Watching Intervention While Wasted

By Kristance Harlow 07/31/17

People say that reality TV is just scripted lies with a dose of reality, but Intervention showed me my own reality.

Woman smoking cigarette and watching television with vodka on table
The documentary television series "Intervention" persuades the author to ask for help.

My obsession with the show, Intervention, planted some warning flags in my line of vision. I had to fall over a ton of them before I realized they were there, but I finally did realize. Intervention showcases people who are deep in their addictions. When I started drinking in the morning, I knew it was a problem. It had been a problem long before that, but this felt very on brand for an episode of Intervention. I fell asleep--er, passed out--at night and in the morning, there was always a strong drink on my nightstand left from the previous evening. When that drink started coming with me into the shower, I knew I was hitting a point of no return.

I did some weird shit when I was drinking. That is a sentence anyone with any experience getting drunk can probably say, but as an alcoholic I raised the bar and drank it dry. I wasn’t out being ridiculous and collecting hilarious anecdotes, this isn’t one of those stories. My life wasn’t like The Hangover, even if I was hungover all the time. I was more weird in an always-anxiously-awkward-and-sad kind of way.

I had a predictable schedule at the end of my drinking. In the evening, as soon as the light faded into dusk, I would migrate to the 14th floor balcony of my Buenos Aires apartment. I would have already purchased alcohol in preparation for my nightly routine, and onto the balcony with me it would go.

My laptop, which was still functioning semi-normally at the time, was critical for my escapism. I would scour the internet for old and new episodes of the show Intervention. The newest ones I’d watch by logging into my mom’s Xfinity account and the old ones I’d stream on some shady torrent server.

I got the drinks ready while the show was buffering. I’d pull out the liquor of the night, usually vodka, and mix it with whatever juice I had on hand. If I remembered to buy something to mix it with, I would feel like I was having a classy cocktail despite the fact that I was drinking it out of a plastic bottle. I wasn’t above tossing dry juice packets and some water right into the vodka.

My excuse for going outside was always to work on some do-it-yourself project. Then I’d spend the next few hours going deep on DIY projects while binging on Intervention and alcohol. As long as it wasn’t raining, I was game. I did it in the summer and the winter. If it was cold I would dress in layers and wait for the alcohol to warm me up.

When I watched Intervention, I could tell myself contradictory conveniences. It’s amazing how easily reality can be twisted to fit immediate demands. Whatever suited me best is the message I heard.

But I’m different: I’m not as bad as those people. At least I don’t get the shakes.

Holier than thou attitude: I have never driven drunk, that’s awful. I would never subject kids to that behavior.

Woe is me: I could never afford a fancy rehab, I can’t get sober. I don’t deserve to stop. I have no one, those people have so many people staging an intervention.

Wild predictions: I am going to end up like that person, but worse.

Camaraderie: I guess I’m not the only one. Maybe I can get better.

Complete denial: Wow, this show is a fascinating look into a life I know nothing about.

I stopped watching the show when I first got sober. It was too intense for me at a time when I was trying to keep my brain as far away as possible from the mere idea of drinking. Recently, I’ve started watching it now and again. I find myself latching onto different aspects of the show than I did when still drinking. Now, I love to watch the success stories and have found myself googling people who went through treatment to see how they are holding up today.

I am not the only person with an alcohol use disorder who has strong feelings about that show. I never thought much about it beyond my own entertainment until I told a friend about my Intervention and alcohol binges. They were also in recovery and had done the exact same thing. Like dominos, I began hearing of more people who devoured the show. I drank it up before sobriety, but I know of others who dove into it once they began recovery.

When I got sober I didn’t go through an intervention, and I didn’t go to rehab. Maybe, just maybe, the episodes helped me to see where I was going. All the stories of people who went through the struggle before me served as guides who pointed out the dangers of the road ahead. My destruction was inevitable if I didn’t change directions and all of those guides kept yelling at me as I walked further into the darkness. People say that reality TV is just scripted lies with a dose of reality, but Intervention showed me my own reality. Each success, each failure, each lapse and relapse, each laugh and each desperate cry tucked itself away in my mind and piled up to fight my denial. Next thing I knew, I woke up and went to a 12-step meeting. I just couldn’t keep doing what I was doing, and for some reason that Saturday morning I knew it and walked through the door into recovery.

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