When An Addiction Intervention Goes Wrong

 In Intervention, Intervention Tips

When Things Go Wrong During an Addiction Intervention

Many of us have heard the horror stories of loved ones walking out of an intervention, or a fight breaking out partway through.

Chances are, these stories are true.

As much as we don’t want to imagine things going wrong, they do.

Accepting that will better prepare everyone to deal with whatever outcome the intervention produces, and to find closure whether the addict agrees to treatment or not.


What Usually Goes Wrong?

There are a number of things that can go wrong during an intervention and understanding this can help you to be better prepared. Among the most common issues are:

  • The failure to prepare
  • Not allowing a professional to lead the intervention
  • Trying to spring treatment on a person who’s clearly not ready
  • Friends and family who aren’t ready to stop enabling the addict’s behavior
  • Emotionally charged testimonials that end in anger
  • An unproductive dialogue that accuses and belittles the addict
  • Trying to trap them or force them into treatment

Anything that can make a person feel targeted instead of supported can undermine the purpose of the intervention and lead to the person resisting treatment.

It’s also important that everyone be completely on board with the intervention. If someone is offering the addict an out that doesn’t include rehab, there’s a good chance that the intervention won’t end well.


How to React When Your Loved One Resists Treatment

Even the best-planned intervention can end up with a person refusing to go to treatment.

They may tell you that there’s nothing wrong with them, that they don’t have a problem or that they can stop on their own.

These are all fairly typical responses from a person in denial or who doesn’t want to stop using quite yet.

At this point, going through everyone involved in the intervention and allowing them to tactfully voice their concerns can help.

Sometimes this is enough to help the addict reach a moment of clarity that allows them to finally accept help. Other times, this does little to change their mind.

If a loved on absolutely resists or denies treatment, you need to remember that this isn’t necessarily the end.

Not being ready at that exact moment doesn’t mean that the addict won’t be ready in the future.

They know that there’s an offer of help, and there’s a good chance that if everyone who participated in the intervention follows through, they’ll eventually end up taking it.

One of the biggest problems comes when a family member or friend gives in to the addict’s pleas for “help” and gives them a place to stay and financial support.

This isn’t the kind of help that they need and often prolongs their drug use.

Every single person there needs to be ready and willing to stop supporting the addict in any way if the person refuses help.

This may seem cruel, but it can lay out a single path for the addict that they need to follow, instead of offering them more appealing alternatives.


Be Honest at All Costs

Sugar coating your word choices won’t help during an intervention.

While it’s important not to be cruel, hurtful or combative, you will need to be completely honest.

Telling the addict how you feel is essential to the productivity of the intervention.

They need to know the truth about how their actions have impacted everyone.

The problem when dealing with a person who you care about is the inclination to try and protect their feelings.

Most people don’t want to hurt the person and as a result, they downplay the way that the substance abuse has really affected them.

Insulating the addict against the scope of their actions is a mistake that can cost them their lives.

If they think that what they’re doing is “no big deal,” then what’s to stop them from doing it?

Remember that a person who’s actively using drugs or alcohol isn’t in their right mind.

They aren’t perceiving things in the world in the same way you are.

They may react in ways that are meant to preserve their addiction, or that are over the top or uncalled for.

Sometimes, this can lead to conflict or violent behaviors,

The best way to deal with this is to abstain from mirroring their reactions.

If they get angry, keep your cool.

Don’t feed any irrational feelings.

There are times when having a video of how they behave while on drugs can help give them some perspective when they’re sober or nearly so.

Honesty with objective clarity is the best way to reach them.


Don’t Enable

After the intervention, stand behind everything that’s been said or promised, regardless of the outcome.

If the addict refuses treatment, it’s essential that no one continues to enable their destructive behaviors.

No more financial, personal or emotional support until the person willingly enters a rehab facility.

Anything else will prolong their drug use and strengthen the disease’s hold on them.

If you know someone who needs an addiction intervention, don’t wait to get them help.

Call a professional interventionist today, and start planning for a better tomorrow.


[1] Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Brief Interventions and Brief Therapies for Substance Abuse. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 1999. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 34.) Chapter 2—Brief Interventions in Substance Abuse Treatment. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64942/

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