5 Mistakes That Ruin Your Intervention Letter

Your intervention letter might be one of the most important writing tasks of your entire life–after all, this is your friend and loved one’s life we’re talking about. You can’t afford to have a poorly written tome. The difference between a poor letter and a well-written letter can determine the success of the whole intervention.

While there are many variations of good letters, here are 5 mistakes you will certainly want to avoid. Watch out for these mistakes as you write your letter and listen for them as your team critiques each other’s letters during a rehearsal.

1. The Letter is Not Personal

An intervention letter is directed to your loved one from you. You should be speaking for yourself and not the whole group, so eliminate first person plural, “we”, and replace it with first person singular, “I”. Use personal examples, illustrations and experiences. Repeating information “I heard from so-and-so” sounds like gossip and may elicit a defensive attitude from the addict.

2. The Letter Is Judgmental

The letter is a message of love, not accusations. Your goal is to help your loved one, not shame him or her. Remaining calm and nonjudgmental is the best way for your loved one to hear the words you’re saying. Here are some tips to eliminate undertones of blame:

BE SPECIFIC. AVOID GENERALIZATIONS.

  • Don’t say: “You always miss the children’s games because you’ve been drinking.”
  • Do Say: “Last week, you missed Tim’s soccer match, and Lisa’s two home tournaments because you were at the bar.”

USE “I” INSTEAD OF “YOU”.

  • Don’t say: “You made me feel so angry and worried.”
  • Do Say: “I felt angry and worried.”

USE WORDS THAT DESCRIBE HOW YOU FEEL WITHOUT BLAMING YOUR LOVED ONE.

This includes words like

  • Angry
  • Discouraged
  • Helpless
  • Anxious
  • Worried
  • Hurt
  • Afraid
  • Ashamed
  • Frustrated
  • Lonely
  • Guilty
  • Bewildered
  • Confused
  • Embarrassed
  • Miserable
  • Numb

Remember: Anger has no place during an intervention. An intervention is not an attack. It is not a way to shame the addict or coerce them into treatment. An intervention is an act of love. It is helping someone you deeply care about. Before an intervention, it is imperative that all team members control negative emotions and focus on the solution–helping your loved one accept treatment immediately.

3. The Letter Is Insincere

Loved ones struggling with an alcohol or drug addiction can sniff out insincerity like hounds on a chase. Cliches and trite phrases not only sound manipulative, but they harden your loved one to all other messages of love, even sincere ones. Those closest to the addict have been hurt the most and are usually under considerable emotional strain. Although many relationships are not at their best during an intervention, this is the best time to be transparent and honest about feelings, failures, and concerns.

For example:

Dan, I know our relationship have been hard these days, and we get into a lot of fights. In hurt and anger, I’ve said and done many things to hurt you back and make you want to quit. I’m sorry for all those times I let my anger take over. I just didn’t know what to do, and I felt like I was losing you. I know we’ve had hard times, but don’t ever doubt my love for you.

4. There is Redundancy Between Letters

During the rehearsal, make sure the same scenario or example isn’t repeated in multiple letters. If Jenny, Peter, and Uncle Fred all wrote about the same incident during Christmas break, consider revising the letters so each includes a unique experience. Listing multiple different experiences builds credibility and strengthens your argument.

5. The Letter is Too Long

Your letter should take no longer than 5 minutes to read. Of course, the larger your team is, the shorter each letter should be, keeping the entire intervention to about 15 to 30 minutes. More is not always better; short and sweet letters can be more effective than long letters. The team should help each other edit the letters to cut down wordiness during rehearsals. As its been said, “Say what you need to say and stop when you have said it.”

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My drug addiction was controlling my life, and I was in a free fall heading towards rock bottom. The only path I could see was to keep using and hope for the best. That’s when I learned of another path, getting help and starting treatment. I’m now 3 years sober and have never been happier. The light is at the end of the tunnel, reach for it.

– A former guest