After a successful intervention, it’s rare that someone will go to treatment that very moment. The person struggling with substance use needs some agency over when they’ll enter treatment—and that’s understandable. On the other hand, they often give excuses as to why they can’t go that day or the next day, excuses that may seem trivial to a family thrilled to see their loved one finally agree to get help.
It’s important that the family plan for those excuses before the intervention. Often the excuses involve childcare, work, upcoming appointments, and “important meetings.” Many of those problems, particularly childcare, can be worked out before the intervention begins.
I always recommend that the person enter treatment as soon as possible. From the family’s perspective, agreeing to wait a few days can be very problematic. Though there may be good reasons why the person can’t go immediately, within the next 48 hours, there should be a plan in place to get them to the agreed-upon facility within a safe and reasonable timeframe. Interventions are called when the situation has really gotten out of control, and the end of the road, for a person struggling with substance use, can be very bad.
In the days following the intervention, the family should expect that the individual will drink or use even more than they were before—sort of a “last hurrah.” This can be very difficult to watch. Furthermore, as they continue to use, they may start to change their mind about going to an inpatient facility; they may talk to other people and get bad or biased information about what treatment is really like, and whether they need it or not.
In my work, I’ve seen those final days of using get very bad and very ugly. Often, the family wishes later that they’d sent their loved one to treatment as soon as they’d agreed to go. Many things can go wrong after an intervention: this can be the time when people lock themselves in a hotel room, get a DUI, or go missing for a week. To avoid these situations, I suggest that a family spend as much energy as possible on helping their loved one make a safe, speedy transition to treatment.
If a person struggling with substance use can’t go immediately to treatment, it’s always my recommendation that someone be with them 24/7. The individual very well may need to continue to drink or use to avoid going to withdrawal, and in that case it’s safer to have another person present; they may also be more amenable to going to treatment if they’re using, rather than being sick or hung over.
If travel is necessary to get the person to the facility, someone else must accompany them during the transition. I’ve seen people miss flights and get lost midway through a layover. They may get drunk on the plane and cause problems, or, in a car alone, they may redirect the driver to take them somewhere else.
After you get that hoped-for yes, you should arrange to be with your loved one until the moment they’re safely checked in.
Adam Banks is a certified recovery coach and interventionist at Suntra Modern Recovery. He received an MBA from the University of Chicago and built a company which United Health Care acquired. He learned his rigor and attention to detail from his career as an airline pilot, holding an ATP, the FAA’s highest license.
Suntra Modern Recovery provides medical treatment for alcohol and opiate addictions via video visit with medical doctors. Suntra’s alcohol and drug intervention services are available in New York, Long Island, and the Hamptons. Treatment for opiate and heroin addiction, including Suboxone treatment, can start today.