After an Intervention

An intervention is a powerful tool that often compels addicted people to seek treatment when the situation seems hopeless and nothing else has worked. Friends and family members who have staged an intervention are bound to have high hopes that their father, mother, daughter, son, friend or employee will complete drug and alcohol treatment and find their way to recovery from the addiction that has plagued them for so long. Typically, those high hopes are overshadowed by a range of emotions such as relief, fear, worry, guilt, anger, anxiety and sadness – and most of all, concern about what happens next.

What Happens After an Intervention?

Hopefully, the subject of the intervention will agree to enter drug or alcohol treatment immediately. If the person is addicted to drugs or alcohol, the first step is detox, which depending on the severity of the addiction, may occur in a medical setting or hospital. Detox generally lasts between three days and a week. Detox is defined as the process "to get the substance of choice out of the system", often with medical help and interventions.

While in detox, the person will also undergo medical and psychological assessments in preparation for treatment that begins immediately upon completion of detox. Treatment generally lasts a minimum of 30 days and often takes longer, depending very much on the previous "history" and the motivation of the person to get better.

What if an Intervention Fails?

Sometimes an intervention fails, even if you have done everything right. The subject of the intervention may refuse treatment, claiming that he or she doesn’t want help or can stop on his or her own.

It’s also possible that although the person agrees to go to treatment, they may leave early without following the program through to completion.

While this is extremely disheartening for intervention organizers, it’s important not to blame yourselves. Also, although you are bound to be discouraged and angry, don’t view the refusal as a complete failure. The following may help you determine what steps to take if an intervention fails:

  • During the intervention, you clearly outlined exactly what would happen if treatment wasn’t accepted or completed. For example, you may have told the person you won’t tolerate certain behaviors, or that you will no longer pay the bills or provide a place to live. Now, it’s time to stand behind your words immediately, no matter how difficult. All intervention participants must follow through so the person understands you meant what you said. Otherwise, the words have no meaning.
  • Consider staging another intervention, but not immediately. If your loved one has time to think about the many ways life has changed since the intervention, she may be more willing to enter drug and alcohol treatment or rehab.
  • Stay in touch with other intervention participants. Consider getting together regularly to talk about the situation and to provide mutual support. This will help you remain strong and maintain the boundaries you established at the first intervention.
  • Don’t give up hope and don’t turn your back on your addicted friend or family member. While you aren’t offering the same type of support as before, it’s important to let the person know you still love them and that you haven’t given up.
  • Use this time as a learning opportunity. Keep reading and learning about addiction and recovery.
  • Don’t allow the failed intervention to stop you from enjoying life. Continue to spend time with friends and family. Engage in activities you enjoy.
  • If necessary, seek counseling to help you cope with the anger and disappointment of the failed intervention and please know, there will be a second chance. However, in the meantime, focus on yourself, your life, your personal development and growth. A family member once told us: “I had to learn to “go within” – when I changed, the outside – the addicted person changed. I let go and this was the “kickoff” for my family member to get better and enter treatment”.

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