Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Thank You, "Intervention"

"Intervention" aired it's final episode this summer and, while I've talked about the show before, I wanted to do so again.  Despite the fact that reality TV started on PBS, people often speak of it with disdain.  Say that they don't watch it, or that they only watch a few shows.  I tend to point to "Intervention"  (along with some of my favorite competitive reality shows) as shows that I not only enjoy, but believe make a difference. I think a single episode of "Intervention" demonstrates how deeply addiction affects the addict and all those around the addict, how powerfully you begin to believe that the line of what you will and won't do isn't gone, it's just shifting a little, even though to others you may appear long gone.  And how much some addicts and family are unable to see any way out, so they just continue on. 
It sounds mean, to follow an addict and their family member for a week or two, talk to them about the before and the now, and then offer treatment at the end and hope the follow up provides a clip of a happy addict.  However, as I've mentioned before, the show demonstrates the profound nature of addiction.  How cool the addicts tell you their lives are, how much they love getting high all the time.  Juxtaposed with them drooling in their food or yelling and making no sense depending on their substance(s) of choice.  The interventionists sent by the show, sit with the families for a whole day ahead of time, prepping them and reminding them that they too will need to make big changes to their behavior.  I read a while back that they worked really hard to match addicts to rehabs that specialized in their issues, and really believed 90 days (no less) was the way to go.  Sometimes the most resistant folks were the family members.  One addict flipped out and tried to make her family all sign a contract that they would get treatment too.  Seems paranoid until she finished up 90 days later, and the number of her family that had gone for their weekend of family treatment - that would be none.  (She did okay even so.  But it meant she had to stay away from her family a little longer.) 
According to the screens they flashed in the final episode - 243 interventions performed, 208 accepted, 156 sober.  Those are amazing numbers.  Finding decent comparison statistics is hard given you would have to start with some sort of accurate number of addicts, and good luck collecting that info.  But best guesses seem to be that on average most people working on their own or with professionals have about a 50% success rate getting the addict to agree to treatment, and of those 50% about half relapse.  Now, I wasn't there when the "Intervention" folks did their adding, so I imagine that success number includes people who relapsed but then got help, but it seems that comparatively, the "Intervention" agreement to treatment numbers were much higher, and ongoing success also higher.  I still think the show would be worth it if it's numbers were equal, but I like to bring this up when people mention it's exploitative.
Other than follow up visits, they did not follow the addict into treatment.  I think that's important, since I personally imagine that the deep, dark work one needs to do in that setting is probably not well served by the presence of cameras.  (I could be wrong.) 
And, I adore that Candy Finnigan (my tied for favorite interventionist, because, well, Jeff Van Vonderon was wonderful too) now gets stopped in the grocery store.  (I also think the idea that people in the grocery store are freaking out that Candy is there to get them is probably why they had to stop, but I still adore that Candy is chatting with folks about their moms in the store). 
I wanted to thank the show, all the families who agreed to talk honestly (mostly) about this with a camera, and to put these stories out there.  I watched the re-runs because they always did follow ups and I liked seeing that this or that person had stayed sober, gotten married, gone back to college, or started talking to their kids again.  Some of these people were self-medicating mental illnesses that the treatment allowed them to diagnose and address.  The interventionists shared hard truths (I once cheered when the interventionist told the family to own up to the wrongs they had done) and sometimes laughed or cried or prayed with the family. 
And, think, not only of the 156 sober, but all the people around them who can breathe easier to have their family member back.