When watching your loved one do battle with an addiction, it can be especially difficult to watch, and particularly challenging when you get caught in the crossfire. It is not always easy to talk to these individuals without them becoming distraught or defensive, and knowing what to say yourself can be half of the challenge.
Whether you choose to host an intervention, or you simply want to gather your thoughts about the problem behaviors that you are noticing, choosing to write an “impact letter” can be the first step in reconnecting with your loved one or getting them to reset back on the right path.
What is an impact letter?
While you may call it an intervention letter or by another name, but the concept remains the same: using a letter to communicate the impact that someone’s substance use has on others. They are designed to allow supporters to be able to be honest about the reality of the situation, but with well-constructed expressions of concerns that avoid triggering defensiveness, or appearing manipulative, or patronizing.
Because we know that cruelty doesn’t tend to inspire positive action, the impact letter should be sympathetic and supportive, not simply a litany of misdeeds or opportunity for revenge.
Start with their strengths
In beginning the letter, it is important to start off on the right foot. Think back to the best times that the two of you have shared, and what you love most about them. Share how you view them, and a little of what your relationship with them means to you. Stay honest, and even remind them that your love for them is unconditional, despite their behaviors as of late.
Appeal to their perspective
Those with addictive patterns of behavior are often no stranger to the experience of shame in their lives as a result of their habits. For this reason, it’s important to next open up your letter with an understanding of what their life might have been like, or how the addiction disease got a hold on them. Showing that you can understand how things got to where they are now, or what they might be feeling as a result of even receiving the letter can go a long way in opening the door for a productive conversation. In addition, hearing these realities can help them feel less guilty or blame while owning up to what you have to say in the next section.
Share the Impact
In perhaps the easiest section, think about the ways in which their battle with addiction has changed both of your lives. Whether it was the loss of a career, countless relationships, suspended license or repossessed car, financial struggles or even homelessness. All of these factors may be important to mention when answering the question, “how is this lifestyle working for you?” In your letter, avoid repetitive criticisms, and stay focused on the most meaningful and significant examples.
Use this section to set boundaries and what you expect from them moving forward. Perhaps the goal of the intervention is to get your loved one involved in the treatment or comply with house rules. Explain what you intend to change in the future, like requiring housing or financial support to be contingent on the maintenance of sobriety.
Share how you intend to do their part to support them, whether by going to Al-Anon or AA meetings, brainstorming and researching the right program, or participating in family counseling. Most importantly, if you promise these things, make sure that you follow through as your consistency will be the best communicator of your support.
Getting someone on board for treatment is perhaps one of the biggest hurdles facing families and loved ones of those facing addiction. Writing a well-constructed and concerned letter can be a great way to reach them in this trying time. Learn more about our professional interventions and the great family services we offer for clients of MD Home Detox.