Addicted – Programs # 3 & 4

Posted on April 14, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, Intervention, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

YIKES! I have been trying to post this for days and am way behind.  These are comments on programs #3 and #4 of Addicted. Tonight, program # 5 airs – I’m so far behind, it’s getting confusing.  And, the reality is, maybe I just can’t keep up with these weekly reviews?

For what it’s worth, here are summaries/impressions of programs #3 & # 4 on TLC’s, Addicted.

Program # 3 featured a young alcoholic, ~ 24 yo – can’t remember his name – whose incessant drinking of pure vodka, right out of the bottle, appeared to be a veiled suicide attempt. His parents were enablers – and the ‘kid’s’ cycle of drinking, vomiting, sleeping, and futility, were hard to watch. He was a diabetic, which complicated his situation.  I’m surprised he didn’t slip in to a diabetic coma right on camera.  His mother was either overly scripted, or so detached and in denial, that any human emotion or authentic response, on her part, were stilted and not very believable.

Kristina seemed adept at navigating through the land mines of the family dynamics to get ‘whosywhat’ to treatment. After 2 or 3 weeks in treatment,  Kristina brought the young alcoholic back ‘home’  to clean up his horribly chaotic living space. Her words:

We need to walk through and witness our own wreckage. This is most likely a form of “making amends”.   She went on to say that:

. . . .you could give the alcoholic/addict help, but that would strip her/him of the experience of feeling how it feels to do it on his/her own.  There is no greater source of self-esteem and  pride than doing something on your own, for your self.  Even it it doesn’t turn out the way you expected, the point is ‘ownership’ – of the process and outcome. There is dignity in this.

I think that one of the aspects of this show, Addicted, that I like the most, is that there is some flexibility in the criteria, expectations, and outcomes of the intervention. There is no ‘surprise” factor involved – and Kristina seems genuinely committed to maintaining the addict’s dignity.  The fact that she can honestly say to the addict, “I would never ask you to do something that I haven’t already done myself”,  lends particular credibility to the program and her professional style.  I was also impressed at how helpful and effective it was to have Kristina, a professional and objective/non-family member, involved with and available to the addict through out the rehabilitation process.  This detail is huge, I think, in contributing to the success of the intervention and treatment process..  She invites the addict to the recovery process by asking the question, Are you willing?

I’ve been faithfully watching this new “reality” program, Addicted, showing at 10:00 pm on Wednesday nights on TLC in our area, because I have a personal interest in the program’s content, of course, but also in its ‘star’, professional interventionist and former drug addict, Kristina Wandzilak. I had spoken to Kristina last summer about possibly doing an intervention with my daughter, Hayley, who at that time, was “just” using crack and cocaine.  (Kristina came in to some notoriety after her book, The Lost Years was published. I was so moved by this book, that I visited Kristina’s website, Full Circle Intervention, and left a message there.  Kristina actually contacted me, in response) During our conversation last June, Kristina mentioned that the Discovery Channel had bought her program pitch, and she was looking for families of drug addicts and alcoholics to film. The process would be: the film crew would interview the family, film the addict, Kristina would be brought in to do an intervention, and the addict would go to treatment.  The Discovery Channel (TLC) would pay for the treatment and Kristina’s involvement.

At that time, I was so desperate to get my daughter out of the crack house and risky life style, that I actually considered this option.  However, my therapist, and other trusted advisors, thought that for Hayley to be featured in such a public arena as a television program, would somehow corrupt the motive of going in to treatment – that her reason for getting help would be coerced, and thereby, not as authentic as if she initiated getting help for herself.  This, of course, calls in to question the entire intervention process, whether or not it’s effective, really works, is worthwhile, produces long term results.  I dunno.  In retrospect, if it truly takes an addict multiple rehabs to recover, why not get started?  The barriers/negatives to participating in such a commercialized program were daunting. I’m fairly certain that most of my family members would not have participated in the filming, the logistics of communicating with my daughter, setting everything up, and filming at a crack house, all seemed overwhelming at the very least, and most likely, impossible.

Back to the program, Addicted. I’ve been interested in watching exactly how Kristina Wandzilak, as an interventionist and facilitator, operates.  Some aspects of previous programs seemed too scripted and even implausible. Yet, I’m still tuning in and, I admit, sm somewhat fascinated by the whole scene.

Last week’s show, # 4, was raw, brutal, and difficult to watch.  It was especially relevant to me since it featured a 31 year old heroin and meth addict, Ali, whose life had boiled down to: “I don’t think about anything.  I just do what’s in front of me.”  In Kristina’s words, Ali was ‘living like an animal’, focused almost entirely on the perpetual quest to find a usable vein. Ali’s drug supply didn’t seem to be an issue. She lived with her drug addict boyfriend, Karl, and, they both were ‘employed’ by Ali’s father to do minimal maintenance work around the family’s rental properties. Family enabling was immediately apparent.

Ali was raped at age 13, and from then on, she began to use progressively harder drugs to numb herself.  As I heard Ali’s story about being raped as an adolescent, I thought to myself – – – I understand how a traumatic event like this could potentially cause some one to use drugs – especially during such vulnerable, developmental years. This thought then caused me to speculate, ‘Was my own daughter, Hayley, ever sexually abused as a young girl?’ And, if not, what could have been so terrible in Hayley’s life to drive her to such extreme addiction?

Watching Ali desperately trying to find a vein anywhere on her scarred, used up body, then witnessing the graphic shooting up ritual, was disturbing.  In one scene, Ali ultimately resorts to using a vein in her breast. I’ve learned that most of my family cannot or will not watch these graphic scenes of the addict’s daily life and reality.  Even though I’m both repulsed and fascinated by this up-close-and-personal view of how my daughter lives her life, it’s something I feel compelled to witness – and learn about – and try to process. I liked gory movies as a kid, though –so, maybe that’s the difference?

Ali left the medical detox facility after just a day or two. The detox facility staff seemed miserably inept at dealing with pissed off, vulnerable drug addicts suffering through withdrawal. They didn’t appear to be very well equipped or professionally trained, in my opinion.  The intake staff person was especially cold, detached, lacking in compassion and effective techniques for engaging a shaky addict, and set the tone for the entire detox experience, I think.  This reality was an important lesson in the impact an addict’s first contact at a treatment facility, can have. Details.  Every detail and step of the treatment process can be very significant.

As Ali was leaving the detox facility, after being there  just a day or two, she remarked:  “I just want to get loaded one more time.  I didn’t get to party the way I wanted to before I came to detox.”  I’ve learned that this is very typical addictive behavior.

These are some comments made by Kristina that resonated in some way:

•If the family leads, the addict will follow. (is this a given?)

•Once you cross the line over to addiction, there’s no longer choice involved. Addiction = loss of choice.

Ali’s mother asked:  “Why didn’t I see it?”  Kristina answered that a parent can’t prevent their child’s addiction – that addicts are on their own path.  Is this true?  What do you think?

As I mentioned previously, the medical detox facility where Ali went for a couple of days, didn’t seem very trained or effective in dealing with a pissed off, vulnerable addict in withdrawal. Last August, Hayley walked out of medical detox after 41/2 days.  I was never able to talk to her while she was there – she slept a lot of the time, and there was no phone in her room.  However – when relapse occurs in treatment, and/or a patient walks out of detox, should we hold the facility/program culpable in some way?  One of the nurses at Hayley’s detox facility said that Hayley may have aligned herself with another young woman patient there, finding an ally and support in not embracing the program. So – are there techniques and practices in place to counter such predictable and defensive strategies used by the struggling addict?

Ali also left medical detox, after just a day or two. However, she did later enter a small treatment facility, Amicus House, and stayed for 90 days.  Her physical transformation after just 40 days of treatment and staying clean, was remarkable. And, she was eventually able to admit that she couldn’t outsmart her addiction, and that she liked staying clean more than wanting to use.  She said she was not as emotionally overwhelmed after the 40-50 days in treatment, and she wanted to be normal. The post production note that was flashed on the screen after the program was that Hayley had successfully finished 90 days at the treatment center, 90 days at a transitional living/post treatment facility, and was now living and working in the city (San Jose, CA) where her treatment center was located. And – Ali had broken up with her boyfriend, Karl. This all felt hopeful, but not entirely possible.  I am, after all, a skeptic.

Ali’s  dad was her enabler.  And even though he had some addiction issues of his own, he offered this legitimate advice to Ali: Don’t worry about what you did, but what you’re going to do.

There’s a certain look that hardcore heroin/drug addicts get. Ali had it. And when I met with my daughter a little over a week ago, I saw glimpses of that look. It’s a haunting, angular, pale, sickly, and desperate look.  I am, however, buoyed and encouraged by the extreme physical transformation that Ali showed after being in treatment and being sober for 40 days.  Hallejulah!  Hope that is visible and measurable.

Kristina’s spontaneous tears in hearing and responding to the addict’s and family’s pain, are genuine. I believe her.  She’s been there, herself. I’ll keep watching.

Questions for viewers:

•do drug addicts have choice? Once they’ve become addicted, is choice truly an option in their lives?

•does an intervention process work in regards to authentic, long term recovery? Can the pressure and ultimatum nature of an intervention result in long term, real recovery?

•how much do you want to know about your addict’s daily life and reality?

•do you believe what Kristina said – that addicts are on their own path, no matter what we do or say?

•if the family leads, will the addict necessarily follow?

OK – in an hour, program # 5 of Addicted will air.  Stay tuned.


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13 Responses to “Addicted – Programs # 3 & 4”

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I watched the first “Addiction” out of curiosity, but haven’t watched since. I don’t watch any reality TV. I couldn’t explain to myself why I find these shows so uncomfortable, but I think you (Peg) and Lisa have hit the nail on the head. They are voyeuristic and they are making a profit off people’s misery and foolishness. I don’t seem to be able to abide it. Meetings of Al-anon feel completely different to me. They are a place of sharing and trust, where no one is benefiting at the expense of someone else, and everyone’s dignity is preserved as much as possible. I’ll stick with wonderful blogs like this and meetings of al-anon. All my best wishes to everyone. I love reading the posts and the comments.

So true, Donna. Those programs are somewhat contrived, over-dramatized, and certainly scripted for audience viewer purposes. I have, however, learned some valuable details about the actual process of using heroin. Why this is interesting or important to me, I don’t know. I realize it borders on a kind of perverse curiosity. Somehow, knowing as much as I can about heroin addiction, relieves a certain level of anxiety – don’t know why. I guess, if I have as much knowledge as possible about something, I feel I have a chance of standing up to it.

You are so much braver than me. I can watch shows/information about addiction (like Pleasures Unwoven for example) but I don’t have the heart or the stomach to watch a reality show like Addiction (or any of the other ones that have been on). I know this is my own opinion, but I feel like they are glorifying this for ratings. And if you don’t have a personal experience to relate to, I can’t imagine how judgmental audience members will be. So I can’t figure out how that really helps educate the general population…parents, kids, teachers, clergy, etc. I just am not strong enough to go there. Thank you for keeping me posted though and asking such “thought-provoking” questions.

You’re right, Lisa. These programs are kind of voyeuristic – and I’m not sure how ‘real’ they truly are. For some reason, i seem to need to know the whole process of using heroin – how it’s done, paraphernalia involved, how the addict talks, reacts, etc. Don’t know why – it’s quite masochistic, in a way. Thanks for your comments.

I went over to the intervention tv show website. they are on season 3 now. so why do they only have THREE follow up stories? Now THATS a question I would want answered.

every single time my daughter went into rehab, she came out gung ho, clean, sober and attending NA meetings nightly. the longest sober period was about 9 months. she always went back to using.

her latest methadone program is going on 4 years, but she is cross addicted now to alcohol and still occasionally using heroin on top of the methadone.

i believe only one thing Kristina says -that addicts are on their own path, no matter what we do or say.

I watched the (i think) latest one, the guy who was addicted to smoking oxy’s and his mom was an ex addict, his dad, uncle and someone else had all died from addiction.

was it true? as with the others, i felt it was cleaned up alot. and how does the mom who was an ex addict and now widow afford that nice of a house in San Francisco??? AND pay for her addict son’s apartment?

I liked that Kristina told the mom that she was enabling horribly, and that it would only serve to kill her son quicker.

I like that she convinced the mom to stop enabling (as far as the program lasted.)

I have serious doubts as to whether the boy stayed clean very long.

The real recovery starts after treatment, of course. Now there’s an idea for a program – one year after the intervention, how are things going for everybody? I may post that question on Kristina’s website.

I still haven’t brought myself to watch the show. But wanted to stop by just to say HI 🙂
Oh, and I agree with you about not appearing on the show. It is a personal decision, but I would have decided the same as you.
God bless.
Love & hugs!

I have not watched but it sounds interesting. I did watch Intervention some but that was difficult to watch, but also mesmerizing. I believe that it is a brain disease and as for interventions, well we did hold one with our daughter and offered her treatment or be turned in to her probation officer/jail. She reluctantly chose treatment. It was very expensive, we are still paying it off, but she seemed to grasp the 12 steps while there and has been relatively successful at sobriety for the last year and half, as far as I can tell. i know of at least 2 relapses. I have been fooled so many times, I hate to write anything that later I could find out was completely false. Anyway, thanks for the posts. Very difficult call on when and if to intervene.

Loved your poem, posted on dadonfire. Keep writing.

Hi Peggy.Lot’s of questions and answers that most won’t get.
It is my experience that addiction is made up of 2 basic components: Obsession and Compulsion.
Obsession: That fixed idea that takes us back time and time again to our drug of choice or some substitute to try and recapture the ease and comfort we once knew.
Compulsion: Once having started that process with one pill, one, fix, one drink I cannot through my own willpower stop.
I know I have the power of making decent decisions today, however, I don’t test the process by placing myself in akward situations.
I believe intervention does work if the timing is right, as we have talked before, until the addict is ready to stop they will not stop.
I don’t feel comfortable answering the other questions about family members but something in your post stood out to me…
“And, she was eventually able to admit that she couldn’t outsmart her addiction, and that she liked staying clean more than wanting to use”.
Couldn’t outsmart her addiction seems like an honest admission to me.
I guess I could spend countless hours sitting back and wondering if I was born an addict, or if there was a life event that ‘pushed’ me over the line. It doesn’t really matter in the end anyway. I know i didn’t sit with my High School counselor and say I wanted to be a drug addict. Using drugs helped take away the pain and confusion of dealing with the realities of life that are in my mind.
I simply used because I did not like myself as a person or the world around me, it felt like I just didn’t fit in. It’s ok, I realize today it’s my perception of myself and the way I view the world that has changed over the years. I’m not as bad of a guy as I think I am and life is ok. Overwhelming at times but ok, and besides I get to meet cool people just like you.

Take Care…Bob D.


Thank you for sharing – as I am over in Europe I don’t have the opportunity to watch Addicted so getting these round ups are great. The questions you raised resonate really strongly for me at the moment as Hannah’s second attempt at rehab was dashed (she is now back in – more on that later) we asked ourselves all sorts of questions around mental health and addiction. Do you know how heroin affects the brain? I am reading Beautiful Boy at the moment and was shocked and fascinated by the description of what Crystal Meth does to the brain – no wonder life is hard for both the addict and the family whent the physical effects are so enormous. But what about heroin? I have heard it is not as damaging?! Do you know if there is a good reference point for mental health and addiction.
As for your questions – I too have to mull them over before replying. I have asked myself the same ones and struggle to come up with the answers. Knowing too much is so painful but knowing too little is just as hard. As for interventions…I have conducted one myself as you might remember. It seemed to work but in her 9th week of rehab it was all over. This is a marathon not a sprint…I’ll write back soon with thoughts.

Hi, Peggy- I only lasted 10 minutes watching the episode with the alcoholic diabetic. Since my daughter rarely drinks, it was all unfamiliar to me and horribly disturbing. Tonight I just saw the end of the show with Ali, and what I saw of Kristina was impressive. As for your interesting questions, I’ll have to think on them for a night or so. Take care.

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