When writing an intervention letter, aim to keep the tone loving and supportive. Avoid blaming or judgmental statements. The ultimate goal is to express how you feel in a thoughtful, caring manner to prompt the person to get help.
If someone you love struggles with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, you naturally want to help them stop abusing the substance and be healthy again. However, this process can be very challenging.
Talking to your loved one face to face, either alone or in a small group of trusted friends and family, can be emotionally painful. You may have trouble remembering what you want to say or avoiding blame. In these instances, writing something ahead of time can help you clarify your intention and your reasons for concern about substance abuse.
Writing a letter can serve several purposes, including:
You do not have to be physically present at an in-person intervention for your concern, support, boundary-setting, and care to be apparent. You can write these thoughts out and mail them to your loved one, send them in an email, or have a professional interventionist read the letter at an in-person intervention.
Whether you type out the letter or handwrite your thoughts, the process of writing can be both therapeutic and cathartic. Putting words to emotions and their causes can allow you to put structure to an experience that may feel dizzying and overwhelming.
You may feel frustration, worry, disappointment, and love all at the same time. Writing these out in a letter to a loved one who struggles with addiction can help you make each of these experiences clear. Then, in another draft, you can determine what is most useful to say to your loved one, so you can set boundaries to keep yourself safe while supporting your loved one’s recovery.
Letters can be a useful tool for the recipient too. If you do not feel like you can say what you need to your loved one’s face, chances are that they may not be ready to hear it in person either. Sending a letter not only allows you to structure your feelings of concern and compassion; it also allows your loved one to read your thoughts without feeling cornered, berated, or pressured. Alleviating the pressure of deciding in real time, during an in-person intervention, may help some people decide that they do need help and prompt them to seek addiction treatment.
While there are several methods of creating an intervention, the Love First method provides a specific structure for letter-writing as a form of intervening with someone suffering addiction. The basic structure includes four parts:
Ready to get Help?
Talk to a treatment expert
With the provided outline above, you can understand the structure in the following sample letter:
It took me some time to gather my thoughts, and I thought it best to write a letter to help them stay structured rather than discuss this in person immediately. I have a problem I need to discuss regarding your behavior around alcohol.
I was dizzy with excitement for you when we first met. You were charming, always the life of every gathering, and you seemed to make friends wherever you went. We often stopped at bars and chatted over drinks late into the night. Your sense of humor, deep laugh, and enthusiastic words of support made me feel not just appreciated, but encouraged, understood, and cherished.
As with any great romantic relationship, we spent more and more time together, eventually living together, getting engaged, and getting married. Our dates at bars turned into hanging out at home with a glass of wine, a good TV show, and your continued beautiful laugh.
Our love has deepened over the years, and so much of it has been vital to my sense of well-being in the world. I love you so much and only want the best for you, and I know you feel the same way. Even great relationships are not perfect, but over time, I’ve noticed some problems when you get drunk. Sometimes, you feel slighted when I get home late, and you become angry with me.
Lately, you do not remember this the next day. You often get sick and stay home from work because you are hungover. You seem to have a drink in hand as soon as you get off work and spend much of the weekend drinking. When I ask to do something else, you wave me away.
I’m very worried about your health, mentally and physically. You seem to get sicker, and you have a harder time expressing what you want. You don’t want to spend time with me anymore if you cannot have a few drinks. You’re forgetting more and more of our time together.
I love you very much, and I support you, but I cannot support this behavior. It hurts me too often, and it makes me not want to be near you. I want to have a deep conversation with you again, but I find that I’m afraid to spend time with you because you’re likely to be drunk.
I have found addiction treatment programs in our area. Whatever you choose for treatment, I offer my help with getting there, paying for services, or finding another provider if the first doesn’t work out. But I need you to get help. I cannot tolerate your alcohol abuse anymore.
Again, I love you very much. Our relationship has changed, but I know you are still the joyful, exuberant person I fell in love with. I want to support you in finding that person again. Love,
(July 20, 2017) Intervention: Help a Loved One Overcome Addiction. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved April 2019 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/in-depth/intervention/art-20047451
(April 19, 2010) Writing a Letter to Your Child with a Drug or Alcohol Problem. Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. Retrieved April 2019 from https://drugfree.org/parent-blog/writing-a-letter-to-your-child-with-a-drug-or-alcohol-problem/
Saving Lives, Saving Families: A Look at Family Intervention. National Association for Children of Addiction (NACoA). Retrieved April 2019 from https://nacoa.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Saving-Lives-Saving-Families.pdf
4. How to Write an Intervention Letter. Six Articles of Intervention, Love First. Retrieved April 2019 from https://lovefirst.net/books-and-media/6-articles-on-intervention/4-how-to-write-an-intervention-letter/
(June 16, 2017) A Letter to My Alcoholic Father. The Fix. Retrieved April 2019 from https://www.thefix.com/letter-my-alcoholic-father