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Common Excuses for Not Wanting to do an Intervention

Interventions can be difficult. It’s common that a person will hear many excuses from the subject of the intervention or even the loved ones asked to attend the event. This article is designed to prepare you for common excuses, so you can better counter what’s being said and avoid feeling blindsided.

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What Families Can Expect From Doing an Intervention

When done well, an intervention will be a fairly unique type of confrontation. You and other selected members of the intervention team will be prepped by an interventionist (the specialist in running these events) on how best to talk with a person about their drug abuse and addiction. You will set goals for the intervention, with the primary goal usually being to get the person into addiction treatment.[1] 

Some elements of an intervention may not come naturally to you. You may want to be more or less aggressive in the confrontation than the expert recommends. 

It’s important to listen to the expert’s advice regardless of how you feel personally. They are trained in maximizing the chances that a person enters treatment. If you don’t feel like you’ll be able to follow their advice, it’s best if you don’t attend the intervention.

Excuses to Expect From Someone Going Into an Intervention

A person who is the subject of an intervention will likely generate a number of excuses during the intervention or even before it if they recognize what’s happening. These are some of the excuses you might hear:

Their Drug Abuse Isn’t a Severe Problem

You may have heard that admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery. Many people who are addicted to drugs have trouble admitting they have a problem at all. Even if they do admit they have a problem, they may be unable to admit that they have a severe enough problem that addiction treatment is necessary. 

Many people become very practiced at downplaying how severe their addiction is and how it affects them and other people. This is one of the main issues typically dealt with during the intervention process. The interventionist will often guide team members to honestly and lovingly lay out the damage that the addiction has caused, both to the individual and their loved ones.

They Can Resolve Their Addiction Without Help or at Some Later Date

If a person admits they have an addiction, they may state they can deal with it on their own or that they otherwise don’t need professional help. It’s also common that they will agree to seek help but at a later date. 

Sometimes, these statements may be genuine, but they can also just be an excuse to get out of the confrontation they’ve been put into. In either case, delay sharply reduces the chances that a person will get help.

You’re Only Attacking Them

Whether they believe it or not, a person who is the focus of an intervention might accuse you or other people in the intervention group of verbally attacking them. 

It’s natural to feel defensive during these events. One of an interventionist’s jobs is to keep conversation productive and healthy rather than hostile. This isn’t the space for venting personal feelings. 

While you should listen to what a person is saying, the conversation may get heated, and you may need to adjust your tone. It’s important to remember that you know the purpose of the intervention, which is purely to help the individual get into treatment. 

They Cannot Afford Treatment

One of the more challenging excuses is if a person says they cannot afford addiction treatment, as this often has some truth to it. Addiction treatment can be expensive, and choosing an option that works for your needs can be complicated. 

This is one reason a group will often work with an interventionist to prepare viable treatment paths for the person who needs help, so they can show them affordable, reasonable treatment options. At the end of the intervention, the person should have a clear path to immediately enter treatment.

Common Excuses That Family & Loved Ones Might Use Against an Intervention

Some people who are asked to help with an intervention may resist the process for a variety of reasons, including these:

They Believe It’s Unnecessary

Like people addicted to drugs themselves, some people in an individual’s life may deny that the person has a serious problem with drugs. They may totally deny a problem exists or just see the person’s drug abuse as a form of partying and recreation, ignoring the damage it has done. 

This is again why working with a professional is helpful. They will outline the real harm a person’s drug abuse has done, making the need for treatment clear. It can help you illustrate the specifics of why a person needs help.

They Believe It’s Embarrassing 

Mental health issues, and addiction specifically, are often associated with stigma. Some people view the idea that admitting a loved one struggles with addiction reflects poorly on that individual or on their family.

Much work has been done in recent years to reduce the stigma associated with substance abuse and addiction, including the expert opinion that addiction isn’t a matter of willpower, but a disease.[2-4] If left untreated, addiction will worsen over time. If an intervention might get a person into addiction treatment, it’s important to push through that stigma and accept a professionally guided process.

They Worry About Damaging an Important Relationship

A common issue with people who love someone struggling with addiction is that they become enablers.[5] They tolerate destructive behavior or even actively support it because they don’t want to lose the person they love, and they know that resisting their behavior may lead to arguments or other problems. These kinds of behaviors are often part of a codependent relationship.

It may help to remind these people of the destructive cycle the person they love is trapped in. An intervention may be the only thing that can get them into treatment, which itself may be necessary to save their life.

They Are Resistant to Professional Advice

In some cases, an individual may admit a person is addicted to drugs yet resist the idea that anybody should talk to a professional about getting help. Some people view addiction treatment and similar services as “weak” or having some other negative connotation. 

It can help to have data and logic to back up the idea that an intervention is the best thing for the person you want to see enter treatment. Interventions and addiction treatment are evidence-based. Have data ready to show your loved ones.

Preparing for the Intervention

While you can’t control the outcome of an intervention, good preparation can help to ensure that your intervention has the best chances of success. Here are some tips to help you prepare for an intervention:

Cease Enabling Destructive Behavior

It’s important that you don’t enable destructive behaviors if you want to get a person into addiction treatment. If they have a support system that allows them to easily get shelter, avoid the consequences of serious criminal activity, and helps them get access to drugs, they don’t have much incentive to seek help.

Understand Your Goals

Anyone attending an intervention needs to understand the goals of the process. It isn’t just a time to say whatever you’ve bottled up about the person struggling with drug abuse. 

What’s said should always serve the ultimate goal of getting that person into treatment. Acting hostile or passive can hurt the process and only reduces the chances that a person will get into addiction recovery.

Prepare Your Statements

The majority of what’s said at an intervention should typically be prepared beforehand. Work with an interventionist to prepare what you will say to the person. Many professionals will have each participant write an intervention letter, which is read at the event.

These statements usually point out specific incidents where the person’s drug abuse was destructive without belittling them or coming off as aggressive. Letters need to strike a delicate balance. Preparing ahead of time lets you workshop your statements with others and edit them for tone and effect.

Always Listen to the Professional

Before holding an intervention, it’s critical to acknowledge that you aren’t an addiction treatment professional. Even if you have a relevant degree, you’re too personally close to the subject of the intervention to serve in a professional role. 

You love the person you want to see get help, which is why it’s so important to listen to the professional’s advice at all times. If it contradicts how you personally feel, discuss that before the intervention. 

It’s very important that everyone attending the intervention has a unified message designed to help a person get into treatment as soon as possible. With the right preparation, the person will have the highest likelihood of progressing to rehab following the event.

Updated May 7, 2024
  1. What is an intervention specialist? Accessed April 30, 2024.
  2. Earnshaw VA. Stigma and substance use disorders: A clinical, research, and advocacy agenda. American Psychologist. 2020;75(9):1300-1311.
  3. Volkow ND. Stigma and the toll of addiction. New England Journal of Medicine. 2020;382(14):1289-1290.
  4. Heilig M, MacKillop J, Martinez D, Rehm J, Leggio L, Vanderschuren LJMJ. Addiction as a brain disease revised: Why it still matters, and the need for consilience. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2021;46(46):1-9.
  5. Askian P, Sharghi HM. Exploring “enabling behaviours” of wives of persons with substance use disorder in Chapter 8 of the Big Book of Alcoholic Anonymous. Journal of Psychological Research. 2023;5(2):20-28.
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