Intervention, and the lessons of Philip Seymour Hoffman

Written by Bette Dewing on . Posted in News Our Town.


Know someone whom you desperately want to quit drinking or smoking or using illicit drugs or doing other destructive behavior? Then don’t be silent. And don’t believe that dangerous but prevailing notion that the drinker, smoker, drug-user, etc. must really want to stop the defeating behavior before they can be helped.

Believe instead that there is a real RX out there called intervention which really does work – not always, and may need repeating. But when you consider the alternative. it has to be tried, not to mention, publicized. Naturally, this longtime concern is raised by the wall-to-wall coverage of 46-year-old stage and screen actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, found dead in his Greenwich Village apartment with a needle in his arm. But in all the vast media coverage, little was said about any intervention effotts by family, friends, and colleagues, including those in recovery groups, when they knew he had recently relapsed. And how doubly tragic for this to happen after those so commendable years of being clean and sober.

I might add that his family of orgin, mother,father and four siblings, were rarely mentioned as his survivors. Mostly we heard and read, “He is survived by three young children and their mother, his partner of 15 years.” That partner and he were recently separated. And because I’m writting this on Valentine’s Day and all the coverage is about couple love, may I just inject the ignored fact that family of origin love is often the most enduring, selfless and irreplaceable kind of love, and needs equal time and status with couple love.

The February 9 Times article , “His Death, Their Lives,” was about the sorrow and shock of members of recovery group meetings where Hoffman had been active. But they worried most about possibly relapsing even after years of being clean and sober. Most will not relapse, and my concern is how little coverage these self help-one-anther groups get and that members find it a truly good way of life. And imagine the relief of those who love them – if ever stories need to be told.

The A&E TV Intervention series was dropped after eight years in 2013. It was one reality show which had the potential for good, showing family and friends helped by an intervention professional to get their loved one into treatment for drug or alcohol dependence. Not a good sign that the show’s ratings dropped while the likes of “Housewives” continue to attract.

For a fee, the Freedom Institute (212 -838-0044) in Manhattan teaches intervention skills to famlies and friends of the chemically dependent. Of course, nobody described the process as well as Betty Ford, who put intervention on the map. And current First Ladies would do well to read this former First Lady’s 1986 book, “Betty, A Glad Awakening.” They might then consider that while smokng and obesity damage the body, they don’t shut down the braain’s judgement like alchol and drugs do.

Indeed all policy makers, including clergy, should read this book and also attend open meetings of A.A. and other 12 Step recovery group meetings. For information about various recovery meetings, call 212-647-1680. Incidentally, the Cocaine Anonymous meeting held at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church on Wednesdays at 6.PM was once featured in a N.Y. Times piece which also felt 12 Step groups should not be so anonymous.

And oh how intervention, in general, needs to really “get out there” to solve so many human dilemmas, especially, but not only troubled relationships. Silence is often not golden.

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