Drug and Alcohol Intervention ChallengesThe most challenging part of an intervention is saying goodbye to the soon to be recovering alcoholic at the treatment center. Developing some bond throughout the escorting process is normal. Even before we meet them and are working with the family for the day before the intervention, so much is learned about the individual. Not only do we know their life story and feel close to them, but we can relate to their drinking patterns, habits, unmanageability, pain, and suffering to the family, and deterioration of health. Most of the time the interventionist gets a big hug, a thank you, a promise to stay in touch. Such was not the case with Carrie West, 66, alcoholic, Washington DC. Her intervention was one of the toughest - one that pushed me to my physical and mental limits to get her permanently sober and get a few more years out of her life.
A Last Chance Alcohol Intervention with a Mean DrunkCarrie was the sister of a principal restaurant owner in the Washington DC area, and multiple other siblings who all had their lives in order. They had spouses who were connected to politicians. Carrie also had loving and caring friends who she grew up with and went to college with. Carrie and her siblings were part of a significant trust set up by their parents for their wealth they were to leave to their children. Carrie, due to her years of drinking and unmanageability, had lost control over her portion of that trust fund and was limited to smaller distributions that were provided by her trustees who were ultimately controlled by her brother. Even one of the wealthiest families on the East Coast had no way, no knowledge, and a dwindling desire to fight the disease of alcoholism in their family. The family was initially assigned a female Interventionist. However, they were worried that their sister Carrie, an open lesbian, may succumb to the intervention for the wrong reasons. They wanted her to make the decision for herself and not to impress or appease another lady, so the case became mine. When conducting a co-ed intervention, I handle things in a beyond professional manner. Flirting never occurs. There aren’t any laws that say my natural charm and well-maintained good looks can’t be used to sway a lady into developing some rapport with me. But that wasn't going to happen this time — no way. The family turned out to be one of my most favorite ever. They were so helpful and understanding. They respected my occupation for what it really is. Family day lasted about four hours. The details I needed to help this family were made readily available to me. Carrie was mean. She was mean drunk and mean sober. Carrie hated men but respected them. She had a full leg cast from a drunken episode the month before. Carrie lost her identification and did not take the time to get a new one. With or without alcohol, Carrie was always the black sheep of her family. She did not take care of herself in any way. She was a chain smoker and had been drunk since she was thirty. Finally, Carrie only had a few years to live. I rested in a loud and overpriced hotel near one of the airports. I knew this was going to be an uphill battle. I had just spent four hours putting the West family in a position to handle absolutely everything.
Facing the Reality of Tough Family InterventionsThey knew that if they followed me, we would most likely be able to get their sister to the treatment center in Northern Connecticut the next day and immediately following the intervention.
Tough interventions are not always long interventions. They are not always tough because the family has issues. They are often tough because the alcoholic has very few reasons to get sober. Did Carrie have a spouse who will leave her if she doesn’t get help? No. Would it bother her if her siblings are deeply bitter towards her if she declined help? No. Did she have her financial freedom from others? Yes. Did she care about herself in any way? No. Did she care that she had a drinking problem? No. Was she going to like me? Absolutely not. The next morning, we met early, 7 AM. We had breakfast at Carrie’s brother’s house in the heart of DC. He gave me a tour of his magnificent home, showing me his lifetime achievements, merits, and diplomas. He pondered the idea of hiring a private plane to take his sister to Northern Connecticut. However, even if she had had her identification, getting her on a plane with a broken leg would be difficult. Although the airlines would make an exception, I knew that Carrie would never be willing to deal with the paperwork at the airport to get us off the hook. She would be embarrassed, annoyed, and starting to detox. Her brother decided to pass on the $7,500 jet charter to Groton, CT. He said, “She will grow on you, pal,” and we all agreed that I would drive her. I would drive her for seven and a half hours. I was not fazed. I was not looking forward to it, but I was not fazed. We all looked at each other. Big smiles. Good people. I reminded them once more what I tell all nervous families. “We are trying to save her life. If she could do it without us, we wouldn’t be here.” At 9 AM sharp, I asked Carrie’s sister-in-law to call Carrie and take her to breakfast. We wanted to get her to her brother’s home willingly so that we didn’t have to barge into her apartment. Her sister-in-law was to drive Carrie back to the house with the family waiting with the excuse that she forgot something. It worked, like taking candy from a baby. The car pulled up. The family sat in a circle in the basement living room so that Carrie could see everyone.
The ‘Breaking Point’ in a Family: When they Decide on an InterventionAll interventions have their “breaks.” The break here was the broken leg. Once she sat down, she wasn’t going anywhere. As 45% of all interventions start with someone bolting from the room, this was a boon. We didn’t have to worry. Later on that night, Carrie would proclaim her high IQ score and her intellectual advantages over all of her family about twenty times. I always thought that was funny. Ironically it took Carrie fifteen minutes to realize the purpose of the meeting. She was carrying on with her sisters, her best friend, so happy to see everyone at once. She then turned to me. "Your family is worried about your drinking, and we were wondering if you would be willing to let each of us explain how we feel?” The room went silent. She nodded her head and told me she was willing. I gave each family member their letter while keeping my eyes on Carrie. I stopped her sister halfway through her letter to tell Carrie we were so grateful for her willingness. She responded with, "SHUT THE HELL UP, MISTER. DID I TELL YOU TO SPEAK?” I respected her wishes. I had to. It would not do her any good, in the long run, to be forced into rehab. I needed her calm in order to make the right decision. It also would not be helpful to either of us to hate each other, as we would be spending the day and night together on the road. I automatically love everyone I am trying to help. That is why I am an interventionist. I suggested to Carrie’s best friend that we get her some coffee and take a short break. I knew Carrie was willing. She was so flattered everyone came from all over the northeast to see her, and she wasn't going to deny them that. I wanted her to go for herself though.
A Family Intervention: A Long Road Trip to RehabAfter our break, only half the room had said their part. I told Carrie that before her loved ones resumed, we wanted to tell her about the amazing retreat-like treatment center in New England and the full foliage she would encounter. Her response was, “GOD DAMN YOU! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING HERE? DID I TELL YOU TO TALK?” I was slightly fazed. I knew that her issues and lifestyle were going to prevent her from treating me with respect, and I was sure I would never get the opportunity to prep her for recovery with my experience. “Gang, I am going to put a request in. I will no longer speak to Carrie. She does not want me to. I will speak directly to Silvia, her beloved sister, instead of speaking with Carrie." The room let out a sigh of relief with the new plan. "Silvia, do you have all of your sister’s affairs in order so that everything will be taken care of while she is gone?" She nodded. "Does the group agree to do everything they can to talk the family trustees into letting Carrie have more money if she chooses the sober life?” Everyone nodded, and Carrie lit up with glee. “Does the group agree to love and support Carrie if we get in the car now and head to Connecticut?” Everyone nodded. Carrie got red. Her brother stood up and pointed at her and said, “YOU ARE GOING OR YOU GET NOTHING.” I calmed him but agreed. I still refused to look at her or speak with her out of respect. This was the smartest thing I did all day, and it earned me some points to be cashed in later. “Help me to the car, and we will take a jet,” Carrie proposed. Unfortunately, she was in for a long car ride. The budget was not there for the private plane. She agreed, and we were off. The intervention was a win - the best feeling in the world. She wedged herself into the back of my rental car using both seats to rest her bad leg. She immediately warned me that she would not be able to stay in that position for long. She was growing angry. Her brother and one of her sisters came out to say goodbye. “GOD DAMN YOU TWO FOR GETTING ME INTO THIS. I WANT ALL MY MONEY IMMEDIATELY!” Her brother looked at her. He opened his wallet. He took out a dollar bill. “How is this, sis?” I looked at him with scorn.
They no longer wanted to help her. They didn’t think she would go to rehab in the first place. I explained to her that I was an alcoholic and an addict and that I had been in several treatment centers. I told her what to expect. Then she hit me with it. “DON’T EVEN TELL ME I AM GOING TO HAVE A GOD DAMN ROOMMATE.” And so the fun began. Now her leg was getting numb as we approached the Philadelphia airport. Enterprise Rent-A-Car was waiting. Carrie insisted that we stop at the airport and get a large car. When we got to Enterprise, I immediately asked for the manager. I told him that I was an Alcohol and Drug Interventionist and had a very uncomfortable, volatile, and disabled client in the back of one of their cars, and I needed to get her into the largest car they had at all costs. To my surprise, he was sympathetic to the situation. He turned over a brand-new van and didn’t want a penny more. We were out of there in under five minutes. She stretched out in the back, actually happy, and looked into my rear-view mirror with her messy red hair and weathered face from all those nights of drinking and smoking. She said, “You have done good, sonny. I want to buy you dinner”.
The Road Trip to Alcohol RecoveryCarrie was silent as our van ate up the Jersey Turnpike as fast as I could drive. I was not happy. I am generally satisfied with my job, but I am not a driver or a chauffeur. I usually escort the alcoholic/addict after the intervention, but not this way, not for seven hours, and not with someone who automatically dislikes me because of my gender. I asked if I could put on some music. “Shut up,” she said, “I already offered dinner. Why the hell would you push it with me?” A few text messages came in from her family. They cautioned me that she is a nasty drunk and could find a way back to DC if she started drinking. “I need a drink, and I need dinner,” she declared, as the thirtieth cigarette butt of the night went out her window. I cleared my throat and told her that it would be best if she didn’t drink and we just did a drive-thru dinner to save time. She picked up her phone and said she was dialing 911. “Listen, sonny. I don’t know who you are, and I don’t care. You have one single minute to get me a drink, or I am going to call the police and tell them I have been abducted against my will.” She won. I would not get arrested for transporting her, but the cops would come. Given her age and physical condition – she would certainly argue. The intervention would then be over, and I would be a failure. That has not, and would not, ever happen. I agreed. She found a Hooters on her phone and demanded that we stop in ten minutes. Before I knew it, she was hobbling into Hooters with my assistance. Within twenty minutes, she had pounded down four drinks. They were something of a clear nature; I had not paid attention to what she ordered. I sunk my teeth into my fried chicken sandwich, and Carrie scanned the room, looking at the young women wearing next to nothing. “So, who the hell put you up to this? You are not a mob guy hired by my brother to get rid of me, are you?” I explained to her that her family really loved her and wanted to see her healthy someday. Her eyes filled with tears as drink number five went to her mouth. She smiled at a 20-year-old waitress in a way that would make anyone’s skin crawl. The response was not favorable. “Let’s get the God damn check and get out of here. It's making me feel old.” As she had promised, she paid. “GET MY VAN NOW!!” She blurted out, about an inch away from my face. Ten minutes later, she was passed out with a cigarette in between her fingers. My prayers had been answered. I checked my phone for messages. My wife, boss, and co-workers had all sent me several messages. I normally send pings every thirty minutes when I am transporting someone, but my hands had been too full with Carrie. They were all worried and for the right reasons. A few hours had passed, and we arrived in Stanford, CT to get gas. I could smell New England. As beautiful as it can be, it is also one of the toughest areas of the country in which to live. Something about the gray sky makes you want to fall into the Opioid Epidemic or drink yourself to death. I topped off the fuel tank and looked up at the van and saw Carrie West staring at me, looking like she was about to go into a fit of rage. "One, I am out of cigarettes, go get me three packs. Two, I found a liquor store on Google Maps. And three, I am not staying at this place if I am going to have a roommate. Don’t for one second argue with me about the liquor store or I will wreck your night.” We arrived at the seedy liquor store on the outskirts of town. She refused to get out of the car, so she gave me her order and some cash. Bacardi and Coke. It is extremely common for drinking or using to take place on the way to rehab after an intervention. We deal with it on a case by case basis. Usually, we allow just enough to keep a person from going into full withdrawal. Thus, keeping the detox process at the center and not during the intervention escort. In the case of Carrie, she was the last person I would want to drive across the country with while she is drinking. She was mean, loud, inconsiderate, made threats, and was a blackout drinker. At any moment, anything could change – and I mean anything. There were two reasons why I let her get drunk.
- One, she would call the cops if I didn’t.
- And two, she was totally immobile.
When Family Interventions for Alcoholism have Unexpected OutcomesNow, I have only made a few mistakes as an interventionist. One of them happened this evening. I had put the address to the corporate office for this particular treatment center, but I should have had the address to the after-hours location. The two locations were not far apart, but I certainly was going to the wrong spot, and well after sundown – with a very drunk and angry lady. We got off the interstate in Northern Connecticut and started to make our way down the last one hundred miles of what appeared to be a principal highway. The deep strums of Bob Dylan’s guitar cranked out “Mr. Tambourine Man” on the van speakers. “OH GOD, YOU ARE AMAZING,” Carrie said, and she started rocking out in the back seat. On to “Rainy Day Women,” “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” and “Knocking on Heavens Door.” I finally had a friend back there until she realized that she had not seen a light, a car, or a stop sign recently. “YOU ARE IN THE MAFIA, AND MY BROTHER PAID YOU TO KILL ME!” I sped up. Ninety miles per hour on a principal highway, in New England, in the middle of the night. She had to use the restroom, and there weren't any establishments to stop it. If I did stop, she might hobble away or try to crawl away. “Carrie. I am a full-time interventionist. Your family is worried about you and wants you to try this center out with the hope that you may want to try sobriety. I am not here to hurt you and only to help you. Your brother loves you dearly from what he tells me." She looked at me in the mirror with disgust and flipped the bird at me. She started poking me in the back and the shoulder, telling me to stop the car so she could use the bathroom. “Carrie. DO NOT touch me again,” I finally snapped. She did not. We arrived at a small valley. Several cabins looked the same. I got out to ask for directions about which building to take my client to. I turned around to see that she had opened the door, half naked, and was peeing on the street. I did not comment. Someone came out of the house and gave me the bad news. I was twenty minutes down the road from where I needed to be. I was about to ask him to call the center and send a van with as many nurses as they could fit in it when Carried crawled into the front and leaned on the horn. I mean loud and long. The individual told me to have a nice night and slammed the door in my face. We pressed on. Carrie was drinking the last of her rum, straight. She had a lit cigarette in each hand.
The Final Destination for Alcohol Rehab and RecoveryWe arrived at a gorgeous building, and there were several female nurses and staff members waiting for us outside. You could see their breath in the cold. Carrie was very calm and submissive at that point. They explained that they had to take her luggage inside for immediate searching. She was okay with that. They helped her out of the car and placed her into a wheelchair. “NO!! ONLY HE CAN PUSH ME. HE KNOWS ME, AND YOU DON’T!” So, I slowly pushed her inside the warm building. An unknown Behavioral Health Tech walked up to me and said, “So, are you like, a real Interventionist?” I just smiled at her. That was all I had left in me. I just escorted a drunk person for seven hours, for the last time in my life. I rolled her over to the intake area where they wanted to know more about her drinking patterns. Out of her pocket, a bottle of pills fell and hit the ground. “GIVE THEM BACK,” Carrie cried. I handed them directly over to the head nurse. I immediately got a hard punch directly to my mid-section, and it knocked the wind out of me.
When a patient is entering a treatment center, the center has the right to deny help to the individual. This only happens if you are incredibly violent, or in Carrie’s case, too incoherent to answer basic questions. We waited. We let her sober up. They asked her a few basic questions. She wouldn’t answer anything. She started toying with the nurses. Flirting with them. Teasing them. Asking them the same questions they were asking her. I wheeled her down the hall and sat in a chair in front of her and grabbed her hand. “Carrie. I have a wife, a baby, and other people to tend to. I don’t have time for any more games. Just answer the questions, let them give you a bed, and tomorrow morning, you can deal with this.” She smiled at me and appreciated my honesty, so she claimed. I brought her back into the intake room. "Carrie, let's go ahead and get this wrapped up,” said the head nurse. Carrie lifted her head and using both hands, gave her the finger. Within two minutes everyone in the facility came to aid. They had an ambulance for the local hospital outside. I pleaded with the nurses to let me sit alone with her and try to get her to make the right decision. It was too late. She was not going to be allowed into the center because she would not be admitted. They left with her to the hospital to detox. All I know from there is that she went back home the next day and resumed her drinking. Her whereabouts are unknown, and her family checks in now and then for advice on what to do with her. She certainly had a chance.