How to Troubleshoot a Complicated Intervention

Before an addiction intervention, families go through multiple rehearsal sessions, attempting to come up with the perfect comeback for almost any response the addicted person might throw out. If all goes well, the intervention will progress just as the family expected, with no nasty surprises or unforeseen roadblocks standing in the way. Many interventions do work just like this. However, there are some times when interventions take unexpected turns, and the family members are asked to react quickly to a situation they might not feel prepared to handle.

Angry Responses

When faced with issues of addiction, family members might report feeling sad or upset, but many people who have addictions report that their overwhelming feeling is one of anger. Researchers in the journal Anger and Drug Addiction suggest that people who take drugs have higher anger scores, when compared to people who don’t take drugs, and they also report a lowered ability to control their angry feelings. When confronted with the unpleasant aspects of an addiction, angry responses might just erupt to the surface.

Angry words can hurt, but using anger to respond to anger is never a good idea. An addicted person has control of the situation when their responses set the tone for the family’s discussion. If the person responds with threats, curses or simple angry words, family members would do best to listen without responding in kind. It sounds easy to do, but it can be tough to accomplish. Family members who feel too angry to ignore the comments can simply walk out of the room to calm down, if needed. If the person responds with physical violence, however, the intervention is over. The family members cannot put their own physical safety at risk to reach the person they love. The intervention can be rescheduled for another day.

Depressed Reflexes

Researchers writing in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence suggest that some drugs do damage to the reward centers in the brain, and as a result, people who have addictions to these drugs face crippling symptoms of depression, especially when they don’t have access to drugs. If an intervention takes place, and the person feels depressed and low, the person might:

  • Cry so loudly that the family cannot be heard
  • Shut down and retreat to inner thoughts
  • Threaten suicide
  • Threaten to leave the intervention discussion

Allowing the person a moment to gain control is a humane option here. The family members can remind the person that the talk isn’t meant to be an attack, and that the person is still a loved and valuable member of the family. By providing soothing words, as well as an emotional break in the proceedings, the family may help the person to feel well enough to keep talking.

Leaving the Area

For some people, the best way to dispel a tense moment is to run away. During an intervention, these people might simply leave the room, as soon as the conversation begins to feel tense or awkward. When this happens, one person who is closest to the addicted person should be asked to go and talk to the person and provide subtle pressure to keep talking. If the person comes back to the intervention, the conversation can continue, but if the person refuses to come back, the intervention should be rescheduled for another day.

For more information on holding an intervention, or for more information about how addictions are treated when the intervention is over, please contact us. At Axis, we specialize in helping people with addictions, and we’d love to tell you about our programs.

Further Reading