Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Guilty Pleasure No. 1: INTERVENTION

I thought it might be fun to do a series of blogs about my guilty pleasures. You know what I'm talkin' about: those movies, TV shows, books, and maybe even foods that we indulge in that we know aren't good for us, but we love them anyway. Guilty pleasures are like comfort food for the mind. They require little effort to consume, but they bring us more happiness than we'd be willing to admit in the company of our savvier, smarter friends.

My first choice for a guilty pleasure is the A&E show, INTERVENTION. In another life, I think I may have gravitated toward social work and been some kind of alcohol/substance abuse counselor. Instead, I pour that interest out in my writing (check out my novel ORIENTATION for a harrowing portrait of a crystal meth addict; or HIGH RISK for a story about the very worst that can happen to a sex addict). If you look closely at almost everything I write, one of the themes that emerges over and over again is obsession and compulsion, or the inability to stop yourself from doing things you know you shouldn't. In short, my books are often about people who are controlled by their obsessions, rather than the other way around.

And that's why I rarely miss an episode of INTERVENTION. The show is an up close and personal look at all kinds of people who have hit bottom with their addictions, whether they abuse drugs, alcohol, or have eating or other psychological disorders. Each show is a fascinating portrait not only of an addict, but also of the people who love him or her. Just as much as it's a show about addicts and their addictions, it's also a show about how they're destroying not only their own lives, but the lives of those around them. Is it manipulative? Probably. The show is deftly edited to showcase its subjects as their worst and includes lots of tearful close-up interviews with family and friends. I suppose it's this manipulation that puts INTERVENTION in the guilty pleasure category for me. But the key word in guilty pleasure is pleasure...and I can't get enough of wallowing in the horror, shame, depravity, and yes, hope of each episode. I suppose I'm addicted...but I don't need an intervention.

Episodes I have seen that stick with me range from the bizarre to the heartbreaking to the humorous. Bizarre is a woman who eats, but spits everything she chews back into a cup and keeps herself going by putting liquid nutritional supplements directly into her stomach via a feeding tube. She did this 14 years. Heartbreaking is the Las Vegas entrepreneur who had a great life: wealth and good looks and drank it all away. This episode ended with the news that he had finally not been sober for x number of months, but that he had died. And, God help me, some episodes are funny. Case in point: Allison, who is addicted to huffing cans of computer cleaner. Allison, at least according to the show, straightened herself out and it's true she had reason to be messed up (childhood abuse, which, let the record show, I do NOT find amusing). But the scenes of her at her worst are guilty-pleasure hilarious. Check out the YouTube video someone produced of Allison and see if you don't agree. I will never hear the song "Walkin' on Sunshine" quite the same ever again. Allison's choice of substance was the most mystifying, because the high only lasts about five minutes, and she needed to practically bankrupt herself to keep it going. It's like being a poppers addict, only worse, because one doesn't go through ten bottles of poppers a day (correct me, guys, if I'm mistaken on that one).

Anyway, I'll close with the video I promised. Check it out. It too may become a guilty pleasure for you.

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