What It Was Like Throwing A Family Intervention For My Brother

by Kelly Bishop
Getty Images

"Intervention" was a popular TV show that followed a family who had a member struggling with addiction.

They filmed the whole confrontation when the family tried to make the member go get help.

Everyone loved this show. The more f*cked up the person was, the better the episode.

People were either moved by it, or they laughed at it.

Either way, it exposed them to a world they would never have to experience.

The show romanticized addiction and what the family went through.

The whole "intervention," however, was simply fodder for a popular TV show.

People would watch it for an hour, and then they would change the channel.

They would never think of it again.

Eventually, they will forget the look of grief on the faces of each family member.

They will forget the way the young girl’s voice shook as she read her letter out loud.

They will forget how they laughed when the addict tried to run out and throw a tantrum.

They will watch all of these episodes, be entertained and maybe shed a tear or two if they’re especially stirred.

But then, it’s over for them.

It’s just another TV show.

It’s just another source of entertainment, something they will never experience in their lifetimes.

We had an intervention for my brother when I was a sophomore in high school.

That morning, I was at my friend’s house after a sleepover, talking on the phone with my mom about how I didn’t want to go.

I thought it was stupid. It was a waste of time and wouldn’t help.

But she had hired someone.

A professional — someone who had had drug problems in the past — was going to help us address my brother’s struggles.

He suggested we write letters to my brother.

We were to say how he hurt us and why it meant so much to us for him to get help.

I agreed to finally go, but I refused to write a letter.

I didn’t want to be involved. I didn’t want to ambush him.

I didn’t want to confront the actual problem that was making me depressed and angry on a daily basis.

I didn’t want to look my brother in the eye and tell him his decisions had f*cked up my life.

It took place in our living room. It was not in a staged room, with a couch and some chairs.

We didn’t have a soft-spoken therapist. We had an ex-crackhead.

We didn’t have cameras on us.

We weren’t there for other people’s entertainment; we were there to break our own hearts.

People will watch the show and go “aww” when the addict walks in.

“Oh my god! He has no idea.”

Do you know what it feels like to have your own family member walk in?

You may sympathize while you're watching it on a show, even if you don’t know the person.

But unless your own heart has been shattered by seeing that look on the face of someone you love, you can’t say sh*t.

He knew what it was. He knew what was happening.

His nerves vibrated off him.

I felt like a horrible sister, like I had just betrayed him in the worst way possible.

I wanted to apologize and help him escape, but he had done some pretty irreversable things.

So, I stayed silent.

I didn’t have a letter to read out loud, but I was still asked to speak.

I thought I’d be tough through it all. I thought I wouldn’t cry or crack.

I thought I’d be strong for all of us.

I wanted to act indifferent in front of my brother.

I wanted to hurt him by showing how little his actions affected me.

But the second I opened my mouth, the floodgates opened, too.

I was inconsolable, mumbling things like, “I want my brother back,” and “You need help.”

My uncle slipped out of the room silently and returned with a box of tissues.

When I couldn’t regain my composure, my sister was asked to speak.

I felt my brother’s eyes on me.

He finally realized his baby sister was damaged goods because of him, and that he had caused a lifetime of pain for an innocent 15-year-old.

After we all spoke, he asked if he could go have a cigarette.

Everyone got up and moved around, but I stayed glued to my spot on the couch.

I had a feeling it would happen. I kept my eyes on the front door, which opened to the yard.

Then, I saw him bolt past.

Instead of calling out or running after him, I got up, walked down the hallway to my mom’s room and peered out the window overlooking the driveway.

My dad intercepted him, and they began to push and shove each other, yelling in each other’s faces.

When my dad wouldn’t let him leave, my brother threw my dad’s car keys far into the yard, which lead to even more shoving, screaming and cursing.

I continued to watch from the window as everyone else filed outside to intervene.

Instead of getting involved, I went into the bathroom, sat on the tile floor and cried.

I cried because what I was dealing with wasn’t normal. It wasn’t right, and it wasn’t fair.

My brother agreed to go to a rehab in California. He would leave the next day.

He didn’t exactly have a choice, with all of us staring at him expectantly with tears in our eyes.

After it all went down, I got ready and got on a train to the city to celebrate my best friend’s birthday.

They asked how it went, but the subject was dropped after I replied, “Fine.”

That’s when I knew I was hardening.

They didn’t understand the immensity of what had just happened.

They didn’t realize the day was going to stick with me as one of the worst days of my life.

But from then on, I wouldn’t let it show.

I wouldn’t allow his problems to induce vulnerability.

As a defense mechanism, my heart froze over.

My emotions exhausted themselves, and I was too tired and cold to feel anything.

People who watch "Intervention" don’t realize what’s happening to the family members.

They don’t see that these people are dying on the inside, but I was.

My life changed forever because of that day.

Because of that single intervention that failed, we couldn’t save his life.

It didn’t even last an hour.

I now have to deal with that for the rest of my life.

That's the scene that replays in my head, even when I want it to turn off, and even when I want to change the channel and forget about it.