An Intervention

Dr. Phil sits down with the couple in their home. Shellye explains why she wrote to him. "I felt that our lives are out of control. Jake and I are not communicating and I am scared that we are going to end up divorced," she says.

"That was really interesting, the way you described that. You went through start to finish, and not one time mentioned alcohol, not one time mentioned that both of you on a regular basis are falling down, passed out drunk," Dr. Phil says sternly. "Why is that? Did I knock on the wrong door?"

"No, you're exactly right. I absolutely know that I have a problem with alcohol," Shellye admits. "Some days, if I decide to have a drink at 11 o'clock, it will end up being 10 drinks by the end of the day, sometimes 20."

"Do you love your children?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Yes."

"Do you have a problem putting the kids' best interest ahead your own?"

"No," Shellye replies. "I want to put them before myself, before everything. I just don't know how anymore."

Dr. Phil points out that Shellye was drinking while she was pregnant. "Tell me how you square that up in your mind," he says.

"Lots of women have told me they had a couple drinks when they were pregnant. They're OK," she reasons. "Women used to drink when they were pregnant all the time and it was no big deal."

"Did you believe that, or is that just what you told yourself so you could do what you wanted to do?" Dr. Phil inquires.

Tearfully, she responds, "It's what I told myself so I could do what I wanted to do."

"You drink and drive with your kids in the car," Dr. Phil notes. "What do you say to yourself about that?"

Shellye answers, "I say, 'I am not drunk. I just had a couple of drinks. I'm just going to run them to karate or something.'"

Dr. Phil counters, "This year, you ran them into the curb, true? Did you justify that to yourself as well?"

"No. Right after it happened, I thought, 'Oh, my God. I have to go home and show Jake the car and he's going to know,' and so I was scared of him," she sobs. "Then, I thought, 'I am the worst mother in the whole world. I can't believe I let that happen.' I am at rock bottom. I need help."

"You talk like this was this horrible, isolated experience. The week before, you drank two beers and three hits of vodka in line at the to-go window!" Dr. Phil says.

"But my kids weren't in the car," Shellye argues.

Dr. Phil is incredulous. "Other people's kids are in their cars! Shellye, are you kidding me? You don't have the right to drive drunk with my family on the road!" he says stridently. "You ran over a curb. All along the curb are moms walking their babies in strollers and kids on their bikes. You say your kids weren't in the car, so that's OK? So, you don't kill your kids; you kill somebody else's. What the hell kind of logic is that? Are you going to have to see twisted and burned bodies of your children alongside of the road to wake up and get this?"

Shellye acknowledges her mistakes but feels helpless. "I want to be the best mother. I don't know why I can't do this. I don't know. If I were someone else looking at me, I would hate me," she weeps.

Jake chimes in, "I don't want you to get the wrong impression either. She is a wonderful mother."

"When she's sober," Dr. Phil rejoins.

Dr. Phil addresses Jake. "You have a child on a ventilator," he says. "You drink as well?"

"Yes, I do," Jake replies.

"You come home drunk at night, sometimes so much that when you go into your bedroom, you are stumbling over the ventilator plugs and tubings and pulling them out of the child. True?" Dr. Phil asks.

Jake answers, "Yes that is correct. But a lot of times, I don't recall because I've had too much and I black out. My wife will mention to me the next day what I had done, and of course I regret it."

Dr. Phil doesn't buy Jake's excuses. "I find this very disturbing, and I get the feeling that I'm a lot more disturbed about it than you are. It's just kind of like, 'Hey, I pay they bills around here. I work hard. I bring money home, so, I drink some. It's no big deal.' Is that how you feel?" he asks.

"No, I think eventually that things are going to get bad."

"So, you think it is going to get bad, but it is not bad now?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Correct," Jake replies.

When Jake denies that he drives while intoxicated, Shellye interjects, "Jake, you do drink and drive. You have been in accidents drinking and driving. You drive around with the children after you have been drinking."

Jake revises his story. "That is correct. Yes, there are situations that have occurred where I have done that," he admits. "I entertain a lot of clients throughout the week. There are times that I've been drinking quite a bit. I'll take a cab. What my wife is referring to is just occasionally I will drive throughout the neighborhood and, yes, I will be pretty inebriated at times."

"That is not acceptable behavior, is it?" Dr. Phil presses.

Jake replies, "No, it is not."

Dr. Phil brings up Jake's physical abuse toward Shellye. "The information I've gotten is that you have broken her cheekbone with a phone when you're drinking, that you've grabbed her by the hair and dragged her through the house," he observes. "You've come home stumbling drunk. You fall asleep on top of your daughter to the point that she damn near suffocates. You are drunk in the shower and fall through the shower door dead out on the floor with your son screaming, 'Is daddy dead? Is daddy dead?' The fact that you have a nice suburban home out here that looks good from the curb is no different than if you were a drunk in an alley."

Dr. Phil wants the couple to understand how their drinking jeopardizes the kids. "You are putting them at risk as if you were drawing targets on their foreheads. You have a child on a ventilator. You think he needs alert parents? You think maybe he needs your full presence, full time?" he asks sharply. 

"I know he does," Shellye cries.

"If you have a crisis with that young man, what good are you drunk?" Dr. Phil wonders. "How are you going to feel if you wake up the next morning and you've lost that boy because you were in a drunken haze?"

Jake replies, "We had a situation last week where he stopped breathing on us. There is no way I could ever function in a situation like that again had I been drinking." 

"What is it going to take for you two to change what you're doing? Are you going to have to lose one of your children?" Dr. Phil inquires. 

 

Jake replies, "Of course not."

Shellye is not so certain. "But it's going to happen. If we don't stop right now, it is going to happen!" she insists. 

"Let's say I never came here. I never knocked on that door. What do you think would happen in the next five years? Would you two be divorced?" Dr. Phil asks. 

Jake replies, "Without any type of intervention, I would say yes."

"You don't have a right to get a divorce yet. You've never both been present at the same time for an extended period of time to decide whether or not you have the basis for a relationship or not," Dr. Phil says. "Both of you need to be in rehab. If the two of you do it together, you will have the absolute best chance of giving this family, giving your children, a second chance in this world."

Shellye wants to accept the help, but has reservations. "I could not leave Jakob unless I knew he had nursing around the clock," she tells Dr. Phil. 

"I got in touch with Travel Nurse across America. They have agreed to provide us with 24-hour nursing care with pediatric ICU nurses here to take care of that boy," Dr. Phil assures her. "This is just the beginning. You need to do this and do it now. Deal?"

"Deal," Shellye says.