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Series / Intervention

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This article is about the show. For the trope, see Staging an Intervention.

A popular documentary-style reality show on A&E, and winner of the 2009 Emmy Award for Outstanding Reality Program.

Basically, each episode follows pretty much the same format. A camera crew follows one or two addicts around. The addicts merely believe they're going to be part of a documentary on addiction - none of them know they are facing an intervention. The addictions run the gamut from the traditional (alcohol, crack, heroin) to the less traditional (shopping, video games, self-harm).


During each episode, the addicts (or addict if there's only one) are followed around by a camera crew as they go about their daily lives and cope with their addictions. Towards the end, they will face the intervention, where their loved ones will implore that they get help or else they'll have to put their foot down. The addict will then either decide to go to rehab or will refuse treatment. If there's enough time between filming and airing the episode, the viewers can occasionally see what happened since the filming wrapped. There have also been a few episodes strictly devoted to following up with past addicts.

After 13 seasons, A&E announced in May 2013 that the series had been canceled. However, a 14th and 15th season aired in 2015.


Recurring tropes on this show:

  • Alcohol Hic: Some of the show's heaviest drinkers do this when they're not slurring their speech to the point of near-total incoherence.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Seeing "marijuana" in a list involving methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, or similar far worse substances.
  • Badass Mustache: Sported by interventionist Jeff VanVonderen. More recently, he's grown a Badass Beard to go with it.
  • Creepy Twins: Sonia and Julia, anorexic twins. They were obsessive of each other, dressed nearly identically, measured each other's food, slept in the same bed, and showed almost zero emotion throughout the episode.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Exceedingly common among addicts.
  • Downer Ending: Not all visits to rehab are successful...
    • Earn Your Happy Ending: ...but many are.
    • Also, a handful of subjects (though fewer than you might expect, considering the subject matter) have been revealed to have died after appearing on the series (though not always related to their addictions).
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  • Drugs Are Bad: Surprisingly less Anvilicious here than in a lot of other media - probably because this series actually shows the effects of drugs, from consumption to high to crash.
  • Dysfunctional Family: Again, more than a few. One family featured a mother who felt that her children bringing up her inability to say 'I love you' was "emotionally manipulative". She also made clear a few times that it was never said to her growing up, and she had an almost pathological discomfort with showing emotion.
    • Abuse — physical, verbal or sexual—is the root cause of some 60% or more of all addictions on the show.
      • Less commonly the addict themselves are creating an abusive environment for their children. This is not featured as frequently because the show needs the audience to root for the addict, and usually they are only shown if the children are old enough to express their feelings about the addiction. One memorable, very heart-wrenching episode was "Sandra" in season 4, who had been addicted to pain pills for 10 years. She had two sons, one who was 17 and could not control his anger, and another who was 11, who had never seen his mother sober and seemed on the verge of tears at all times. His intense fear about her safety seemed to have gotten worse after finding her unconscious, and every time he appears in the episode he cries openly about her addiction. It's so hard to watch that you want her to get better for his and his brother's sake more than anything else.
    • There are also a significant number of addicts featured who grew up in a home where one or both parents were addicted to drugs or alcohol. Naturally, this creates some deeply unhealthy relationships that often include abuse and neglect.
      • One addict was given alcohol by his mother whenever he wanted, starting from the time she got divorced - when he was 8 years old. He was alcoholic by age 9, and using and selling meth with her by age 13. He also blamed himself for her fatal overdose even though he was a grown man with a wife and children when it happened.
    • Absentee parenting is also a major root cause, especially if there's abuse involved.
    • Parental Abandonment: Yes, missing parents come up a lot too. Quite a few of the addicts have cited that as the source of their Freudian Excuse. This includes the addicts themselves if they have kids.
    • There are many addicts who come from families that are not overtly abusive, but have such controlling tendencies that similar damage is done. They might not beat or neglect their child, but their inflexibility on some issues amounts to emotional abuse. Typically, this is shown through overly critical parents, parents with misogynistic tendencies (such as pushing their daughters to marriage/children rather than any non-familial achievements the child might want). The show also features a number of gay or lesbian addicts who initially start using to deal with their family's refusal to accept their sexuality.
      • Spiritual or religious maltreatment is shown often, too, sometimes as a self-justification for the parent's other controlling behaviors. An interventionist had to tell one parent that prayer was not enough to deal with drug addiction. One accused his self-harming daughter of sinning. This may be included in part because of Jeff Van Vonderen's personal interest in this subject. In addition to writing about addiction, Van Vonderen has written a number of books about this topic and its contribution to mental and emotional conflict in people raised in the church.
  • Fallen Hero: Several addicts were exceptional students and/or shining citizens. Then again, no one would want to watch the show if all anyone had to say about the addict featured was that they're an asshole.
    • Notably, Jeff Van Vonderen, one of the show's stable of interventionists, suffered a relapse of his own and took a leave of absence in Season 5 to work on his own sobriety. He returned the next year, healthy and happy, and continued with the show through the end of Season 13. When the show returned in 2015, he did as well.
    • A couple addicts were famous before being featured on the program. Among the most notable was Travis Meeks, lead singer for Nineties alt-rockers Days of the New, who threw away his successful career for his methamphetamine addiction.
  • Freudian Excuse: A lot of the addicts have as their reason an unhappy homelife/childhood.
  • Genki Girl: Allison, an inhalant addict, is an incredibly dark example. "I'm walkin' on sunshine," indeed.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: It's been chronicled a few times. These people are very hard to force through an intervention.
    • Being addicted to alcohol or drugs like cocaine or meth, all of which can alter moods significantly, don't help.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Quite obviously, a great number of the alcoholics.
  • Heteronormative Crusader: Jessa's mother being a specific example, but other relatives of gay or lesbian addicts sometimes tend to be these as well.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Many of the addicts, while in their various altered states, are rather good at tricking friends, family, and others into giving the addict money and drugs. For example, Linda - who was addicted to a painkiller 100 times more powerful than morphine - was able to get her parents to spend half a million dollars on her for prescriptions, jacuzzis, and a four-bedroom house. How? She had a delusional disorder, certainly not helped by the painkiller, and was able to get her parents to believe the delusions too.
  • Nothing but Skin and Bones: Seen either because the person has been consuming mostly drugs and little food, or has an eating disorder.
  • Parental Favoritism: Another common thread, where many of the addicts at least accuse their parents of playing favorites. Some of them were enabled by their parents' favoritism towards them.
  • Reality Show Genre Blindness: Admittedly less of an issue here because it's a cable show, but you'd think at some point an addict would have watched the show and seen through the "does not know he's facing an intervention" thing.
    • Most of the addicts are so out of it that they never even think about another person, let alone an intervention.
    • A handful of the addicts have been tipped off to their family's intentions by their more genre savvy "friends".
    • And, as of December 2010, it finally happened when an addict saw the room, swore, then ran off, later admitting she was a fan of the show and saw it coming.
    • Overall becoming subverted in the later seasons. It's becoming more and more common for an addict to see his/her family in the room and know EXACTLY what's going to happen, which prompts him/her to run.
  • Self-Harm: Some addicts exhibit this behavior, either directly (cutting, hitting themselves) or indirectly (such as a diabetic who didn't take his insulin or control his blood sugar).
  • Staging an Intervention: The entire point of the show.
  • Unwitting Pawn: In many episodes, the addict's family members have fallen into patterns of co-dependent/enabling behavior without realizing it. Taken to its extreme in an August 2011 episode: the addict's grandparents, who were largely responsible for getting her onto the show, called her just before the intervention to tell her what was about to happen. The interventionist then asked them not to participate, and the meeting turned into a shouting match in the street.
    • A different extreme surfaced in a February 2013 episode. Andrew, a bulimic, submitted himself as a candidate for the show and talked his family into covering for him. The interventionist and crew found out about the deception and were ready to call it off, but Andrew's severe medical problems persuaded them to continue.


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