…life on the synaptic firing range

Location: Los Angeles, United States

Bent but unbroken Southern California native seeks understanding, companionship, and resonance along and off the beaten path. Teresa plays well with others and makes every effort to perform to her potential. Usually. *processed in a facility that processes nuts and nut products

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


I can't get enough of "Intervention," a reality program on A&E about addiction and recovery now in its second season. Here's the setup: We're introduced to one or two individuals addicted to anything from heroin to video games (really, video games, one of the most harrowing segments I've seen on the show; the guy reminded me of Tom Hanks' character in the made-for-TV movie "Mazes and Monsters," stumbling through the hedgerows in his robe at the end of the film, his link to reality severed, perhaps irrevocably). Viewers follow the addicts' lives for a week or so, getting a voyeuristic taste of what their world has become in the service of the monkey. While the subjects have willingly signed on for a documentary about addiction, what we know and they don't is that their friends and family members are conspiring to stage an intervention. We meet these folks in parallel fashion, so as the subjects tell their tales, their loved ones muse over how they were star athletes, good students, beautiful, happy, talented girls and boys until…

In the final third of the hour-long show each subject is lured to an intervention, which they greet with emotions ranging from passive resignation to angry denial. Enter the show's unassuming and very unglamorous intervention facilitators, Jeff Van Vonderan, who calls to mind a junior high principal, and Candy Finnegan, who to me seems a bit more like a therapist than Jeff does, probably owing to her no-nonsense haircut and implacable demeanor—not that Jeff seems any more excitable than she. They've each clearly grown comfortable with the idea that their subjects may hate them, though the addicts generally reserve their most white-hot burning hate for one or both of their parents. The show becomes especially riveting here: Will the subject accept treatment—the immediate commencement of which is contingent only upon a nod or a sigh as the producers of the show have already arranged flights and airport transportation and family members have taken the liberty of prepacking the addicts' bags—or will they blow this taco stand to go score some smack from a guy named "Rat"? Most accept treatment, and most of them in turn complete their programs to become productive, happy members of society, brought back into the family fold, returned custody of their child, or dog. We see "after" video of them at the end, accompanied by upbeat music, and they talk briefly about their lives post-recovery. The ones who don't make it, who quit the program, who relapse, they get postscript text on a screen. The text is nonjudgmental, but the bleak nature of their future echoes in the void of strummy music. At them we shake our heads, thinking that of course we would have taken Jeff or Candy up on their offer of deluxe accommodations in a secular Taos retreat. We would go toward the light. Those of us who have never endured rehab may even romanticize it a bit, bypassing the horrors of withdrawal and going straight for the fellowship, imagining how nice it might be to take a few months off work to hang out with friends, enjoy trust-building activities, learn therapeutic crafts, and be regarded as a hero in the end, the prodigal son or daughter returned.

That's what I really romanticize: the return. To think that a coalition of the willing could love me enough to save me from myself, no matter what kind of hell I've put them through. Oh, to have run with the devil, only to return safely home where all is forgiven and the future can be nothing but brighter for the journey. I've never raced the devil. I've never put my family through hell. When her phone rings at 3 a.m., my mother never wonders whether it's the hospital or the morgue calling about her youngest child. So I suppose I identify not with the addicts of "Intervention" but with the brothers and sisters who have tried all their lives to do everything right, to see their efforts rewarded only with the passive ambivalence of parents too busy wringing hands over the wayward child. That, and a peripheral role in a television show starring same.


Blogger sporksforall said...

Being the total wimp I am, Intervention is too hard for me. Surround me on a cloud with rainbows and carebears.

7:29 PM  
Blogger bptabby said...

just wanted you to know I am a closet Intervention watcher and wanted to know why it wasn't on tonight

9:23 PM  
Blogger scout said...

I know! Ack. Is it wrong to be addicted to a show about addiction?

9:23 AM  
Blogger Slangred said...


11:11 PM  

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