What if the Intervention Fails?

When we talked about staging an intervention, we touched on the possibility that the intervention wouldn’t work. While interventions can be a powerful tool in helping your loved one see that they are in need of help, they won’t work for everyone. When you meet with the professional that will be helping you plan and execute the intervention, it is important to be honest with the professional about your situation for just that reason. In your interventionist advises you against an intervention, take that advice. In some cases, an intervention will make things worse and while an interventionist may not be able to say for sure when that will happen, they will be able to make a more informed decision. As I said though, it is impossible to say how your intervention will go, even with the help of a professional. If your intervention isn’t successful, it can be hard to know what to do next. This article aims to help you understand what to do in the intervention fails.

Accept that it isn’t your fault.

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It is extremely easy to blame yourself when a loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol. You might blame yourself for the addiction, for not catching early warning signs or for not doing something to help sooner. This is especially difficult to avoid if an intervention fails or seems to make things worse. It isn’t your fault. You need to remind yourself of that and remind yourself of that often. If you staged an intervention, even if the intervention failed, you put a lot of time and effort into trying to help your loved one. You did it because you care and you aren’t willing to stand by and do nothing. That counts for a lot. There are a lot of people who care for their loved one and want to help but still avoid the problem and hope for the best. There are also a lot of people that turn a blind eye to a loved one’s addiction and pretend it isn’t hurting people. By taking action, you can at least say you tried something. It is up to your loved one to accept the help that is offered. The sad truth is that you cannot force someone to take the helping hand being extended to them.  They need to want to get better.

Follow through on clearly defined consequences.

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This one is important and it isn’t just important for you. It’s important for everyone who attended the intervention. During the intervention any and all clearly defined consequences laid out for the loved one with an addiction must be followed and they must be followed by everyone. If one person in the group fails to follow through, the group as a whole has failed. Your loved one needs to understand that there are consequences for their actions. If an addiction has had enough of an impact on the people in that group for them to take part in the group, things cannot be allowed to return to the way they were before the intervention. If it was stated that all contact would be cut off with the individual if they chose to decline your help then, as hard as it will be, you need to make sure everyone cuts off contact with the addict. Make the reasons clear. Make sure your loved one understand why you are cutting off contact but also make it clear that you will still be there to get them help with their addiction if they decide they want it.  It needs to be clear that the standing offer of help only refers to their addiction. You won’t be giving them money for food. You won’t be giving them money for their bills. They are on their own until they’re ready to clean up.

If you’ve said you would take legal action against your loved one for any property damage they’ve caused, any personal injuries they’ve inflicted on you or for stealing from you, unfortunately, you need to follow through on that as well. Calling the police on a loved one is a hard, hard thing to do but you don’t just owe it to yourself and to your loved one. You also owe it to the community as a whole. If your loved one has assaulted you, damaged your property (your home, your yard, your car etc) or has stolen from you, it is only a matter of time before they start doing the same to others. Your loved one may be a danger to the community and if you don’t follow through on calling law enforcement, you may have to deal with guilt down the line if they victimize someone else. It’s hard – probably one of the hardest decisions a person will ever have to make – but sometimes it’s the only option you have.

If your loved one lives with you or someone else in the intervention group and it was stated that the loved one will need to look for another place to live if they don’t accept help, you also need to follow through on that. This one is probably even more difficult than calling the police. No one wants to see their loved one living on the street but again, you need to follow through on the terms of the intervention if you want to help your loved one, even if that’s hard to do. Sometimes, an addict will reject help thinking there will be no consequences and everything will go back to normal after the intervention. You can’t allow that to happen. Sometimes being forced to face consequences is the shove a loved one needs to make the decision to get clean.

Talk to someone.

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Because all of these things can be hard to do, it’s important that you take time to care for yourself as well. Talk to someone who has been where you are. Talk to the other people at the intervention on a regular basis so you can all help each other stay strong. Have meet ups as often as possible to make sure you’re all providing each other with the support you all need to follow through. Have snacks and coffee. Talk about your own lives. Talk about your family, your hobbies, your job or even what you like to watch on television. Don’t make the group about your loved one with an addiction. Make it about yourselves and your lives. If someone is having a hard time sticking to the follow through, talk about it. Talk about how you’re coping. Encourage everyone else to do the same. Give everyone an equal chance to talk. Don’t let your loved one be the elephant in the room but don’t allow the group to focus on the loved one either. It should be casual and laid back – a place where you can all talk openly and feel safe. That is important.

If the group isn’t enough for you – and for most, it won’t be – don’t be afraid to get help for yourself. You are a victim of your loved one’s addiction but there are many people out there going through the same thing you are. Look up online support groups. Look up local support groups you can join. Talk to a therapist. A loved one’s addiction can cause a lot of very complex emotional issues. You may need help confronting those issues and coping with them. It’s perfectly understandable. Stay in touch with your interventionist and talk to them when you need it. If they can’t offer their services, ask them to recommend someone who can. There is nothing wrong with needing help coping.

Distract yourself.

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Dealing with the emotional issues you may be facing after a failed intervention is important. It’s healthy and it’s necessary. Dwelling on those issues isn’t. You need to have something to fill your time with so you don’t find yourself dwelling on things you can’t change. Your loved one has rejected help. It’s only natural to worry but you can’t let that worry control you. It isn’t healthy for you, for starters, but it also isn’t doing anything for your loved one. While you want to hold on to hope for your loved one, you can’t allow yourself to spend all of your time worrying about when and if they will decide to seek out help. Do something positive and constructive with your time. Learn a new language. Plan a trip. Tackle any little home improvement projects you’ve been meaning to tackle. Garden. Start writing. Paint. Sketch. Scrapbook. Build things. Take up wood burning. There are lots of creative pursuits you can try out to see what works for you. Taking on something creative allows you to express yourself and allows you to create something you can take pride in.

Move on.

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This is probably the hardest thing on this list to do because it means also letting go of your loved one. You can hold on to that hope that they will change but you need to understand you can’t force that to happen and, more importantly, you can put your life on hold and wait. You need to accept that your loved one may not decide to get help and remind yourself that you’ve done everything you can do. Carry on with your work. Take joy in your family. It is up to your loved one to make the change. You need to take care of yourself and make sure you’re living the kind of life you want to live, or are at least working toward it.

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