Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Who else watches the A&E program, "Intervention"?  If you have never caught an episode, I personally think you should check it out at least once.  People that I've spoken to about the popular show have shared with me all different opinions on what they love and hate - and love to hate - about it, as well as what they think makes it so beloved by its fans.  I always find our conversations on this topic quite interesting, because I personally have a difficult time figuring out what the hell is so addictive (haha, pardon the expression) about this show!

I don't feel like I have the space or the ability to do the program justice here trying to describe what it's about and all that goes on in a typical episode (if there even is such a thing as a "typical" episode).  But in case you really have no idea what I'm talking about, I'll just tell you the basics:  "Intervention" deals with those suffering from addiction, addictions of all sorts, including substances, gambling, cutting, and anything else that follows the addiction pattern.  The families and loved ones of the addicted are documented as well, and at the end they stage an intervention, with the help of a professional.  Some people agree with this method of treatment and some people don't, but I'm not here to debate that issue.  I just want to talk about the television show.

For one thing, this show has actually taught me a great deal about addiction as a disease.  Before watching this show, and then seeing some interviews with those involved in the show afterwards, I had some misgivings about how much of addictive behavior is a choice, how much is just a chosen behavior or whatever, how much is just being weak and not wanting to do what's right for oneself or one's loved ones.  Now ... before I go further in my own thought processes on this, I have to tell a few things as a matter of full disclosure.  I grew up with an alcoholic in my immediate family.  And I have addicts suffering or who have suffered in the past with different substances and issues on both sides of my family.  Finally, I believe that I, myself, have displayed some addictive behaviors or tendencies in my lifetime ... this is all a large part of why I work hard to learn as much as I can about the illness.  I want to understand the people I have seen and known and their behavior as well as my own moods and mental states that I want to keep healthy and strong.

I know that I think it's important that the show graphically shows and depicts the different addictions.  It can be difficult to watch people cutting themselves, smoking crack into their lungs, and shooting heroin ... or any other behaviors that they are doing because of their addiction.  I'm sure it is even more painful to watch for some viewers who have lived or are now living through these experiences.  However, for me, it's actually comforting in addition to being informative.  Maybe that's difficult for others to understand; but for me, it's helpful to see that this goes on with all sorts of people, in all different kinds of families, all ages and races, etc.  One thing that addiction (both for the user and those close to him or her) does is push people into isolation.  Addicts certainly isolate themselves because of fear of judgment, fear of ramifications if what they are doing is illegal, because they are often depressed and angry, and all sorts of things like that.  For their families and friends, it can be just as isolating, because they begin to feel helpless.  They become depressed too.  They don't know how to help.  They feel angry at the person.  They don't understand the addiction and so don't know how to explain to others who might come to the house or ask questions.  At some point, everyone starts living in their own little addiction shell.  Those who are not part of the family or part of the addiction are kept at arm's length.  And in this way, everyone involved becomes isolated ... which is really the LAST thing to do to stay sane, to get help, and to gain the support that is out there!

I know a lot about the isolation.  When I was a kid, we behaved in this way.  "Intervention" has taught me a lot about the reasons for this behavior, and because of what I've learned on the show, I've been able to forgive people in my family to a certain extent.  I've been able to understand why things happened.  And I have been able to see truly how addiction is a sickness, and it's a sickness that infects the entire family, not only the one abusing a substance.

I guess now that I write this, it is easier for me to understand why I like to watch this show.  This is why I write after all!  It helps me clarify things in my head and to find answers!  ... But moving on ... tonight I was watching a few episodes On-Demand that I had previously missed.  And I started to realize something.  I used to think that I only had this reaction to a few individual families and people on the show, but I'm starting to think that I almost always have it.  That is, I find myself getting really pissed off at the parents and siblings and other "enablers" of the addicts.  Yes, I can plainly see how the addictive behavior is making the users sick and causing them pain and leading to possibly fatal consequences.  But these families!!!!!  They make me sick!

One example that I just saw a few minutes ago:  An anorexic girl, who had been anorexic for awhile and gotten herself down to 80 lbs, at 5'7" (my height), went to her parents and asked them to get her help.  She knew what she had, and she knew she needed help, and she WANTED the help.  Guess what the parents said.  No, really, can you guess?  They said that she would be "fine" and that she just wanted attention.  It was three more years before she got a diagnosis (the show didn't say how or who got her the help).  I really have compassion for these people!  I can see 1.) how they freaking GOT into these illnesses and situations, how they got so much pain inside, and 2.) how they have remained in it and no one around them has done anything but bitch and hurt them more. 

Then a 25-year-old woman got raped while in her active addiction to alcohol and her whole messed-up lifestyle ... and when she told her sister, she was super-cold to her, and said on the documentary:  "I told her to take my advice and stop putting herself in these situations where she's drunk and in danger, so if she doesn't take my advice, what am I supposed to do?"  HELLO!  I don't know about anyone else's family, but in my family, even if we think someone made a bad choice or used bad judgment, the time right after they GOT RAPED would NEVER be the time we shared our opinion with them about that.  If that happened to someone I love, I would just run to them, get them help and comfort and whatever they needed.  At the very least, I would show my love as best I could.

Earlier I saw a guy who refused to have any sort of relationship with his older brother, who was a crackhead, because he (little brother) said he was responsible and worked hard and took pride in himself.  He was all macho and tough-guy like that.  So he basically judged his brother and didn't want to associate with someone who was sick and NOT all tough and having his shit together.  That's how I saw that.

There are almost always people like this around the addicts, and I'm starting to think this makes the difference between someone who is able either to pull themselves back from a dangerous dependency or to go and get help and someone who never does or isn't able to or doesn't value themself enough even to try.

The big, gigantic whammy that I've seen is a dad who told his daughter after she stole money:  "If you really want to kill yourself this badly, why don't you actually be successful at it?"  What. The. Fuck.

I see a whole lot of people with wimps and cowards and people in full-blown, pathetic denial on this show, and most of the time, it isn't the addicts.  I can see how people are broken and hurting and just so lost beyond knowing how to get back on track ... and there is no one around them to love them or value them or just give them a soft place to land.  It really makes a difference in life, I can tell you from just being another human being with my own unique life experiences. 

I wrote earlier in this post about my own immediate family having someone with addiction.  And I have a few other people close to me who have struggled, on both sides of the illness.  It's important for me to explain that I in no way excuse the behavior of addicts and alcoholics and people like this, all the hurt they place on their loved ones.  However, I am saying that I understand it, and I really, really feel compassion for them.  I believe that an adult is responsible to get help when he or she needs it; be it for an addiction or depression or any other kind of trouble inside of themselves.  Although many of us grow up without all the tools we need in the world, many of us grow up in dysfunction, I believe we are now (as adults) responsible to try and change it.  I can't stand it when I see people who can't communicate or can't get out of depression or can't cope in certain ways ... but they do nothing to try to change!  Having the lack of skills or having the depression, etc., is not the bad thing.  It's the un-willing-ness to change!

Obviously, as is made clear from "Intervention," addiction and other mental illness that sometimes lead to it are complex issues.  I guess I just believe that, as with everything in life, love and understanding win the day.  They have to.  I have no sympathy for these families who don't show love to their families who are suffering, no matter how frustrating they might be.

No comments: