and also for their families. Individuals with addictions experience fear and shame as they feel they’re constantly deceiving or disappointing their family members. Their family members experience the pain of witnessing their loved one suffer—or worse, they may be directly harmed by the actions of their loved one who has a drug or alcohol addiction. Consequently, both individuals with addiction, as well as their families, should consider whether the winter holiday season may actually be the best time of the year to go for inpatient drug or alcohol rehab. When you think about it—starting addiction recovery during the holidays makes a lot of sense.

How Christmas at Edgewood Changed Bob’s Life Forever

Bob’s heavy drinking had cost him his job, and his life was once again unraveling at a torrential pace—he was in trouble. Both his wife and his counsellor told him that treatment was the only thing that could potentially save his life, his marriage, and his relationships with his friends and family. 

Faced with this reality, Bob started the inpatient drug and alcohol treatment program at Edgewood. Treatment was going well, and Bob was gradually getting better and more comfortable sharing his feelings and being open with his counsellors and fellow patients. He even agreed to stay in extended care once he completed his inpatient program.

The winter holiday season was approaching and somehow Bob had imagined that he’d make it home for Christmas. But once he had committed to staying in extended care, he had to acknowledge that this would not be possible. Bob was miserable, wallowing in self-pity, and took no joy in all the efforts of both the staff and the other patients to create a festive and cheerful holiday experience at Edgewood.

One day, Bob suddenly realized that he was choosing to be miserable. That day, Bob decided to start choosing differently. He started embracing, enjoying, and sharing the holiday spirit with those around him. To this day, Bob still gets emotional when he recalls the Christmas Spaghetti Dinner, caroling, and all the hard work and love that everyone put into making Christmas at Edgewood the best it could be.

Fifteen years have gone by, but not a single day goes by without Bob feeling gratitude for his time at Edgewood and for all of the people he met there. After completing his extended care, Bob returned to his wife, with whom he repaired his relationship over time. He also successfully rebuilt his career, eventually rising to an executive position. Bob has since retired, and is still living happily with his wife. Whenever he looks back, Bob feels great satisfaction regarding his decision to start his addiction recovery during the holidays.

I still, to this day, believe that my time at Edgewood was the best Christmas gift I could have ever received.

—Bob

What EHN Canada Alumni Say About Being in Treatment During the Holidays

Being in treatment is never easy, especially when it means being away from your family during a time of year that’s supposed to be about togetherness. But our alumni agree that if you’re living with drug or alcohol addition, being at an inpatient drug rehab center and starting your addiction recovery during the holidays is the best gift you could give to the people who care about you the most. The advice from our alumni is to focus on your healing and give your family back the person they love.

It will be tough, but it will be okay—remember, this is just one holiday season out of many, just one holiday away from home. Think of it as an investment of time that will help you be your best self—both for your and for your family. Focus on getting better, and imagine all the future holidays with your family and what they’ll be like when you’re living in recovery. 

Remember that your family wouldn’t want it any other way. They want you to get better. You are loved and you are worth it. Don’t forget that as long as you’re living with drug or alcohol addiction, you’ll always be causing your family members some amount of distress.

“Let’s face it… they don’t really want us around if we’re using drugs or in active addiction.”

—Brooke R.

If you’re with your family during the holidays, they may be worried about what you might do. If you avoid them during the holidays, they may be worried about where you are and whether you’re safe. The best place to be during the holidays is at an inpatient drug rehab center, because your family will know you’re safe, cared for, and working on getting better.

“It was an opportunity for my family to have some peace at Christmas.”

—Alex

So don’t sweat the small stuff. Starting an inpatient drug or alcohol treatment program and working on your recovery this holiday season will allow you to escape the hectic mayhem you may have grown to dread. 

At EHN Canada treatment centers, we really try to make the holiday season feel special and memorable for our patients. Many patients have told us that the holiday season they spent at an EHN Canada treatment center was their best holiday season ever! 

“Relax, enjoy the season and the rest.” 

—Jeff

It’s Okay—We’ll Care for Your Loved One During the Holidays

We know it may feel uncomfortable or strange to not have your loved one with you during the holidays. But think about the new memories you can look forward to creating with them during future holiday seasons. If you send them for inpatient drug or alcohol treatment now, they can start working on their recovery and getting better right now.

It may seem difficult not having them home but remember how painful it was to have them home but not really there. At an EHN Canada treatment center, we’ll care for them like family and they won’t be alone. We also have family programs to provide support for you—so if you’re struggling, please reach out. Our Family Counsellors will help you get through it.

Your loved one may be a bit sad or homesick in the beginning, but they will be safe and around people who care for them and can relate to them—it’s preparation for many more holidays to come. Remember that healing is a process, so you’ll have to stick it out and let the process carry through. Your loved one will be home when they’re ready and there will be happy and joyous times ahead. With drug and alcohol addictions, the sooner someone gets treatment, the better—so starting to work on their addiction recovery during the holidays may likely be the best choice for your loved one and your family.

“It will be worth missing one Christmas to have them back for the rest of your life.”

—Ken H.

How to Convince Your Loved One to Get Treatment

If you’re not sure how to talk to your loved one about sending them to get treatment, you’ll find useful information and strategies in our article about how to help someone with drug addiction or alcoholism.

If your loved one has a severe drug or alcohol addiction and is harming themselves or your family—and they’re refusing treatment—then you’ll want to read our Complete Guide to How to Stage a Drug or Alcohol Intervention.

Worried About COVID Exposure in Treatment?

EHN Canada places top priority on the health of its patients and staff. We go beyond standard protocols to ensure that necessary screening and prevention measures are in place so that our treatment centers are as safe as possible from COVID-19 exposure. Patients continue to be supported wholeheartedly in their recovery.

We work with local Public Health Departments to ensure that strict Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) measures are in place. We follow best practices at each facility in accordance with local health regulations and we continuously monitor them for updates. For more information, read our action plan.

We Can Help You

If you’d like to learn more about the addiction and mental health treatment programs provided by EHN Canada, enrol yourself, or refer a loved one, please call us at one of the numbers below. Our phone lines are open 24/7—so you can call us anytime.

Online Treatment and Support

If you’d like to learn more about our online treatment and support options, please call us at 1-888-767-3711 or visit onthewagon.ca.

How to Help Someone With Drug Addiction or Alcoholism: 5 Stages of Change

So, you know someone with drug addiction or alcoholism and you want to help them, but you have no idea where to start? We understand that approaching such conversations constructively can be very difficult in the best of times—and even more difficult currently, with increased stress levels and social tensions due to COVID.

This article explains how to help someone with drug addiction or alcoholism. It describes effective ways of communicating to help your loved one make progress towards recovery. The Five Stages of Change is a useful psychological model which represents the stages that people go through from unacknowledged addiction to stable recovery. Understanding the Five Stages of Change will help you recognize the stage your loved one is currently in, allowing you to help them in the ways that are most effective for that particular stage.

Isolation and Physical Distancing Make Addiction Worse

Isolation and physical distancing are straining many people’s physical and mental health. Most people have been forced to give up their daily routines and activities that previously provided enjoyment and stability. This places an even greater burden on friends and family members with drug or alcohol addiction, who are facing unprecedented levels of fear, frustration, uncertainty, and loneliness.

Interpersonal relationships are also being tested. With all of the stress, fear, and uncertainty created by COVID, compounded by social distancing and isolation, social tensions are undoubtedly rising. This all makes it especially challenging to figure out how to help someone with drug addiction or alcoholism.

Speak With Compassion and Listen Without Judgment

When you’re trying to help someone with drug addiction or alcoholism, what you say matters a lot. Even more important, however, is the tone that you use. Speaking with compassion means communicating from a place of love and best intentions for the person. It requires doing your best to understand how your loved one feels. It means listening with empathy and not judging them in any way. Ensure that they feel heard and validate their struggle. Make sure they understand that you want them to get better because you love them and want what’s best for them.

Shame. Fear. Isolation. Regret. Helplessness. Pain. Hopelessness. These sorts of feelings fuel drug and alcohol addiction. The antidote to these emotions is compassion, which involves helping your family member feel supported, connected, and loved. Furthermore, by expressing compassionate kindness, you will help your loved one develop self-compassion. And self-compassion is a powerful tool for working towards addiction recovery.[1]

The Five Stages of Change

Researchers have discovered five stages that people go through as they progress from unacknowledged drug or alcohol addiction to stable recovery.[2] The kind of support that someone needs will depend on their current stage of change. The following descriptions each stage will help you recognize which stage someone is in. Descriptions of each stage are followed by effective strategies for how to help someone with drug addiction or alcoholism in each stage.

Stage 1: Precontemplation

In the precontemplation stage, a person is not actively thinking about or wanting to change. Often, people in precontemplation are in denial. They don’t see their substance use as a problem. Someone in this stage may also be unable or unwilling to see how their drug or alcohol addiction negatively affects their loved ones.

How to help someone in precontemplation

Because change is not necessarily on the person’s agenda, you need to encourage them, very gently, to start becoming aware of the harm that their addiction is causing. In a non-judgmental way, help them gain awareness and consider the possible benefits of quitting or using less.

Consider the following possible topics when thinking about how to help someone with drug addiction or alcoholism who is in precontemplation:

Sometimes, your loved one may deny that they have a problem, and you may notice that they’re becoming defensive. In such situations, you can bring down the intensity of the conversation by reminding your loved one that, ultimately, it’s their decision whether or not to change—no one else can make the decision for them.

Alternatively, in cases where your loved one is in denial about a severe drug or alcohol addiction that is causing significant harm to themselves and those around them, you should consider staging a drug or alcohol intervention.

Stage 2: Contemplation

In the contemplation stage, a person starts to consider the idea of stopping or reducing their alcohol or substance use. Gradually, a person begins to recognize the negative consequences of their drug or alcohol addiction. However, people in contemplation are often ambivalent and uncertain regarding whether or not they want to change.

How to help someone in contemplation

Use open-ended questions to help the person develop a better understanding of how their life would be different if they stopped using.

By helping your loved one understand and evaluate the costs of their substance use and the benefits of recovery, you can help someone with drug addiction or alcoholism resolve their ambivalence and start taking their first steps towards change.

The contemplation stage is also a good time to remind someone that you’re there for them and that you’ll support them throughout their recovery process. Knowing that they have your support can motivate them to make a decision and start preparing for change.

Stage 3: Preparation

In the preparation stage, a person acknowledges that they have a problem. They know that they want to change. They start creating a plan for how they will overcome their addiction or alcoholism, which includes considering options for getting professional help.

How to help someone in preparation

Acknowledge all the changes that the person is making and encourage them by expressing your appreciation and gratitude. Positive feedback will give your loved one motivation to maintain their momentum as they make progress towards recovery.[3]

You can also help your loved one create their recovery plan by working with them to answer the following questions.

You can also support your loved one in this stage by helping them do the necessary research for choosing the best treatment program and rehab center for their needs.

Stage 4: Action

In the action stage, people are actively working towards recovery. Someone in this stage will do things such as detoxing, abstaining from drugs and alcohol, seeking recovery resources, and surrounding themselves with people who support their recovery—this includes attending aftercare groups. You’ll see your loved one starting to let go of the crutch that they previously used to cope with the emotional pain that underlies drug and alcohol addiction.

How to help someone in action

During this exciting but challenging phase, continue reminding your loved one that you have their back and that you believe in them.

Self-efficacy is a person’s belief in their ability to successfully achieve their objectives. Research has consistently shown that people with high self-efficacy tend to experience fewer obstacles when working towards recovery.[4] You can help increase your loved one’s self-efficacy by supporting and encouraging them with each successful step they take, and each new step that they attempt.

This stage involves hard work and discomfort for people going through it. Check in with the person often to see how they’re doing and how you can help them. It’s not unusual for people in this stage to experience cravings, and it’s important for them to feel comfortable discussing these feelings with you whenever they arise. As mentioned earlier, uncomfortable emotions and cravings are likely to be more intense due to conditions related to the coronavirus pandemic. Now more than ever, it’s important to be sensitive to signs that your loved one may be struggling and to do your best to offer them support and comfort.

Stage 5: Maintenance

In the maintenance stage, a person has successfully stopped using the substances to which they were addicted. If they had a behavioural addiction, they have stopped compulsively engaging in their problematic behaviours. Now, they focus on maintaining their recovery. They learn new, healthy behaviours which they try to perform consistently to create habits for a new, healthy life. A person in this stage should have a clearly defined aftercare plan to ensure consistent participation in aftercare. This could include individual counselling, support groups, or outpatient programs.

How to help someone in maintenance

Celebrate your loved one’s progress and congratulate them for all that they’ve accomplished—overcoming addiction might be the biggest challenge a person will ever face! Express your great respect, admiration, and appreciation for their efforts and achievements.

If they don’t already have one, now’s a good time to help your family member develop a relapse-prevention plan.

Relapse Is a Learning Opportunity—Not a Failure

Addiction is a chronic condition which can cause brain adaptations that persist for a long time after a person stops using drugs or alcohol. Research suggests that between 40 and 60 percent of people treated for addiction will relapse and use substances again at some point after completing treatment.[5] This means that it’s also important to know how to help someone with drug addiction or alcoholism when they relapse.

To begin with, you should urge your loved one to take every possible precaution to minimize their chance of relapse. However, if your loved one ever does relapse—avoid judging them! Don’t view it as a failure and don’t be disappointed. Furthermore, help your loved one to frame their relapse as a learning opportunity, and not as a failure—this will help get them back into recovery faster. It’s critically important to avoid shaming them, since feeling shame is highly counterproductive to the work necessary to get back into recovery.

Help your loved one understand how and why their relapse occurred, and use this knowledge to develop new relapse-prevention strategies so that their recovery will be more robust in the future.

In addition to helping your loved one learn from their relapse, you also need to ensure that they stay accountable going forward.

Most People With Addiction Need Professional Treatment

Overcoming drug or alcohol addiction is a very challenging process and most people need professional help to achieve successful long-term recovery. Emphasize to your family member that getting help does not mean they’re weak or incompetent. Explaining the following points to your loved one can help persuade them that getting professional help is often the best choice.

How to Help Someone with Drug Addiction or Alcoholism When They Won’t Talk About It

Recovery requires courage. By discussing their difficulties with you and acknowledging that they have a problem, your loved one is making themselves very vulnerable. This can be incredibly scary, especially for people in the precontemplation or contemplation stages. What can you do about it?

Get support for yourself

If your family member’s drug or alcohol addiction causes you distress, you can seek out a psychotherapist for support. Discussing your situation with a mental health professional can help you manage the powerlessness, frustration, and fear that you feel as a result of your family member’s addiction. You may also choose to proactively approach an addiction specialist who can provide further guidance on how to best help your family member and motivate them to start their recovery process.

Hire a professional interventionist and stage an intervention

Staging a drug or alcohol intervention involves gathering a handful of close friends and family and having a conversation together with your loved one about how their addiction is negatively affecting them and everyone around them. The objective is to persuade the person to recognize the harm that they’re causing and to agree to a proposed treatment plan.

Interventions require careful planning and preparation. They will also usually involve difficult and emotionally intense conversations. For these reasons, among others, you should hire a professional interventionist who can both help with the preparation and also guide the conversation to ensure that it’s as productive as possible. Read our guide to learn more about how to stage a drug or alcohol intervention.

It’s Their Recovery—but You Can Make a Big Difference

Remember that lasting change takes time. Also, no matter how strongly you feel about someone else’s addiction, you can’t force them to change. You can lead a horse to water—but only your loved one can make the decision to change. Nevertheless, you have enormous potential to positively influence their recovery process and help them succeed. One of the best approaches for helping a family member with drug addiction or alcoholism is recognizing their current stage of change, and helping them in the ways that are most effective for that stage.

We Can Help You

If you’d like to learn more about the addiction and mental health treatment programs provided by EHN Canada, enrol yourself in one of our programs, or refer a loved one, please call us at one of the numbers below. Our phone lines are open 24/7—so you can call us anytime.

Online Treatment and Support

If you’d like to learn more about our online treatment and support options, please call us at 1-888-767-3711 or visit onthewagon.ca.

References

[1] Phelps, C. L., Paniagua, S. M., Willcockson, I. U., & Potter, J. S. (2018). The relationship between self-compassion and the risk for substance use disorder. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 183, 78-81. Retrieved from https://self-compassion.org//www/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Phelps2018.pdf

[2] Prochaska, J. O., Redding, C. A., & Evers, K. E. (2015). The transtheoretical model and stages of change. Health Behavior: Theory, Research, and Practice, 125-148. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Daniel_Montano2/publication/233894824_Theory_of_reasoned_action_theory_of_planned_behavior_and_the_integrated_behavior_model/links/0a85e53b67d742bc29000000.pdf#page=164

[3] Kellogg, S. H., & Tatarsky, A. (2012). Re-envisioning addiction treatment: A six-point plan. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, 30(1), 109-128. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07347324.2012.635544

[4] Nikmanesh, Z., Baluchi, M. H., & Motlagh, A. A. P. (2017). The role of self-efficacy beliefs and social support on prediction of addiction relapse. International Journal of High Risk Behaviors and Addiction, 6(1). Retrieved from https://jhrba.com/articles/13118.html

[5] National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014, July). Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction. Retrieved from https://safespace.org/drugs-brains-and-behavior-the-science-of-addiction/

[6] Sevelko, K., Bischof, G., Bischof, A., Besser, B., John, U., Meyer, C., & Rumpf, H. J. (2018). The role of self-esteem in Internet addiction within the context of comorbid mental disorders: Findings from a general population-based sample. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 7(4), 976-984. Retrieved from https://akademiai.com/doi/abs/10.1556/2006.7.2018.130

The Complete Guide to Choosing the Best Inpatient Drug Rehab Center for You

Written by Munis Topcuoglu, Editor at EHN Canada.

The process of choosing the best inpatient drug rehab center for yourself or a loved one can be stressful and confusing. There’s an overwhelming amount of information to consider and options to evaluate when looking for a residential drug or alcohol treatment program. To help you out, we’ve outlined the most important factors to consider when trying to find the best addiction treatment program for your needs.

Understand Your Goals and Needs

Before you start looking for an inpatient drug rehab center, you need to be clear what you’re trying to achieve by getting addiction treatment. And for this, you need to understand your goals and your needs.

Inpatient vs. outpatient treatment

One of the first things you need to understand is the difference between inpatient and outpatient drug and alcohol treatment. 

Inpatient treatment, also called residential treatment, involves staying at a drug rehab center for the duration of the treatment program. Inpatient programs are best for people with more severe addiction who require 24/7 monitoring, an immersive environment, and comprehensive care that includes medical support. 

Outpatient treatment involves attending sessions at a treatment center for several hours per week or, alternatively, sessions may be entirely online. Outpatient programs are best for people with less severe cases of addition who can still fulfill most of the important responsibilities in their lives. It’s also suitable for individuals who need addiction treatment but cannot leave their jobs or families.

Comparing Addiction Rehab Centers and Programs

Once you clearly understand your needs in terms of concurrent disorders and specialized programming, then you can start comparing drug rehab centers and treatment programs. If you’ve decided that an outpatient drug or alcohol treatment program is best for your needs, then many features related to residential treatment and the treatment center itself—such as 24/7 counsellor and medical support, comprehensiveness of treatment programs, or amenities—will not be relevant for you. This guide is primarily designed to help people choose the best inpatient drug rehab center for their needs and, hence, will cover all of those features.

What Makes an Inpatient Drug Rehab Center the Best for You?

The following are indicators of the quality of care that you’ll receive at an addiction treatment center. The best inpatient drug rehab centers are licensed and accredited, as are their staff. Having a multidisciplinary team is necessary for providing comprehensive care. The center’s location should be conducive to working on your recovery and should also be convenient for you.

Accreditation and licences

Residential drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers should have the relevant accreditations—in Canada, this includes accreditation from Accreditation Canada and from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). Canadian inpatient drug rehab centers should also have the appropriate provincial licenses required for residential care facilities.

Multidisciplinary clinical team with credentials and experience

A multidisciplinary team is necessary to provide you the best comprehensive care. This should include the following:

Specialized programs and treatment for concurrent disorders

If you have a concurrent mental health disorder, such as depression, anxiety, or trauma, the best inpatient drug rehab center for you will be one that offers integrated programs that treat drug or alcohol addiction together with concurrent mental health disorders, and that are individualized for your unique needs. Similarly, if you have a behavioural addiction such as sex addiction (problematic compulsive sexual behaviour) or gambling addiction, then you should choose a treatment center that provides specialized support for your behavioural addiction. 

Measuring treatment success rates

Measuring treatment success rates is something the best inpatient drug rehab centers do. Measuring patient outcomes is part of the process of continuously improving clinical programming and helping patients achieve the best possible results.

Treatment center location

The best locations for inpatient drug rehab centers will provide patients with privacy and freedom from distractions, allowing them to focus on their treatment programs and do the work that they need to get better. A serene environment surrounded by nature also provides mental health benefits in and of itself. 

Institutional affiliation

Some treatment centers will have connections to a hospital network or other established healthcare institution. Addiction and mental health treatment centers with institutional affiliations are typically held to higher standards for the care that they provide.

Quality of Drug and Alcohol Treatment Programs

An excellent drug or alcohol treatment program should provide timely, comprehensive, individualized, evidence-based care. It should address the full range of human needs, including medical, psychological, social, physical, nutritional, and spiritual needs.

Wait lists and timely treatment

Compared to public treatment centers which often have long wait lists, private treatment centers usually have either no wait lists or very short wait lists. If you need residential drug or alcohol treatment, this usually means that you need treatment urgently—so the best inpatient drug rehab center for you will be one where you can get admitted as soon as possible.

Detailed assessments and individualized programs

The most effective drug or alcohol treatment programs are individualized for each patient. This means that they will do a thorough psychological and medical assessment when each patient is admitted to evaluate and understand their unique needs.

Evidence-based treatment

The most effective programs for treating addiction use evidence-based therapies that have established track records of helping people get better and achieve successful long-term recovery. These including the following:

Types of therapy and support

Different therapy formats have different strengths, offer different benefits, and are complementary to each other. Drug and alcohol treatment programs should incorporate a full range of therapy formats including the following:

Length of drug and alcohol treatment programs

All else being equal, longer treatment programs tend to produce better results for patients with addiction compared to shorter programs. However, if you need a shorter program due to your particular life situation (e.g. family or work demands) then the best inpatient drug rehab center for you may be one that offers a flexible length of stay.

Medical detox and medication assisted treatment

Detoxification (or detox) is the process through which a person with addiction stops using drugs or alcohol. Detox should always be done with medical supervision because withdrawal symptoms that occur when someone stops using drugs or alcohol can not only be intensely uncomfortable, but may also be life threatening if not managed properly. The best inpatient drug rehab centers use medication assisted treatment (MAT) to minimize patients’ withdrawal symptoms and help them detox as safely, comfortably, and quickly as possible.

Relapse-prevention skills and recovery planning

Successful long-term recovery depends on patients’ ability to avoid relapsing once they’re out of treatment. Therefore, residential drug and alcohol treatment programs should focus on teaching practical relapse-prevention skills and should give patients the opportunity to practice them during treatment to develop competence. Programs should also include guidance for patients in developing solid and realistic recovery plans to ensure that they maintain their recovery after they complete treatment and return to the real world.

Nutrition and physical wellness

An important part of addiction recovery is learning and developing the healthy lifestyle habits that contribute to physical wellness. A comprehensive drug or alcohol treatment program should teach patients about healthy eating, physical exercise, sleep quality, and why these things are so important.

Self-care and life skills

Individuals with severe addictions often forget how to take care of themselves and how to perform the simple daily tasks of living that the rest of us take for granted. Hence, education regarding self-care, as well as occupational therapy, are included in treatment programs offered by the best inpatient drug rehab centers.

Meditation and mindfulness

Mindfulness and meditation practices are an important part of bringing balance back to the life of someone who has been living with the instability of addiction. Comprehensive treatment programs should include instruction and practice of meditation and mindfulness exercises. Yoga is also an effective way of practicing mindfulness and increasing awareness of what’s going on in one’s mind and body.

Family support

The support that a patient receives from their family after completing residential treatment is an important factor in their successful long-term recovery. Hence, residential drug and alcohol treatment programs should also include education for the patient’s family in the form of family programs. Some treatment centers will also arrange counselling sessions for a patient and their family while the patient is in a residential program, if needed. If your addiction is related to issues you have with your family, this may be important for you.

Visitors and contacting people outside the treatment center

Residential drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers will have varying rules regarding how often, and when, patients can contact their family while they’re in treatment. They’ll also have rules regarding whether, how often, and when their families can visit them. The best inpatient drug rehab center for you will be one that has rules with which you feel comfortable.

Abstinence based vs. harm reduction

Some drug and alcohol treatment programs are abstinence based, whereas others are based on the principle of harm reduction. “Abstinence based” refers to the idea that once someone has an addiction, they can never safely use drugs or alcohol again. Harm-reduction programs suggest that patients can continue using or drinking in a controlled manner after they complete treatment. If your addiction is severe enough that you need residential drug or alcohol treatment, an abstinence-based program may be more appropriate for you.

Quality of Patient Experience

Many factors affect the quality of the experience that you’ll have while in residential drug or alcohol treatment. Important factors that distinguish the best inpatient drug rehab centers include availability of counsellors and medical support, amenities, formally stated patient rights, and how they handle relapses during treatment.

Counsellor and medical team availability

One of the most important things during drug or alcohol treatment is that you always feel supported and that you are taken care of. Consequently, the best inpatient drug rehab centers have counsellors who are there for patients 24/7 to offer support whenever needed. Similarly, they offer 24/7 nursing to provide medical care around the clock. Further, medical doctors should be onsite every day to provide quality medical care for patients. A psychiatrist should be available for consultation according to patients’ needs.

Amenities

Amenities such as a fully equipped gym, nutritionally balanced meals that also taste good, fitness programs, yoga classes, massage therapy, chiropractic care, and acupuncture help improve patients’ health and wellbeing, and accelerate their progress towards recovery. Amenities can be a matter of personal preference, so the best inpatient drug rehab center for you will be one that offers the amenities that you feel are the most important.

Patient rights 

You should know what rights you have as a patient before you get admitted to a residential drug and alcohol treatment center. You should get a document stating patients’ rights, which should include detailed descriptions of at least the following:

Handling relapse during treatment

Handling relapse during treatment can be tricky—a treatment center needs to balance the needs of the patient who relapsed with the need to protect the rest of their patients who are in residential treatment. The best inpatient drug rehab treatment centers take a nuanced approach and weigh all the evidence before deciding whether or not to discharge a patient who relapses during treatment.

Aftercare Programs and Post-Treatment Recovery Support

Participation in aftercare is essential for successful long-term recovery after completing a residential drug or alcohol treatment program. The best inpatient drug rehab centers know this and they continue to support their patients after they complete treatment. If you don’t live near the treatment center, ensure that they provide online aftercare options. The treatment center should also help you find additional continuing care options in your own community if you don’t live nearby.

Cost of Drug and Alcohol Treatment Programs

Treatment programs vary in cost—but, usually, you get what you pay for. High-quality drug and alcohol treatment programs require highly qualified and experienced staff. The best inpatient drug rehab centers must be well equipped to provide comprehensive treatment. These factors increase costs, but they also improve your chances of getting the best results and achieving successful long-term recovery. One important thing to ask is whether everything is included in the cost of treatment, to avoid hidden fees.

Insurance Coverage for Drug and Alcohol Treatment Programs

If you’re wondering how you’ll be able to pay for residential addiction treatment, you may have a number of sources of help. Treatment at many inpatient drug rehab centers is covered by health insurance and employee benefit plans. Often, if you talk to someone at a rehab center, they can help you figure out what your insurance or employee benefits coverage is. Many treatment centers also offer financing options to make their treatment programs more affordable.

The Test of Time

One of the best indicators of an inpatient drug rehab center’s quality is how long they’ve been around. If a rehab center has been providing addiction treatment for more than a decade, or if it’s part of a network with a long history and a reputation for successful outcomes—those are good signs that they provide effective addiction treatment.

Call Some of Your Top Picks and Ask Questions

Once you’ve picked a few treatment centers that look good to you, call them and ask some questions about the residential programs that they provide. If the treatment center offers a number of different types of treatment programs and you’re not sure which one is right for you, then ask them for guidance. When you’re talking on the phone with treatment center staff, they should be friendly and helpful, and should answer all your questions to your satisfaction. If treatment center staff can make you feel comfortable on the phone, that’s a good sign regarding the experience that you or a loved one will have as a patient. 

Questions to Ask About an Inpatient Drug Rehab Center

Below is a checklist of questions that you should ask when you call and talk to someone at a drug and alcohol treatment center.

(1) What accreditations and licenses do they have?

(2) What are the credentials and experience of their counsellors and therapists?

(3) Do they have medical doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, dietitians or nutritionists, physical health professionals, and meditation and yoga teachers as part of their clinical team that provides care for patients?

(4) If you have concurrent mental health disorders—do they have a specialized program for treating your type of addiction together with the concurrent disorders that you have? 

(5) Do they measure patient outcomes? If so, what are their results?

(6) Where are they located? What are the surroundings like?

(7) Are they affiliated with any established healthcare institutions?

(8) How quickly can you get admitted? Do they have a wait list?

(9) Do they do detailed assessments of new patients and create individualized treatment programs?

(10) Which evidence-based therapies do they use in their drug and alcohol treatment programs?

(11) Which types of therapy and support are incorporated in their drug and alcohol treatment programs?

(12) How long is the treatment program that they’re suggesting for you?

(13) If you need detox—do they offer medically supervised detox with medication assisted treatment?

(14) What relapse-prevention skills do they teach during treatment and how do they help with recovery planning?

(15) What nutrition education, and physical education and training do they provide in their drug and alcohol treatment programs?

(16) What self-care and life skills do they teach in their treatment programs?

(17) Do they teach meditation, mindfulness skills, and yoga?

(18) Do they have family programs? Would they arrange counselling sessions for a patient and their family, while the patient is in treatment, if needed?

(19) What are their rules regarding visitors and contacting people outside the treatment center while you’re in treatment?

(20) Are their drug and alcohol treatment programs abstinence based or harm reduction?

(21) What is the availability of counsellors for patients? What is the availability of medical care for patients? 24/7 or less?

(22) What amenities are available for patients in residential programs?

(23) What are your rights as a patient in one of their residential drug or alcohol treatment programs?

(24) What happens if you relapse during treatment?

(25) What aftercare is included with their residential treatment programs? How do they connect you with other continuing care options after you complete treatment?

(26) What is the cost of their residential drug and alcohol treatment programs? Are all the services included or are there any extras?

(27) Can they help you figure out if your insurance or employee benefits will cover all or some of the cost of treatment?

(28) How long have they been providing residential drug and alcohol treatment?

We’ve Included these questions in a printable format below here.

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Get in Touch With Alumni

The best sources of information about what it’s like to be an patient at a drug rehab center are people who were previously patients there. Ask around and try to get in touch with a few people who’ve completed residential programs at the treatment centers you’re considering, and ask them about their experiences.

Visit a Treatment Center

After you’ve called a treatment center and have had all of your questions answered to your satisfaction, it’s still best, if possible, to visit in person before scheduling your admission date. This will allow you to talk to some of the staff, and to experience the physical and cultural environment. It will help you get a good idea of whether or not you’ll feel comfortable there and whether or not it’s the best inpatient drug rehab center that satisfies all your needs. If it’s impossible for you to visit a residential treatment center in person—which may currently often be the case due to COVID—then check their website for virtual tours or photo galleries.

Learn About EHN Canada’s Residential Drug and Alcohol Treatment Programs

If you’d like to learn more about the addiction and mental health treatment programs provided by EHN Canada, enrol yourself in one of our programs, or refer someone else, please call us at one of the numbers below. Our phone lines are open 24/7—so you can call us anytime.

Online Treatment and Support

If you’d like to learn more about our online treatment and support options, please call us at 1-888-767-3711 or visit onthewagon.ca.

The Complete Guide to How to Stage a Drug or Alcohol Intervention

Written by Munis Topcuoglu, Editor at EHN Canada.

Contents

…What Is a Drug or Alcohol Intervention?

…Do Drug and Alcohol Interventions Really Work?

…How Do You Know When You Need to Stage a Drug or Alcohol Intervention?

…Step 1: Get Help From Family, Friends, and a Professional Interventionist

…Step 2: Decide Who’s On Your Intervention Team

…Step 3: Plan the Time, Date, Location, and Logistics

…Step 4: Research Addiction and Choose the Best Treatment Program

…Step 5: Write a Script of What You Will Say During the Intervention

…Step 6: Set Expectations for Team Members and Plan for Contingencies

…Step 7: Rehearse What You’re Going to Say

…Step 8: The Intervention Itself

…Step 9: Follow Through and Don’t Give Up

…Conclusion

 

What Is a Drug or Alcohol Intervention?

A drug or alcohol intervention is a planned event, organized by family and friends to persuade a loved one who has a drug, alcohol, or other addiction to get treatment. Interventions achieve the best results when a professional interventionist is hired to help plan and also to facilitate the intervention. Professional interventionists have deep expertise regarding addiction and mental health, and also extensive experience with interventions. Penetrating the resistance, defence mechanisms, and stubborn denial of a person with an addiction can be extremely difficult—we don’t recommend do-it-yourself (DIY) interventions without professional help. While this article explains how to stage a drug or alcohol intervention, the same process can be followed to stage an intervention for a person with a behavioural addiction such as sex addiction (problematic compulsive sexual behaviour) or gambling addiction.

Interventions are about helping a loved one

Interventions are about being proactive and helping a loved one who is suffering from addiction. It’s a carefully planned process and should never be done spontaneously. The objective of the intervention is to convince the person to agree to get treatment for their drug or alcohol addiction. This is achieved by triggering a moment of clarity in which they realize and acknowledge the harm that their addiction has caused the people around them. At the same time, during the intervention, the person must feel that they are loved and supported by all their family and friends who are present. The intervention should also help the person realize that there is a solution for their problem. Typically, if a person’s drug or alcohol addiction has gotten severe enough to warrant an intervention, the solution will be inpatient treatment at a drug and alcohol rehab center.

An intervention starts an authentic dialogue

Staging a drug or alcohol intervention, opens an honest and authentic dialogue between the person who has an addiction and their family and friends. Since the motivation for an intervention is helping your loved one get better, communication should be kind, loving, and supportive. Interventions are not the time or place for venting, arguing about who’s “right” or “wrong,” or for family and friends to unload their own baggage. Participants must avoid blaming, accusing, and saying hurtful or insulting things to the person—all of which are likely to trigger defensiveness and denial, resulting in refusal to accept help and get treatment. Instead, participants must focus on the harm that the person’s addiction has caused them, describing specific events and how they felt hurt. Through the process of preparing for an intervention, the person’s family and friends will learn about addiction and better understand the struggles that their loved one is facing. This will help them approach the person with love and compassion during the intervention.

 

Do Drug and Alcohol Interventions Really Work?

Yes, the majority of drug or alcohol interventions that are carefully planned and facilitated by a professional interventionist are successful at persuading a person with addiction to get treatment—with success rates as high as 90%. Conversely, a rushed DIY intervention without proper research, planning, and preparation is unlikely to succeed and may have disastrous consequences.

 

How Do You Know When You Need to Stage a Drug or Alcohol Intervention?

An intervention is likely the best course of action when a loved has an addiction and the following are true:

Communicating a unified message to the person as a group can have a more powerful effect than one-on-one interactions and can successfully break through the strong denial and resistance associated with addiction. When the person is faced with a cohesive group whose members are all communicating the same message, it becomes much harder for them to minimize or hide their alcohol or drug addiction.

If your loved one is starting to have problems in other important areas of their life due to their addiction, such as their work, their studies, or their health, these are also signs that an intervention might be in order. Unexplained and frequent borrowing of money, stealing, and secretive behaviour are also signs that an alcohol or drug problem may be getting worse and should be addressed as soon as possible.

 

Step 1: Get Help From Family, Friends, and a Professional Interventionist

The first step in planning to stage a drug or alcohol intervention is to get help—you cannot do an intervention on your own. Start by talking to the person’s other family members and friends to see who would be interested in participating in the intervention. Find and consult addiction professionals who can help you learn more about addiction, interventions, and treatment options. This could include addictions counsellors, social workers, psychotherapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and medical doctors specializing in addiction treatment. As previously mentioned, for best results, hire a professional interventionist for both planning and facilitating the intervention.

Hire a professional interventionist

Professional interventionists provide many services including support, education, guidance, direction, and training to the family and friends of the person with addiction as they plan and prepare for the intervention. In addition to their expertise and experience, a professional interventionist helps the planning process by providing an invaluable outside perspective due to their lack of any prior relationship or emotional involvement with the person. Professional interventionists are also skilled at facilitating interventions and keeping the conversation focused and on topic, which can be especially challenging when emotions start running high.

We strongly recommend hiring a professional interventionist in all cases—but it’s especially critical if any of the following are true about the person who has an addiction:

How to find a professional interventionist

When looking for an interventionist, ask doctors or therapists for recommendations. Also ask local mental health care providers such as hospitals and drug and alcohol rehab centers. If you have private health insurance or employee benefits, or if the person with addiction does, call the insurance company and ask them if there are any professional interventionists that are covered under the plan.

It’s a good idea to make sure that the professional interventionist whom you hire is certified: two of the most widely recognized certifications are Certified Intervention Professional (CIP) and Certified Arise Interventionist. The best professional interventionists will also usually belong to a professional association such as the Association of Intervention Specialists (AIS). These associations hold their members to strict standards and codes of ethics. Always make sure that the interventionist you hire is an insured professional carrying professional liability and malpractice insurance.

If you need help finding an interventionist, call us at 1-800-387-6198 and we’ll give you the names of qualified professionals in your area. EHN Canada does not pay a referral fee to interventionists.

 

Step 2: Decide Who’s On Your Intervention Team

The most effective drug or alcohol intervention teams typically consist of between four and six family members, friends, and possibly coworkers who are close to the person with addiction—plus a professional interventionist. One person should be appointed to be the coordinator or “project manager” who makes sure that the other team members stay on track preparing for the intervention. The professional interventionist could take this role depending on the scope or your agreement with them.

Choose people who’ll make the person feel comfortable

The objective when choosing team members is to assemble a group of people that will not scare the person, or cause them to feel ambushed or ganged-up on—this could easily cause them to flee the intervention, a highly undesirable result. Hence, the four-to-six individuals should all be people who love and know the person very well. They must have good relationships with the person so that their participation in the intervention will be motivating. They should be people whom the person likes, respects, and trusts—people whose opinions the person values and cares about. 

Exclude people who won’t be able to control themselves

Your intervention team should not include any of the following types of people:

Including any of these types of people will likely be highly counterproductive as their intense emotions are likely to spill out and disrupt or derail the intervention.

If you’re uncertain, a professional interventionist can give you useful guidance in choosing the other members of your intervention team.

 

Step 3: Plan the Time, Date, Location, and Logistics

When scheduling the intervention, keep in mind that most successful drug or alcohol interventions take between 30 and 90 minutes. Shorter than 30 minutes will usually not be enough to get through to the person who has an addiction; longer than 90 minutes will often start to become too stressful and fatiguing for both the person who has an addiction and the intervention team members.

Best time of day to stage a drug or alcohol intervention

The best time of day to stage a drug or alcohol intervention is whatever time of day the person with addiction is least likely to be high or drunk. For most people, this will usually be first thing in the morning (or whenever they usually wake up) before they start using or drinking. This will help ensure that they’re relatively calm and rational, making it more likely that they’ll be able to commit to a decision to get treatment for their addiction.

Schedule a date that gives you time to prepare

Ensure that you schedule the intervention for a date that gives you and the rest of your intervention team adequate time to thoroughly prepare. Preparing to stage an effective drug or alcohol intervention can take several weeks of sustained effort from all team members. Review this entire guide and consult a professional interventionist to get an accurate idea of the amount of work involved. Next, discuss with the rest of your team to agree on how much time is reasonable for all of you to get prepared and be ready.

Choose a safe and private location

The location you choose for the intervention should be safe, private, and comfortable. However, your home or the person’s home may be too comfortable and can make it easy for the person to leave the intervention and go hide in a bedroom. A professional interventionist will have an office or other space that is designed for staging interventions and these will often be ideal locations. The formality of a professional interventionist’s space can help ensure that all participants will be on their “best behaviour” during the intervention. In case you choose not to hire a professional interventionist to facilitate, churches and community centers may also offer suitable spaces.

Decide how to get the person to the intervention

Decide who will bring the person to the intervention location. This should be a member of your intervention team with whom the person has a very close and trusting relationship, and with whom the person feels very comfortable and at ease. Also decide on a compelling pretense under which the team member will persuade the person to accompany them to the location. Typically, at this point we don’t advise full transparency—telling a person who has an addiction that you’re going to take them an intervention is unlikely to gain their cooperation.

 

Step 4: Research Addiction and Choose the Best Treatment Program

Start by doing some research to learn about the person’s type of addiction and about addiction in general. A professional interventionist will be a great source of information who can both answer your questions and direct you to learning resources. Improving your knowledge of addiction will help you choose the best drug or alcohol rehab program for the person. It will also help you communicate more effectively with the person about their addiction during the intervention and will help you avoid blaming them or making moral judgments. Ideally, all members of your intervention team should participate in doing research and should share the information they find with each other.

Choose the best inpatient rehab center for the person

Your next step should be to talk to an addiction treatment professional about what kind of treatment program would be best for the person’s type and severity of addiction, and also for their personality. If the person’s addiction is severe enough that you need to stage an intervention, then you’ll probably be looking at residential treatment options. Do your research and find a program at an inpatient drug and alcohol rehab center that best fits the person’s needs—and again, the whole intervention team should be involved in this process. A professional interventionist will be knowledgeable regarding treatment options and can save you a lot of time and effort by providing you reliable and high quality information and guiding you to make the best choice. A professional interventionist can also help you create a more comprehensive and long-term treatment plan for the person, including an aftercare or continuing care plan for when the person completes residential treatment.

Make tentative arrangements for admission to the rehab center

If the intervention is successful, you’re going to want to get the person into treatment as quickly as possible. Take practical measures to facilitate this: start by calling the chosen rehab center and find out if they can admit the person immediately after the intervention date. If they can, find out what steps are required to get the person admitted and do whatever is required. If you chose an inpatient program at a drug and alcohol rehab center that is not local, make tentative travel arrangements beforehand, and consider packing a suitcase for the person before the intervention, if practical.

 

Step 5: Write a Script of What You Will Say During the Intervention

To ensure that the conversation stays focused and on topic, every member of your intervention team should write a script of everything that they’ll say to the person with addiction. The scripts should clearly describe the harm that the person has caused to those around them, But, they should also emphasize that the person has the love and support of their family and friends, who will be there for the person throughout their recovery process. Scripts should also clearly describe the consequences that each team member will enforce if the person refuses to get treatment for their drug or alcohol addiction. Finally, there should be one script describing the details of the proposed treatment plan for the person, which one team member will read after all the team members have read their personal scripts.

Vivid, high-impact descriptions of harm caused by the person’s behaviour

Each script should describe how the person’s drug or alcohol addiction has harmed their family member or friend. The objective of this part is to help the person realize that their addiction affects not only themselves, but also those around them. Keep in mind that people with a drug or alcohol addiction are often so wrapped up in their own worlds that they have no idea about the harm that they’re causing others.

This section of the script should provide specific examples of destructive behaviours and clear descriptions of the harm caused. It should contain only authentic statements, motivated by love and the earnest desire to help the person—no accusations, insults, shaming, etc. Avoid stigmatizing labels such as “junkie,” “addict,” or “alcoholic” and generally avoid moral and judgmental language. Instead, describe your feelings using “I” statements—for example, “I was very sad and hurt when you used drugs and…” Vivid descriptions of specific incidents will be much more effective than talking abstractly about the person’s general patterns of behaviour—describe in detail a few incidents related to the person’s drug or alcohol addiction that were especially painful for you.

Conveying your sincere concern and desire to see the person get better is the key to success. Hence, avoid using words and talking about non-essential topics that you know the person will find especially triggering. Simple and direct communication will be most effective—don’t sugar coat or beat around the bush—but at the same time do your best not to unnecessarily aggravate, enrage, or cause defensive reactions.

Assurance that you’ll be there for them

Each script should describe the ways in which the family member or friend will support the person through their recovery process. Some examples of helpful support include the following:

Clearly state the consequences of refusing to get treatment

Scripts should clearly describe how the family member’s or friend’s relationship with the person who has an addiction will change if the person refuses to get treatment. For starters, all team members must make firm commitments to stop enabling the person and to stop participating in codependent behaviours. Consequences should be stated simply and directly. They may include things such as the following:

Giving clear ultimatums is fine—as long as they are fair and well justified. 

Explain your rationale for the consequences and be careful with your tone—your consequences should not come off as threats or as attempts to coerce the person into doing something that they don’t want to do. As with all other components of the intervention, it’s critical that you communicate that your motivation is love and concern for the person’s well-being. Emphasize that you will enforce the consequences if they refuse to get treatment—not because you want to hurt the person, but because you care about them. Do your best to explain your rationale and how enforcing the consequences will, in the long-term, result in the best outcomes for everyone involved.

Explain the proposed treatment plan and its benefits

One script should explain the details of the proposed treatment plan and its benefits—one team member will read it after all the team members have read their personal scripts. Start by clearly describing the steps, goals, and conditions of the proposed treatment plan. Next, describe the details of the inpatient treatment program, its benefits, and why you believe that it’s the best fit for the person with addiction. Include a list of all the benefits that the person can achieve for their life and relationships by going through with the proposed treatment plan. Make sure you emphasize that professional inpatient drug and alcohol rehab programs are highly effective at helping people get better and at providing the foundations for successful long-term recovery.

Ask a professional interventionist to review your scripts

A professional interventionist can help you refine your scripts and make your communication much more persuasive and, consequently, your intervention much more likely to succeed. If you haven’t hired a professional interventionist, then review each other’s scripts to ensure that all content and language is constructive, non-judgmental, non-shaming, and coming from a place of love and motivation to help the person. Revise and refine your scripts according to the feedback you receive until everyone on the team is satisfied that the scripts cannot be improved any further.

 

Step 6: Set Expectations for Team Members and Plan for Contingencies

Even the most well-planned intervention facilitated by a professional interventionist may not go smoothly or may not persuade a person who has an addiction to get treatment. Ensure that your intervention team is prepared for anything by considering possible contingencies. Make any necessary additions or revisions to your scripts as you work through this step.

If the drug or alcohol intervention succeeds

If the intervention succeeds, this means that the person has agreed to get treatment, consistent with the proposed treatment plan. With adequate preparation, and the help of a professional interventionist, the majority of interventions will end with success. Therefore, you should be prepared to immediately take the next steps and get the person into treatment as quickly and efficiently as possible. As described in the last section of Step 4, before the intervention, you should preemptively make tentative arrangements to get the person admitted to your chosen treatment program, as well as travel arrangements, if applicable.

Expect intense reactions and plan your responses

All your intervention team members should be prepared to handle intense emotional reactions from the person with addiction, such as extreme sadness or anger. Your team should have planned responses for handling any of the following reactions: 

A professional interventionist can help you plan for such reactions and can also handle them skillfully should they actually occur during the intervention.

Be prepared for anything

Think about directions that the person with addiction might try to steer the conversation to avoid admitting their drug or alcohol addiction. Make a list of objections, counter arguments, or deflections you think they might attempt during the intervention. For each one, write down a response that will get the conversation back on track.

A person with addiction will sometimes try to manipulatively persuade the intervention team that their addiction is not that bad and that they’ll take care of it on their own, without getting treatment or any professional help. Be prepared to hold your ground. Negotiating with a person who has an addiction is a slippery slope. Ask for a simple “yes” or “no” answer to whether or not they agree to the proposed treatment plan. Every team member should be fully prepared to follow through on all the consequences they described unless the person answers “yes.”

Planning ahead and being prepared will give your team the flexibility to effectively handle the different ways that the intervention might go. It’s worth repeating that team members should be prepared to follow through and enforce their consequences if the person refuses to get treatment. If the person with addiction perceives the consequences as empty threats or feels that some team members are wavering, this will make the person less likely to agree to getting treatment.

If the person refuses to get treatment

Keep in mind that even if the person refuses to get treatment at the end of the intervention, the members of your intervention team have done everything in their power to help the person—for the time being.

 

Step 7: Rehearse What You’re Going to Say

Interventions can get very emotional. It helps for everyone to know when it’s their turn to talk, and to know to stop talking once they’ve finished reading their scripts. Rehearsing helps ensure that everyone speaks in order and sticks to their scripts so that communication is focused and effective. Rehearsing also provides an opportunity to give and receive feedback and further refine team members’ personal scripts. Finally, it helps team members become aware of their own emotional reactions to reading their scripts out loud and helps them prepare for these so that they can better manage their own emotions during the intervention. If any team members won’t commit to attending at least one rehearsal, this may be a sign that they’re not sufficiently committed to helping the person, and that perhaps they shouldn’t participate in the intervention

Decide on the speaking order

Decide on the order in which team members will read their scripts. Recall that the objective of the intervention is to persuade the person to agree to get treatment and that the intervention is over once the person agrees. 

Carefully consider which team members’ scripts might be most effective, and the best order for the person with addiction to hear them. Also consider how the person’s relationships with each family member or friend will affect their receptiveness. For example, if they’re already sick of hearing about their addiction from their family, then having their friends and other loved ones speak first might be the most effective approach.

After everyone has read their personal scripts, one team member should read the script explaining the details of the proposed treatment plan. This includes clearly describing the steps, goals, and conditions with which the team is asking the person to agree. Your intervention team members may be feeling fatigued and emotional by this point in the intervention—hence, a professional interventionist may be ideal for this role as they will be able to speak about the treatment plan with a calm and positive tone.

Double-check the tone and content of your scripts

All the members of the intervention team should be together for at least one rehearsal where everyone reads their scripts out loud to the whole group. This is an opportunity to pay attention to what you’re saying and how you’re saying it. It’s also an opportunity for team members to provide each other constructive criticism and help each other revise their scripts. Ensure that scripts are concise. The content should emphasize your love and concern—no judging, blaming, or shaming. Remember that the intervention is about helping the person—avoid self-pity or making it about yourself.

Practice speaking warmly

When you’re rehearsing, really focus on how you’re delivering your message. You should be speaking with a warm, caring tone that is consistent with the loving, caring, and supportive words in your script. Your body language should also match this by being open, relaxed, and non-threatening as follows:

 

Step 8: The Intervention Itself

On the day of the intervention, don’t start the intervention if the person is drunk or high at the scheduled time—delay the intervention until they’ve sobered up.

Important dos and don’ts during a drug or alcohol intervention

All team members should go through the following list of things to keep in mind during the intervention:

Don’t panic—stay focused and request a decisive answer

If the intervention gets emotionally intense, don’t panic, stay focused on the objective—persuading the person to agree to the proposed treatment plan and clearly communicating the consequences of refusing to get treatment. If you have a professional interventionist facilitating the intervention, you can rely on them as a source of stability and guidance. After everyone has read their scripts, and the proposed treatment plan has been clearly explained, firmly ask the person to make an immediate decision—do not give them “a few days to think about it”!

 

Step 9: Follow Through and Don’t Give Up

Whether or not the person agrees to get treatment, the intervention team members must act consistently with the statements they made during the intervention. This means following through on promises to support the person if they agree to get treatment, or enforcing consequences if the person doesn’t agree to get treatment.

If they agree, get them into treatment ASAP

As previously discussed in this guide, you should have previously made arrangements to get the person into an inpatient drug or alcohol rehab program quickly and efficiently should they agree to the proposed treatment plan. If they do agree, take action right away to start the process of getting them admitted. Your intervention team members should all support this process as promised in their scripts.

Refusal to get treatment isn’t failure

If the person doesn’t agree to get treatment, don’t view the intervention as a failure—you’ve started a conversation. Follow up with them and try to continue the conversation and keep trying to persuade them.

For the person with drug or alcohol addiction, living with the consequences of refusing to get treatment can help persuade them that their problem is serious and that they need treatment. They need to understand through experience that all the statements made during the intervention by their loved ones were made in earnest—everyone was dead-serious and no one was bluffing. This may take some time to sink in, which is why it’s critical that everyone fully commit and strictly enforce all the consequences that they described during the intervention.

Following the intervention, any major drug- or alcohol-related incident in the person’s life that happens after the intervention such as a DUI, a drug-related arrest, getting fired from their job, etc. are useful opportunities to try to persuade them again to get treatment for their alcohol or drug addiction.

 

Conclusion

Individuals with substance use disorders are often in denial about the harm they’re causing themselves and others. They often live in fear of the judgment of their family and friends. A drug or alcohol intervention can help them overcome their denial and realize the harm that their addiction is causing. Realizing that they have the love and support of their family and friends also makes it much more likely for them to agree to get treatment and more likely that they’ll fully engage in their treatment program and achieve successful long-term recovery. Don’t forget, regardless of whether they accept or refuse to get treatment at the end of the intervention, as long as you and the other participants follow through on your consequences and continue communicating with the person and offering your support, you’re helping them make progress towards their recovery.

 

We Can Help You

If you would like to learn more about the treatment programs provided by EHN Canada, or would like to get a loved one admitted, please call us at one of the numbers below. Our phone lines are open 24/7—so you can call us anytime.

 

Online Treatment and Support

If you’d like to learn more about our online treatment and support options, please call us at 1-888-767-3711 or visit onthewagon.ca.