Believe it or not, pre-flight planning and addiction interventions are related

Pre-flight planning and intervention are related but you might not see until you continue reading. Out of college my first career was that of an airline pilot, however September 11 led to a cascade of events, and eventually to me setting this career to the side. In reflecting on the lessons I learned as a pilot, I realized there is a discipline to professional flying that can apply to addiction treatment.

One would think the world of piloting and addiction are dissimilar. Flying requires organization, every flight follows an industry standard to ensure each flight operates according to plan. Addiction, on the other hand, is chaotic. Each day may bring a new crisis one can’t prepare for in advance.

I liken my approach to addiction interventions to that of getting an airplane ready to fly. Just as a pilot must exhaust a list of external factors in order to fly successfully, a successful intervention requires just as much forethought.

When a loved one attempts to organize an intervention they want the process to be quick and successful. Just as a plane cannot take off at the will of the passengers, time is required to do the pre-intervention work. A successful intervention may take several days, or even a few weeks to plan.

Steps To A Successful Pre-Intervention

  • Get the whole picture. Before a flight, a pilot considers factors that affect takeoff, en route and landing. Addiction is not a simple thing to understand, and how it manifests can differ from each affected person’s perspective. Therefore, it is necessary to hear from multiple people close to the addict in order to get a full picture of the nature of this person’s addiction.
  • Consider the costs. Treating addiction can become an expensive process. For a plan to be actionable it needs to be affordable, so it is important to consider all the options available.
  • Brief the crew. A successful intervention includes multiple people; friends, parents, spouses, and children. Everyone taking part needs to be on the same page. It may even help to train them on what to say and how to act. This will make reaching the ultimate goal of the intervention, which is to help the addict begin the journey to recovery, easier.
  • Consider all of the contingencies. Just as pilots spend a lot of time considering the “what ifs,” pre-planning for an intervention must not be overlooked. For example, what if the person of concern doesn’t show up, doesn’t agree to going to treatment, or grows defensive? Everyone on the intervention crew needs to be ready for these possibilities, and have contingencies for each route the intervention could take.

Landing a plane safely takes work and a great deal of planning both before and during the flight. Think in advance how to best approach the addict so that they are receptive to what the “intervention crew” has to say. Just as flights experience delays, the first attempt might not result in treatment. However, if one puts in the time and work necessary for such a difficult process, then not only with the intervention be a success, but the long journey of recovery can begin.


About Suntra Modern Recovery and Adam Banks

Adam Banks is a certified interventionist at Suntra Modern Recovery. After receiving an MBA from the University of Chicago, Adam built a company that was later acquired by United Health Care. His discipline and attention to detail comes from his former career as an airline pilot, holding an ATP, the FAA’s highest license.

Adam recently co-authored Navigating Recovery Ground School: 12 Lessons to Help Families Navigate Recovery. In this lesson book Adam and John Roesch walk families through the entire intervention process. Suntra also offers a free video course for families considering hosting an intervention for a family member. 

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