Family Matters: An Intervention: Preparing the Family

Family Matters: An Intervention: Preparing the Family
Dr. Phil prepares a family for a life-saving intervention with a drug-addicted 21-year-old.

Feeling hopeless, Doug and Debbie turn to Dr. Phil to help them intervene to save their son Brandon, who is waiting in the greenroom, and cannot hear what is being discussed.

Before Dr. Phil will talk about the intervention, he wants them to understand that drug addiction is a progressive, chronic and terminal disease. "It's not going to get better unless something major happens to disrupt the flow of this disease. It's chronic, so it's resistant to change. And it's permanent," Dr. Phil says.

He also believes that if Brandon keeps progressing at the rate he is, he's either going to overdose, or he'll be driving under the influence and kill himself or somebody else. "I could not take this more seriously. We are fighting for this young man's life," states Dr. Phil.



Dr. Phil reminds Doug and Debbie that they once didn't see eye to eye about kicking Brandon out of the house and asks them where they are now on that issue.


Debbie responds, "Now I know we have to be on the same page together. I'll do whatever it takes to save this kid's life."

Dr. Phil explains that if Brandon had a brain tumor or cancer or some other life-threatening disease, there wouldn't be any limit to what they would do to help him. "This is a disease that lies to the troubled person," he says. "He doesn't see this clearly. When he says, 'I don't have a problem,' he believes that. But when you have a person that doesn't see things clearly, you cannot allow him to make the decisions."



Dr. Phil asks Doug and Debbie what they are prepared to offer Brandon as an alternative if he refuses to go to treatment.


Doug says if Brandon refuses, he could be going to jail for violation of his probation.


"You have to be prepared to not protect him from that," Dr. Phil tells them. They've bailed him out of jail three times already, but this time they have to be prepared to let him suffer the consequences of his actions.

Dr. Phil tells them that when Brandon comes out on stage, he can decide to leave. "I can't stop him," says Dr. Phil. "But you can. If he doesn't want to stay, it's up to you to persuade him otherwise."



Dr. Phil explains that when drugs have taken over, a big part of the problem is extreme denial. He then plays a video of Brandon's interview with our producer to illustrate just how much Brandon is in denial.

Brandon: I'm happy all the time. I've been happy pretty much my whole life ... I'm not really sure what my goals are for the future. I've always wanted to be a pilot. Right now I'm not really doing anything ...
I don't party at all anymore really. Uh, I think, what'd I say again? I think...

Producer: Are you on something?

Huh? No. My relationship with my mom is good. I mean, I love my mom. I think we get along great... All my relationships with all my family members are fine ... I don't think we have any problems. I thought everything was fine and dandy.



The following excerpts are from the home footage captured in Brandon's home. In this incident, Brandon yells at his mother Debbie, in stark contrast to the picture of a happy family life that Brandon tried to portray in his interview.

Brandon: I can't live the life! I don't know what to do, I have nothing!

Debbie: You work, that's how you live a life. You work!

You blame everything on me! Everything! You're misunderstanding me mom. I'm yelling at you because you don't see me for what I am! It pisses me off so bad that my sister treats people this way. She is a stuck up, spoiled rotten, little bitch!



Dr. Phil asks Doug and Debbie, "Do you see that you cannot rely on his thinking in any way?"


He spells out one of the most deadly myths about drug and alcohol addiction: The belief that a person has to "hit bottom" before turning it around and getting help. "That myth has probably killed as many people as any mistruth I have ever heard," explains Dr. Phil. "It is absolutely untrue. Because bottom may be six feet under. He's ready for help now because he's still alive, he's still using, and there's still hope to turn this kid's life around."

Dr. Phil drives home the point that they cannot trust Brandon's judgment. "You're sitting there and arguing with him. You might as well be talking to a wall, Debbie, because you're not talking to him, you're talking to the drugs," he says.



Dr. Phil explains that a structured intervention isn't a situation where you call a meeting and then make a decision. In fact, it's the reverse of that. "We're going to make a decision, and then call a meeting," he says.

Dr. Phil tells Doug and Debbie the decision they need to make right now is that Brandon's options are either jail or treatment. They need to tell Brandon: "You're not coming back in the house, you're not yelling at me anymore, you're not screaming at your brother and sister anymore. You're going to jail or you're going to treatment, and those are your two choices." Dr. Phil asks them if they are prepared to do that. "Because if you're not, if you waffle, then we lose and he dies."

Debbie says that she is ready. "I have to be," she says.



"If you look the other way, if you avoid it, if you just pray to God that he'll be healed ... I'm one of those people who believes, 'Pray to God, but row for the shore,'" Dr. Phil says. "Do something now, here in this world, to help this kid."

He tells them, "I can't make this decision. You guys have to make this decision, but you have to stop enabling, and that means you have to play hardball."

Dr. Phil turns to Christina and Bobby. "Does that make sense to y'all?" he asks. "You have to tell him, 'I want you to get help. I want you to live. I know that you are on drugs.' And if that's uncomfortable for you, then you need to not be a part of this process because I can't have a weak link. Everyone needs to be convicted to not waffle and not give up on this." Bobby and Christina say they are ready.



Dr. Phil explains what is going to happen when Brandon is brought into the process. "The goal is to create a crisis for Brandon. Right now, denial is working for him. So you want to create a crisis that causes the denial and the defenses to break down."

He continues: "You must be as loving and caring and concerned with him as I know you feel in your hearts. I'm not asking any of you to be mean to your brother or your son. The comfort zone for him is yelling and screaming. That is a great way to avoid. We're not going to do that. We're going to confront him with content. And there is one issue here, and one issue only, and that is his chemically related behavior. We don't want to talk about anything else."




Doug and Debbie were asked to bring facts and information from over the past five years that prove they know, without a doubt, that Brandon is using drugs. "It's got to be absolute, unequivocal, undeniable data only about his drug use," says Dr. Phil.

Debbie explains that she previously feared that Brandon may choose to leave the house rather than seek treatment, and admits that it was easier to watch Brandon deteriorate, rather than wonder where he was.

"What makes it easier for you is not necessarily what's best for him," says Dr. Phil. "It's past that. It's gone beyond parenting." He reminds her that Brandon is lying to her now. "An idiot can see that he's on something. He can't talk, he can't remember. He's operating a motor vehicle like that. Your worst nightmare is for him to kill himself and someone else. So at some point you need to say, 'That's enough.'"



Brandon keeps a safe in his room at home, which Doug broke into after Brandon left for the show. Among the items found were stolen prescription bottles, a bottle with the names scratched off, lighters, syringes and pipes. There were no drugs. "That's because he's gone," says Dr. Phil. "He brought them all with him here."

Dr. Phil goes over some of the rules of the intervention and lets them in on a surprise. "What you don't know," explains Dr. Phil, "is we have arranged for, what I believe, is the top drug treatment center in the country. It's all paid for, and the director of the program is waiting on the curb for Brandon. All we have to do is get him there. And he won't like it and he won't want to go. But he will be glad he's there once he is."