I’ve been bingeing on old episodes of Intervention all week. I’ve been on the wagon since Sunday night, although I have a feeling Bill and I will be toasting tonight when he comes home from his latest trip. The weather is positively miserable this morning. It’s raining, and they’re calling for snow showers, too. I hope Bill makes it back in one piece, but I have faith in my retired soldier. He’s the opposite of a hot mess… and man, have I been overdosing on them this week!
I used to watch Intervention casually back in the day. When I was in the States, I’d catch it on A&E while flipping channels. When we were in Germany the first time, I got hooked on iTunes and downloaded a couple of seasons to pass time. I added more seasons over the years, but I don’t think I ever really stopped and watched a lot of what I had. That changed this week. Some of the stories are downright heartbreaking and some are infuriating. A few have funny elements. If I had gone on to practice social work, I could have been working with people like the ones featured on Intervention. It’s probably just as well that I didn’t, since I pretty much lived that experience in real life growing up with my dad.
This morning, I happened to watch a couple of episodes that were real doozies. The one that inspired today’s post featured a young woman named Cristy. Cristy has been written about a lot on the Internet. I did a quick Google search and found her the subject of a lot of threads about Intervention as well as people who are, in general, incredibly fucked up for whatever reason. Just type “Cristy from Intervention” into your favorite search engine and you’ll find a flood of reactions from people. She definitely made an impression. A lot of people say that episode is the “craziest” of all of them, which seems amazing, given that she appeared in the second season. I think they’re up to twenty seasons now, so that means Cristy’s episode was a “high point” in low points… and she hadn’t even hit “rock bottom” after her intervention.
Anyway… before my morning coffee, I watched Cristy cavorting around in the nude, extremely drunk and high on crystal meth. I watched her standing on the street, hitting up men for alcohol. I heard about how she made her living stripping. In 2005, she had a cute figure, although her face was pretty messed up. She’d bleached her hair and did something strange to her eyebrows. Her personality, which had been described as “bubbly” and positive, had become arrogant, obnoxious, and dishonest.
I felt sorry for her parents, especially her dad, a musician who obviously loved her dearly and even wrote a song for her when she was a child. Sounds a little Disney-esque, although it’s interesting that he sings it in a minor key, especially given how she turned out. She was supposedly a real firecracker as a kid… but then she turned into a crack addict. Er… well, I don’t know if crack was her drug of choice. I’m sure she’s tried it.
I frequently empathize with the people featured on Intervention. They usually have something about them that is compelling or sweet. A lot of times, the subjects are further humanized as family members talk about how loving, kind, and talented they were as children. Family pictures and heartwarming videos are shown and viewers see why their families are so distraught that their loved ones have fallen down the black hole of addiction. There were home videos and pictures of Cristy, too, and she did appear to be a charming child. For some reason, I have hard time feeling a whole lot of sympathy for her as an adult. I have more compassion for her family, especially her dad. I can tell he adores her. She’s so lucky he cares about her. Not everyone has parents who care so much.
Many people who have been on Intervention are able to put their lives together. Yesterday, I watched an episode about a young mom named Kristen who was also featured in season 2. Kristen had an adorable five year old daughter named Sadie who lived with her dad because Kristen was a heroin addict and a prostitute. I looked up Kristen yesterday and was astonished to see that Sadie had grown into a very tall high school graduate (like, she dwarfs her mother, who is now clean and also has a son). Kristen got off drugs and now lives the straight life. She looks wonderful. In comparison, here’s a more recent video of Cristy— from October 2018. She went to Taco Bell, pissed herself, and broke a lot of windows. She also had a baby boy a few years ago, who reportedly lives with his father (thank God). There were Facebook pictures of her, obviously drinking a lot of booze while she was pregnant. They’re easy to find, too.
As I’ve been watching Intervention all week, I’ve been thinking about how hard it must be for the family members of addicted people who end up featured on the show. I do have an inkling of it, since my dad was an alcoholic. We’ve had our share of family dramas over the years, but it wasn’t until I was almost a high school graduate before I knew that my dad had a drinking problem. I remember hearing the odd whisper about it growing up. When I was about fourteen or fifteen, our family went to counseling for a while, and my dad’s drinking was mentioned then. I only attended a couple of sessions because I wasn’t interested and didn’t see the issue as my problem. I refused to cooperate, so my parents let me stay home and watch Three’s Company reruns on TV. Meanwhile, my parents and two of my sisters attended the sessions with a master’s level therapist named Nancy who had an office in a strip mall near our house. I now kind of wish I’d kept going to the sessions. Maybe they would have been insightful.
At that time, back in the mid 1980s, my parents were fighting a lot with two of my sisters, both of whom were then in their 20s. One of them, in particular, seemed to be causing the most drama and concern. I think my mom was actually afraid she might harm herself, which was unusual for my mom– you’d have to know her to understand. She’s a good person, but she’s not very maternal at all. I remember one night, she begged my dad to go after my sister, who had just left the house in a rage. My mom was afraid my sister might end up killing herself or getting in an accident. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.
But when I compare the drama in the house I grew up in to the drama on Intervention, it seems pretty tame. Then I remind myself that Intervention is a carefully edited hour of television, designed to be dramatic and compelling. What we see is the end result of hours of filming. A lot of what goes on daily might be relatively mundane. I guess it would have to be, or else the addictions would not have the chance to get as bad as they do. People turn a blind eye to the craziness and simply try to live with it until it becomes intolerable. It’s like letting a minor infection go untreated until it turns into septic shock.
I definitely don’t think my sister was the whole problem in our house. She was just a symptom of the problem. When I look at our family as a whole, I can see that the roots run very deep. The problem started many years before my dad was even born. He had a violent, alcoholic father, too, and I think chances are excellent that Pappy’s father was also an alcoholic, as were his forebears. In fact, from the stories I’ve heard, my grandfather was much worse than my father ever was, and my dad, who was the oldest son in the family, bore the brunt of Pappy’s abuse until he moved away from home. Having talked to and observed my aunts, uncles, and cousins, I can see that it’s a family wide problem, even if no one really talks about it much. I guess, in a way, that’s one reason why going home makes me uncomfortable, even though my family is generally wonderful and a lot of fun. There are many elephants in the room that no one ever addresses. Also, many of them are recalcitrant Trump devotees, which when mixed with alcohol, is not a pleasant combination. Although I used to love being around them when I was younger, getting away from that environment opened my eyes. I feel like I can’t unring the bell. The cognitive dissonance is too much for me to bear.
My dad– underneath the alcoholism– was a very kind, decent, intelligent, and sensitive man. There was a noble aspect to his personality. He was fascinated by meeting people from other cultures and enjoyed helping others. Even though my dad was a Republican, he was fully supportive when my eldest sister and I decided to be Peace Corps Volunteers, and he even helped me collect books in English for the school where I taught. He was musically talented and artistic, had a good sense of humor, loved crossword puzzles, and was generally a high achiever. Despite drinking too much and suffering from depression and PTSD, he was a very good provider. We never went without anything, but I think a lot of that was because my mom worked hard to make sure we didn’t. She was concerned about optics and her own comfort, but I also think she was concerned about my dad. She loved him, even if he often drove her crazy.
Watching Intervention, I kind of wonder if my sisters and I turned out reasonably well because my parents didn’t divorce. But then, they did love each other, and they wanted to be together. They had good times, even with the heavy drinking. I remember my parents went on trips together. I’d stay home while they went to Europe or the Caribbean, or they’d go to a timeshare somewhere in the Bahamas or out west. It didn’t happen every year, but I remember at least a couple of big trips they took together. They used to be very involved in biking, and my dad loved doing things like hang gliding and white water rafting. He was an adrenaline junkie. We also had exposure to our extended family, particularly on my dad’s side (mom’s side was very small and had pretty much died out by the time I was eight years old).
Some of the people on Intervention, you can tell, didn’t love each other. They got together, had children, and the relationship fell apart. A lot of times, one of the parents is also an addict or has some other problem that exacerbates the situation. Also, it seems like a lot of times, in the wake of a divorce, the mother ends up with a man who molests the child who ends up sick. It’s interesting that this happens, too, since stepmothers so often get a bad rap for “destroying” the lives of their stepchildren and stepfathers are often revered for “stepping up” and raising another man’s children. And yet, in so many of these stories, I see that the addict hits trouble when there is a remarriage and the stepfather turns out to be an abusive, child molesting creep. Or… the child goes out and finds attention from someone who is a molester because he or she isn’t getting the necessary attention from family members. That’s kind of what happened to me– although thankfully, the molester in my case only showed me porn and made a lot of inappropriate comments.
Thank God my mom allowed me to get much more involved with horses when she did. Otherwise, who knows? You might be watching an episode of Intervention starring me. Seriously… as much as I used to fight with my riding instructor, I think in many ways, she and a lot of other good people in Gloucester, might have saved my ass. I was too busy taking care of my horse and going to horse shows to get into trouble. I was very fortunate to grow up in a close-knit community where there were a lot of people who, for whatever reason, took an interest in me and helped me grow up, even though my parents weren’t as involved as they could have been.
My sister likes to say that my mom bought me the horse because she suggested it– to “save” me from dating losers, getting knocked up, using drugs, or whatever. It offends me that she thinks that I ever would have turned to that. I wasn’t all that interested in dating when I was a teenager, and I didn’t drink much at all until I was a sophomore in college, although I got drunk for the first time at a family party, when I was about fifteen. But even in college, I wasn’t hanging out with men looking to hook up, and I never once used illegal drugs, EVER. I just drank a lot of beer and played a lot of Asshole. Granted, I played Asshole with men, but they were drinking buddies, not hookup buddies. The first time I ever tried marijuana, I was 43 years old and visiting the Netherlands, where it’s legal. I enjoyed it, but I haven’t used any since then.
Moreover, I don’t remember my sisters acting as saviors to me. They might have protected me a couple of times when my dad would get enraged, but they were mostly not home enough to act in that role when I was under 18. And there were times when I was a child that my sisters raged at me themselves. It was mostly verbal in nature, but there were times when it also got physical. I think growing up with verbal abuse is one reason why I can’t deal with people who rage at me now. Seriously… if you yell and scream at me, there’s a good chance I’ll eventually end up hating your guts. I have very little tolerance for that anymore. Bill isn’t a yeller, which is probably the main reason why we get along so well. Unfortunately, there are times when I yell, but I don’t yell at Bill and I rarely yell at other people. I just yell in general and vent in my blog, which I know pisses some people off. But I’m not sure that writing is worse than losing my temper and screaming at someone, even if some folks think I should keep these things private. Frankly, I think those who don’t like what I write should simply exercise some self-discipline and go somewhere else. The Internet is a big place. Find your happy place and leave me alone. 😉
Whew… well, I kind of got off the track in this post. Back to Intervention and hot messes. Although Intervention is kind of a depressing show, it’s fascinating to me. Everyone has a story, and I love a good story. I’m also glad to see people recover and go on to live productive, happy lives. I guess it’s plain why I find the show so compelling… maybe there’s a part of me that feels somewhat better about myself when I watch it. On the other hand, it doesn’t feel good watching Cristy, who seems completely clueless and remorseless. I feel sorry for her family. It’s must be devastating to have to deal with someone like her on a regular basis. I hope her son grows up okay. And I hope the people at Taco Bell got a raise and Cristy put some clothes on…