What to Do if an Intervention Fails

Even the most carefully planned interventions sometimes don’t succeed. Addiction is a powerful, all-consuming disease, and no matter what you do to help someone you love stop using, it’s ultimately up to the addict to find the motivation to get clean. If your loved one absolutely refuses to change, the only answer is to let go of the problem until he or she is ready to accept your support.

What should you do if an interview doesn’t go as planned? Here are a few guidelines for getting through the days ahead:

Don’t Blame Yourself

When you’re close to someone who abuses drugs or alcohol, it’s easy to fall into the trap of blaming yourself for their behavior. You might find yourself engaging in remorseful thoughts like:

  • “If I were only a better parent, my daughter wouldn’t have turned to drugs.”
  • “If I were a more supportive girlfriend, my partner wouldn’t drink so much.”
  • “If I didn’t nag my wife all the time, maybe she’d just stop using on her own.”
  • “If I’d planned that intervention for a different day, if I’d been more sympathetic, or if I’d just been more supportive, it wouldn’t have failed.”

If an intervention fails, it’s natural to question yourself about what you might have done differently. But it’s important to understand that when you’re trying to help someone get into rehab, you’re fighting against a serious, relapsing brain disease.

Educate Yourself on the Causes of Addiction

When an intervention falls through, there’s no point in dwelling on guilt or self-accusations. A failed intervention is a learning opportunity; now that you’ve seen the power of addiction, you’ll be better prepared to face the disease the next time. Learning about how addiction distorts the brain will help you understand why it’s so hard to persuade an addict to quit.

The University of Utah’s Genetic Science Learning Center explains that prolonged drug abuse affects the brain’s ability to make rational decisions, exercise good judgment and remember painful experiences. Drugs like cocaine, meth, heroin and alcohol affect the brain’s reward pathways, which produce pleasurable sensations ranging from contentment to euphoria. Once the brain has become adapted to the presence of drugs, the search for these sensations becomes a compulsive habit that’s extremely difficult to break. No matter how devastating and humiliating the effects of drug abuse may be, the addict will continue to chase that same high.

Seek Help for Yourself

Just because your loved one has refused to get help doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t seek counseling and education for yourself and the rest of your family. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence offers a few suggestions on how you and your loved ones can pursue your own recovery:

  • Join a support group for the family members of addicts, like Al-Anon or Alateen.
  • Build communication skills through counseling sessions and self-help groups.
  • Learn new coping skills for dealing with stress and conflict in the family.
  • Learn how to lovingly detach from the addict, so you’re not accepting responsibility for their disease.
  • Work on building your own self-esteem and exploring healthy, sober activities.

The more you focus on developing a healthy, stable home life, the better equipped you’ll be to help your loved one when she or he is ready.

Don’t Give Up Hope

Even if an intervention doesn’t produce the outcome you wanted, it doesn’t mean that your loved one didn’t hear the message. Your loved one may not be ready to act on the statements you made, but he or she may use that information at a later date to make serious changes. While it’s important to detach yourself from the disease of addiction, you should never give up hope that the person you love has the potential to recover.

After the intervention, meet with a professional addiction specialist to talk about how you can maintain hope for the future while getting on with your own life. Look forward to the future by making positive, self-affirming plans. It takes strength to separate yourself from a loved one’s destructive behavior, but with the help of supportive friends and professionals, you can create a healthier future.

The rehab specialists here at Axis understand that addiction is a family problem, not just an individual condition. We’re here to offer suggestions and answer your questions about getting through this difficult time. If you or someone you love has a drug or alcohol problem, call us for answers today.

Further Reading