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  1. #1
    @.~*virinaĉo*~.@ Totenkindly's Avatar
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    Default Intervention: Helpful Show or Not?

    I admit to having mixed feelings about this show, where those spiraling through addictive patterns of destructive behavior are followed by cameras, leading to an 'intervention' moment with family and friends, where they encouraged the loved one to go to rehab... and sometimes success is experienced.

    On one hand, I think that some addicts really just need to be kicked in the ass in order to break the cycle. Knowing people care enough to intervene can be a big deal for someone who has lost all consideration for him or herself and motivate them to make a change. It's also helpful for the general populace to understand some of the dynamics involved in situations like this, and for people in those situations to realize they are not alone, after decades of silence on issues such as these.

    On the other hand, sometimes these sort of maneuvers can seem to be emotionally manipulative or a form of control that is justified because the loved one's behavior is considered socially wrong.

    The moderators seem to have been fairly balanced, considering what they're dealing with (they can facilitate the addict to move toward rehab while preventing the whole thing from degenerating into a bully session), but sometimes passions are just way too high to rein all of that in.

    This post is triggered mostly by the episode I happened to see this weekend at a friend's house: The story of Bret, a high-functioning alcoholic whose drinking eventually resulted in the loss of his job and marriage and a breakdown in the relationship with his son and daughter. After watching Bret go through the typical patterns of rationalization and dodging responsibility for his drinking, even after his marriage ends and when his kids are really upset with him, there's a difficult intervention that Bret walks out of after a screaming match in the parking lot, tries to walk home, the family breaks into his house (!) in order to remove his guns in fear he might hurt himself, and then off-camera threatens to get him committed legally to a psych ward, whereupon he agrees to treatment.

    The tag on the episode is heart-wrenching: Bret was coughing up blood for a number of months but never got treated for it due to being in denial about his alcoholism, and 108 days after he's been sober, he is diagnosed with Stage IV esophogal cancer (likely due to drinking), comes home for cancer treatment, and three weeks later is dead. The last shots are of the kids talking about their dad and how for at least the last three months of his life, he was their dad again and was involved in their lives, and even if he's gone now, at least he died their dad rather than this drunk stranger. Regardless of whether the situation was handled correctly at all points, it seemed that Bret was definitely making progress in the right direction when he died.

    It was extremely personal to me because I am the child of a high-functioning alcoholic myself. I'm surprised my dad is still alive (and in fact if I hadn't forced him to go to the hospital in 2005, he'd be dead now... sometimes I wonder if I made the right decision, because I hate to interfere in people's lives regardless, and he just went right back to drinking all the time after nine months of sobriety... an active choice on his part). He's 70 now, a total creep in terms of the family, nothing has changed for him for 40+ years of drinking, and he's just been waiting to die all those years from his passive suicide. He's been coughing up blood since his 30's and is horrible physical shape; I'm surprised he is still alive, by all rights he should be dead.

    (I was pretty teared up watching the kids during this show, and the conversations they had with their dad... particular the son, who was more like I was... the honest, earnest child who wants to understand and acknowledge everyone's reality... and the whole time, I was just amazed by his wisdom at age 11 and his strength of character and ability to perceive multiple perspectives, but at the same time knew it was an unfair, horrible burden for that boy to have to be more of a grownup than anyone else in the family when he was still legitimately a child. It screws you up -- really bad. )

    I think I also had an issue with the amount of manipulation on the part of the mother. It was clear she loved her ex, they were high-school sweethearts; and her heart was breaking for her children, who needed their dad; but at the same time, she was stepping beyond those boundaries to try to control her ex's behavior, continuing to hit him with how she was going to take the kids away unless she got help, how he would never see them again and would hate him for the rest of their lives. At some point it stepped from an "informative" expression of love into this desperate desire to MAKE him change. I have no idea what to do with that. Is there any legitimate form of control that someone can present for someone's own good in situations like this? Her ultimate desire was that all the pain could end for herself, her kids, and her ex, she meant well; but she was also pushing to remove his personal choice in the matter, and he was actively responding to that (a lot of his violence response was from feeling set-up, manipulated, and controlled, and so he wasn't listening to anything people were telling him).

    Thoughts/Feelings on this or shows like it?
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

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    Maybe I am being a cynic.. But to me it's only a matter of time before we are back to "throwing people to lions" and calling it entertainment.

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    reborn PeaceBaby's Avatar
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    What an interesting coincidence too ... I had never watched that show before Saturday, and wandered upon it after grocery shopping and sitting with a cup of tea. I saw the episode with Bret and it was gut wrenching ... he sure was an HFA, only recently in his life was losing it (job, family) ... and then once in treatment, it was so sad that he was that ill and subsequently passed away.

    Like yourself Jen, I pondered where the line is to be drawn. Clearly the family was desperate to get him help and get him back in their lives. The children are hopefully getting counseling or some sort of help to deal with the ongoing loss. But the manipulation tactics to get him into treatment ... I am sure some people will feel the children should not have been involved, and others who would believe that their contribution was the only way he could recognize the choice he was making - to put alcohol in front of his kids. And the only way for the kids to have a voice in the process.

    It was emotional blackmail to be certain, but the question is ... does the end justify the means here? Are those kids going to suffer any kind of emotional trauma from the experience, more so than they would have, since losing their Dad to cancer was a certain outcome with or without the treatment? Not easy answers to be sure.

    I do have a distaste for the voyeuristic nature of putting people's suffering on display, as I believe there's a fine line between trying to educate people and being opportunistic. But the emotions are real, and raw. Tough call to say whether shows like this do more harm than good. I read through a synopsis of each season after I watched a couple of episodes, and there are as many relapses and failures as successes.
    "Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one."
    Eleanor Roosevelt


    "When people see some things as beautiful,
    other things become ugly.
    When people see some things as good,
    other things become bad."
    Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

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    insert random title here Randomnity's Avatar
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    The show tends to imply that these people's families have already tried "everything" and nothing has worked. I don't know enough about addiction etc. to know if there are viable options other than rehab, or if there are more successful ways to get people better.

    I guess an important thing would be: does the show/interventions have a better ratio of better:not better people compared to without intervention? who knows, really. you would hope so, of course.

    They are definitely emotionally manipulative, harsh, etc. I guess the question is (like PB said) whether the end justifies the means, and the assumption is supposed to be that the means aren't terribly bad and the end result is dramatically better than without an intervention. Hopefully, that's true.

    You could say the same thing about the "hoarders" show, which is more personal to me. That one seems less helpful (more voyeuristic) than intervention.
    -end of thread-

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    Emerging Tallulah's Avatar
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    I've seen a lot of episodes, and I do believe it helps the people in question. It is a last ditch effort; lives and relationships have already been damaged and sometimes almost completely destroyed by the person's addiction. The family is almost ready to cut them off so they don't continue things like stealing from family members, neglecting children, etc. It's possible that the tv element of it makes the person in question agree to counseling where they might not without the added pressure of cameras rolling.

    Most of the subjects do end up turning their lives around, for the most part, though we don't know if they will relapse in the future.

    I think interventions in general are risky, though, and they almost always need to be a last resort.
    Something Witty

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    @.~*virinaĉo*~.@ Totenkindly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tallulah View Post
    I think interventions in general are risky, though, and they almost always need to be a last resort.
    Yes, it's basically a form of power play, and wielding power in relationships can both help and harm.
    I think Bret had already undergone one of those interventions to start with, felt violated by it, and vowed never to let it happen to him again.


    Quote Originally Posted by Randomnity
    I guess an important thing would be: does the show/interventions have a better ratio of better:not better people compared to without intervention? who knows, really. you would hope so, of course.
    Yes, one would hope.

    But honestly, just from dealing with my father... the web of rationalization and other-blame is so high that I just haven't seen many people get out of it on their own. Every so often, someone does choose to get out... usually they seem to be hard-core T types, pull-themselves-up-by-their bootstraps, who just make a decision one day and never look back, or they typically are people at rock-bottom who "find God" or some other purpose to fill the void... but typically it just seems that once they hit that bottom, they've become so bitter, vengeful, and other-blaming that they can't get themselves out... and, while this might be controversial, I would also submit that the booze (or other drug) has screwed with their body and head so much, they CAN'T think straight. Case in point: I feel like my dad's brains are often scrambled: Even when he's been sober, his sense of reality seems screwy now.

    It's such a hard call.

    I'm still not sure if I should have insisted that my dad go to the hospital. A few factors figured in: My kids were sleeping over at their house that night for the first time in a few months (which pissed me off to no end, that we hadn't been told how bad things were, and now my KIDS were there to potentially witness this); my mom was sobbing on the phone, and I just felt so bad for her; and part of me just really wanted my dad to have a chance to get better.

    But my personality is so autonomy-centered, I was really stuck as I was on the phone, feeling like I was making this decision over my dad's life, and I just didn't know what to do. Part of me was filled with anger and wanted him to die; part of me was filled with exhaustion and wanted him to die, so I could be free; part of me was filled with longing for my dad and wanted him to live; part of me was filled with compassion and also wanted him to live, so he might finally experience some happiness. In the end, I made the best decision I could in the moment and tried not to rethink it, but I felt bad for interfering at all, if he really just wanted to die even if he was so screwed up in his thinking.

    So many emotions... it's hard to know how anyone with these interventions can have "pure motives." I don't think a human being can. There's just too much going on at the time, emotionally. Maybe there's just an overall "best intent"?

    Quote Originally Posted by PeaceBaby
    I am sure some people will feel the children should not have been involved, and others who would believe that their contribution was the only way he could recognize the choice he was making - to put alcohol in front of his kids. And the only way for the kids to have a voice in the process.
    Yes, I was very torn on that. Somehow, someone had to clarify the choice he was making, so that he could make a true "this or that" moral decision apart from all the cover-ups and avoiding the reality of his choices; and he had to EXPERIENCE the hell he was putting others through so he could no longer deny it; and it WAS the only way the children could have a voice, because otherwise it was just the mother speaking for them but she was imperfect and he no longer really trusted her, he had to hear the kids say it and the kids NEEDED to express themselves...

    ... but it was so ugly and painful and felt manipulative anyway.

    I guess where I really had the issue was when they were insisting they would never speak to him as long as he would have lived. I felt it would have been fairer to say that, "As long as you do not get treated, I will not be in contact with you. I want to be in contact with you, but not like this. So it is up to you to get treated when you finally decide you want to be in my life again." The impression they were giving was that if he didn't do what they wanted right then and there, they would never speak to him again ever. I would have felt better if it had been more open-ended in how it was expressed.
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

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