Confronting a friend or loved one about their alcoholism is hard enough. Actually getting them into a treatment program can seem impossible.

However, with the right tools in hand, the odds for your success are greatly increased. Studies show that the most successful approach to getting an alcoholic into treatment is intervention.

An intervention involves family and friends confronting their loved one about the consequences of their alcoholism and asking that person to accept treatment. The primary outcome of the intervention is to get that person to agree to treatment immediately.

This can be done in several ways depending on how much help you think you'll need. You can confront the person on your own. Or you can try the group intervention method where you enlist friends and family to intervene with you.

While there is no guarantee of success, you'll likely have better results by following a few important steps no matter how you approach this.

Talk to Yourself. From here on out, you must stop making excuses for the alcoholic in your life. If you've been an enabler, tell yourself that continuing this behavior is destructive to you and your loved one. So not only must the alcoholic change, but you must be willing to change too.

You may want to unload for all the stress, embarrassment and heartache this person has caused you over the years. But doing this will only alienate them. However you approach this confrontation, you need to be firm, direct, but also non-critical.

Get Support. Start with a call or trip to your local Al-Anon. This offshoot group of AA is a support group for friends and family members of alcoholics. The members of Al-Anon have lots of experience in dealing with alcoholics in their lives. They can talk to you about their experiences— what worked, what didn't—, and they can provide support as you confront your friend or family member.

Talk to Family and Friends. Let those around the alcoholic know what you are doing. Ask for support. This support may involve their help with a future intervention.

Make a List. When you confront the alcoholic, you'll want to have specific dates and examples of bad behavior associated with the drinking. Include how their behavior made you feel and how it has affected your relationship. List how much the drinking has cost financially.

Other things to think about: How has their drinking affected your relationship with others? Has their drinking ever publically embarrassed you? Give examples. Is it affecting your job? Is it affecting their job?

This step also applies to friends and family should you go with a group intervention.

The Consequences. While you're making your list, be thinking about what ultimatum you plan to give this person. In order for this to work, you must be willing to tell them what will happen if they don't quit. For instance, will you divorce them? Separate? Stop financial support? No longer welcome them into your home? These consequences must be ones you're willing to stick to. At this point, you will know what your thresholds are.

Meet with an Interventionist. If you decide to go with a professional intervention, you'll need to contact an interventionist—a licensed counselor or psychotherapist certified by the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium (ICRC) and the Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC). The interventionist will educate and train your group and will facilitate the intervention.

Find a Treatment Center. Ask for help from a doctor or someone at Al-Anon to help. If your loved one agrees to treatment after your intervention/confrontation, you'll want to get them there ASAP. Have this treatment pre-arranged.

Time your Confrontation/Intervention. Talk to the drinker when they are sober. If you can confront them after an alcohol-related problem, so much the better. This way you'll have a fresh example of bad behavior to confront them with.

Even If They Refuse, You've Still Gained. What if your loved one walks out? Refuses to go to treatment. It can happen in even the best planned and executed interventions. If they do refuse, there are still positives gained from the intervention process:

  • You have committed not to enable them any longer.
  • You are stronger now that you have gone through this, confronting an alcoholic.
  • Your loved one's alcoholism is out in the open.
  • You have learned more about yourself and about alcoholism. This can help you in future attempts at intervening.
  • Friends and family have also learned about alcoholism and the alcoholic.

Conclusions

No matter how you chose to confront your loved one about their addiction and need for treatment, it will not be easy. The classic intervention where you enlist the support of friends, family, and an interventionist is the most successful.

Going primarily solo is also an option. Before you decide, talk with people at your local Al-Anon. Talk with a doctor. Talk with an interventionist. Most important, talk to yourself. Be strong, firm and resolute.