As soon as Jenny walked into her parents’ living room in Kouts, and realized what was happening, she bolted out the back door. Her brother gave chase. She hopped a fence. He tackled her. She bit and hit him. Inevitably, the police showed up. Jenny had two options: Go to jail or a mental hospital — or to drug rehab in California. Rock, meet hard place. The 20-year-old’s family was showing tough love, a skill they had learned from the interventionist who had flown in from Pennsylvania a day earlier to help get Jenny off meth. (The family would only participate in this article if they were kept anonymous, so The Times is using a pseudonym for her.) She calmed down, as much as she could, and came back inside the house. Her relatives read letters, expressing how much they cared about her but pledging to enable her no more. She agreed to go to treatment. She had 20 minutes to pack her bags. A few hours later, she was on a plane for the West Coast. It sounds like a scene out of the TV show “Intervention.” As it so happens, a star of the A&E program was the one conducting the intervention that late July day.
Jim Reidy, who appeared on the most recent season of the long-running series, has done more than 350 interventions over the past seven years. He recently started bringing his skills to Northwest Indiana after hiring an intervention coordinator based in the Region. Reidy performed another intervention in Kouts, just a couple weeks later, for Jenny’s best friend.
An intervention is “hands-down the most effective way to break through to the addict or alcoholic when the family has tried everything,” said the local coordinator, Herb Stepherson, of Valparaiso. “It emboldens the family to take things on as a team, head-on. And take charge.”
Jenny had been fighting meth addiction for almost two years. Her family had been flummoxed as to what to do. Then they found a suicide note she had written.
They knew they had to take action. Jenny’s sister was familiar with Stepherson from her time doing an internship in addiction counseling. She told their mother to call him. The mom did. She gave him Jenny’s health insurance information, and he did the rest. She reached out to family members to help pool together the $5,500 for the intervention.
A week and a half later, Reidy was there.
He spent the first day educating the family on how they got to this point: by enabling Jenny, which, he told them, stopped now. When she inevitably relented on going to rehab, he said, they had to hold firm: no more money, no place to stay, no bailouts, nothing.
The next morning, they all met at a Family Express near Jenny’s parents’ home, where she was sleeping in the basement. They headed over to the house.
Jenny’s mom — who recalled being a nervous “mess” — woke her up at about 6:40 a.m. and asked her to come upstairs.
“Why is my grandma sitting there? Oh my God,” Jenny recalled thinking. She had seen the TV show. She knew what was going on.
“I ran out the door and kept running. I took off. I wasn’t too happy with the whole intervention being sprung on me. I was very resentful.”
We know how things turned out. She was speaking to The Times from a sober-living facility near Laguna Beach. Before moving there, she had completed 21 days of residential treatment.
She lives with three other girls, goes to group therapy meetings daily, and has been looking for a job, possibly as a bank teller. She might study to become a phlebotomist. She has been considering staying in California.
Importantly, she learned that she was self-medicating with drugs to treat her depression.
“It’s a lot better than I would have thought, how much I’ve grown,” she said in the phone interview. “I’m really changing my life around, and it’s happening so fast. I can become a better person. They give us the tools to help grow.”
Jenny’s best friend, Allison (also a fake name), had been using heroin, on and off, for the past two years. The 21-year-old’s heroin addiction progressed to the point she was shooting up every four to six hours.
Her mother, a retired paramedic, had tried detoxing Allison herself. The mom took Allison to the family’s vacation home in Michigan to sober up, but when they came back she went right back to using. The mother brought Allison to their local hospital, a police escort in tow, but the facility released her within a half hour, handing them pamphlets with 800 numbers to call for help (those led nowhere).
The family heard about Jenny’s intervention, and wondered if it might also work for Allison. Her stepfather heard the price — $6,300 — and worried they were getting scammed. Still, they called Stepherson on a Tuesday. Reidy was back in Kouts that Friday.
Same drill: the first day was to educate the family, the second for the intervention.
Allison’s mom woke her up early that morning, saying there was a family emergency. Allison walked into the living room, where 12 loved ones (including Jenny’s mother) were waiting. Allison, who’s naturally more reserved, sat on the couch between her mom and sister — calmly, quietly — as everyone read their letters.
She went outside for a smoke with a local interventionist who was helping out. She came back in and said she would go to rehab.
Twenty minutes to pack. From there, on a plane, headed to Houston.
Her mom recalled what happened next: “It was like two days later. (Allison) tried calling everybody, for like an Uber ride, a plane ticket back home. She was leaving. She was walking out. She was going to go overdose on heroin. She was intent. She was leaving. If we didn’t send for her, she was going to kill herself.
“We didn’t give in, and she didn’t kill herself.”
Reidy noted that interventions are as much for the family as the person with the addiction. They all have to change. “People think they’re loving their children. They’re loving them to death,” he said. “Good parents, loving parents are just as sick as the afflicted child.
“That’s my job, to get everyone together on the same page: ‘There’s no negotiating. This is our new life. We’re taking back our lives from the drug process, from the drug world, and starting to live healthy. You’re more than welcome to come with us, but we’re no longer going to participate in your slow death.’”
He said that about 90% of the addicted subjects end up going to treatment that day. But he notes that is only the first step.
“The hard part starts when they get out of recovery. That’s when reality sets in,” he said. “If Tommy comes back and lives in the same room with the same old habits, you’ll get the same old results.”
Reidy, who is in recovery himself, said “Intervention” reached out to him earlier this year to appear on its 20th season, which was being filmed in Philadelphia, where he is based. He said the show — whose producers he says are “insanely, insanely passionate about helping people” — is true to life.
“It’s exactly as it is on TV, 100% the same. The client comes in, has no idea they’re being intervened on. We sit them down, escalate the situation, bombard them with love, read them letters: ‘Ugly’s been done to death. Angry’s been done to death. Finger-pointing? Been there, done that. We’re ready to whitewash the board. We know you need help. Your life is hanging in the balance. Here’s what we can do to help you.’
“It’s the single-most loving thing families can do for their afflicted. It’s uncomfortable, but sometimes you need to be uncomfortable to get comfortable.”
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