Facing an addiction can be painful, humiliating, and — in the anything goes world of reality television these days — apparently entertaining.
The A&E network has a bona fide hit on its hands with the show "Intervention," and VH1 has just launched "Celebrity Rehab." And let's not forget Dr. Phil and his none-too-subtle methods.
And then there's Kristina Wandzilak. She has no television show, and doesn't believe in confrontation. Wandzilak is a recovering addict, and for the last 10 years, has been practicing her own style of intervention — something called a "family intervention."
For two days, "Nightline" was given full access to a family intervention that took place in the middle of a quiet, upscale neighborhood in Marin County, Calif.
The intervention was for 41-year-old Tim, father to newborn daughter McCay, husband to Lisa, and an alcoholic in denial. The family and friends asked that their last names be kept private.
"We love you, you're like a brother to me," said Tom, Tim's close friend. "And we just want to try to help you. And I'm also here, sorry … for McCay. My daughter's the same age, so I want them to grow up together."
"I'm here because I want my husband back," Lisa said, crying. "I want the person that I married, and that I see every once in a while, and that I miss."
Then, Tim spoke.
"Hi, I'm Tim, and I … there aren't words, really, to say what this is all about, as far as the appreciation that I have for all of you. I don't have words for it, other than thank you."
Unlike what you might expect, this intervention was not a surprise. With Tim's knowledge, the family intervention was planned by Tim's closest friends and family with Wandzilak's help. She doesn't believe in confronting alcoholics.
"Can that get somebody to go to treatment? Absolutely," she said. "But does that keep somebody into treatment? No. Do they stay sober? Not necessarily, because there could be a tremendous amount of anger that comes up because of that model of intervention and the surprise aspect."
Wandzilak thinks her method is more effective, because it's an "invitation, so he knows about it. And the brilliance of that is, that he intervenes on himself. I mean, you will see him move from being resistant, to moving towards a desire for change. Everyone in the group shares their experiences with alcohol, and how their relationship with Tim may or may not have contributed to his situation."
"What I hear you saying is, you want to learn how to drink normal," Wandzilak said to Tim during the intervention. "You still want to drink normal. Whatever that is."
"Whatever that is," Tim said.
At the first break, things were tense. Tim didn't think that he needed to stop drinking "cold turkey."
"I really, really think that things need to change, but I think we can do it in increments," said Tim. "We can, you know, make it work. I know that that is not congruent with [what] Kristina's talking about, but I think we can work things out."
His wife wasn't so sure. She was worried "because we've tried the not going cold turkey."
Everyone was worried, except Wandzilak. Wandzilak, a mother of two from beautiful Marin County, is experienced, not just with interventions, but with addiction.