Compelling Interventions That Motivate the Entire Family

Let's Talk Addiction & Recovery Podcast
Four People Walking woods

Best-selling authors and interventionists Jeff and Debra Jay share their profound wisdom on the process of getting a loved one sober. They sit down with host William C. Moyers to discuss the new edition of their best-selling book, Love First: A Family’s Guide to Intervention, and share the essential lessons behind its prevailing theme—united against addiction, the family becomes a wonderful resource for lasting change.

Get the right information, get the right help, have that willingness, and take it one step at a time. And things start changing.

Debra Jay

0:00:13 William Moyers
Here we are again, a new season in our award-winning series of Let's Talk podcasts. Presented to you by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. I'm your host, William C. Moyers, welcome and thanks for joining us. Today our topic is Love First: A Family's Guide to Intervention. And my guests are the authors: Debra Jay and Jeff Jay. In case you're wondering yes, they are a couple. Debra and Jeff have been married since 1992. Together they are a shining example of how it works and how impactful their work has been in helping thousands of other people in the nearly quarter century that I've known them. Jeff and Debra, welcome to our program today.

0:00:55 Jeff Jay
Thanks for having us, William!

0:00:56 Debra Jay
Hey, it's so nice to be here with you, William, thank you for inviting us.

0:01:02 William Moyers
Well thank you for being here from your home actually in Grosse Point Farm, Michigan. I'm very envious of your location there. [Jeff and Debra smile.] Jeff, I wanna start with you by reading one of your famous quotes. Quote: I believe in intervention for a very simple reason. It saved my life. Can you explain?

0:01:20 Jeff Jay
That's exactly right. My alcoholism and drug addiction had taken me down to the point that I was sleeping under bushes in the city parks out in California. Homeless and penniless. And it was a rather untraditional but effective family intervention that got me out of where I was and got me into a hospital and into treatment. And without that intervention, I'm certain that I would not have survived. That was back in 1981 so it's been quite a while now.

0:01:49 William Moyers
Debra, you were already in recovery in your own right. Can you explain?

0:01:54 Debra Jay
I can. You know, I am an adult child of an alcoholic. But in my twenties, trust me, I didn't think that affected me in the least. In fact, I thought I was controlling the whole world. And I went through a really excellent family program for somebody else that I was helping of course. And halfway through, all of my illusions came crashing down and I had this understanding that no matter how hard I tried, my life wasn't really working. And I was told about Al-Anon. And I asked for help, I reached out, and I was directed to go to Al-Anon. that was over 30 years ago now which I cannot believe. But truly, it changed my life. In fact I would say it saved my life. I don't know where I would have been if it hadn't been for that program. That's—I'm still active in to this day.

0:02:45 William Moyers
So both of you had that very intense personal experience with addiction and recovery. And you have turned that into a calling and helping people. Of course your book Love First has been around since 2000, but this is the third edition of Love First. Debra, what is the difference with this edition?

0:03:05 Debra Jay
Well, you know, we did a second edition in '08, William. But we only added information. So here we are 20 years later which is hard to believe and we realized it was time that the book needed to be reworked from cover to cover. Because of course in 20 years you grow, you learn so much, you learn from families that you've worked with. You've learned from the alcoholics and addicts. And so we really were able to enrich the book. And one of the most exciting things that we've done with the book is that we've kind of done away with the idea of the intervention team. [chuckles] Which sounds counterintuitive but the reason we've done that is because that has a very distinct beginning and ending and teams would fall apart. So, the entire book is informed now that from the very beginning, we develop family recovery teams and intervention is just the first thing that you do.

0:04:03 William Moyers
Jeff, what's changed when it comes to negotiating with the person who's the focus of the intervention?

0:04:09 Jeff Jay
So much has changed really. I mean of course our initial contribution was really to make it all about love and not a "tough love" approach but a love first approach. And that was true from the beginning. But now, we have learned so much from disparate fields of psychology and even interestingly, from FBI hostage negotiation techniques. Which actually have a lot to do with certain kinds of counseling. So that for example, instead of thinking of, you know, Joey as having the problem and we are gonna do something about it, we're thinking about it in terms of 'we've all got a problem' called addiction. And so, Joey is not our adversary, Joey is our counterpart, he is our partner in this negotiation. And how are we gonna work together as a family and friends group to deal with the problem that we all have. And so that really changes the whole feel of the intervention and allows love to come forward even more powerfully.

0:05:13 William Moyers
Debra, talk about how you have expanded the footprint here, if you will.

0:05:18 Debra Jay
Well, sure, you know William you have written a number of books yourself. And you know how it is. You want your books to be really rich, you wanna give your readers and in our case families of beloved alcoholics and addicts as much foundation as you can. But you know you can't have a book that's 500 pages. And so we decided to get really creative with the third edition of Love First. And this is what we've done. At the end of very specific chapters, we offer links to different information that will—that will really, really help families move forward. So for instance we have what we call "snap trainings" for families. And these are short podcasts, three-to-ten minutes. And they help families with questions like, you know, how do I love—how do I talk to my loved one's counselor in treatment, or how do I talk to my loved one in treatment? All sorts of one-topic questions with really practical action-based information that families aren't gonna really get anywhere else. Additionally what we've done which we're really excited about is the "Best Minds" podcast. And what we've done is we have interviewed the very best minds in addiction field all across the country. And these are deep dives. These are hour-long podcasts. These are people family members would never get a chance to sit down and talk to. And frankly, a lot of professionals as well. So Best Minds podcast is—

0:06:48 Jeff Jay
Yeah it's really exciting the first one we did was with Dr. Robert Dupont who I know you know, so he did an hour on opioid addiction. And then we just did John Driscoll from Hazelden Center City, Executive Vice President. What a fabulous deep dive we did with him. And then, we have other podcasts on traumatic brain injuries, sex addiction, specialty areas that some families might be interested in. And if they are, they can go right there, we've got a QR code, they'll go right there. And get that hour-long deep dive into specialty topics.

0:07:20 Debra Jay
And that's what's really great. There's a QR code also for everything so they can just scan it on their phone and boom! They're right there. So, we're really excited about that.

0:07:27 William Moyers
And those changes in technology I remember when we first met each other back in the mid-90s and then of course when Love First was published back in 2000, who could have ever imagined the applications that we would be using to bring what you have to people today? Jeff, how have professionals been impacted by yours and Debra's thinking over the years, and how will they be impacted in this new book?

0:07:52 Jeff Jay
Well it's gonna give professionals a lot more specific tools to use. I started to talk about one a moment ago with the negotiation techniques. I think that a lot of times, professionals, because they're not trained in intervention through their Master's programs or even most counselor training programs, they don't have the specific tools that you need to break through to use the family and friends group to really work through denial and get to a moment of clarity where a person will say yes to treatment. They are of course trained in motivational interviewing which is more of a one-to-one technique with the addicted person. But if you're really locked in denial and really using, that's not gonna go very far. So we wanna get the—we wanna give the professionals the tools that they can move out of that addicted head space and get to the person's heart so they can make a better decision. And have that moment of clarity and move into a real good residential treatment program like Hazelden Betty Ford.

0:08:57 Debra Jay
And I'd add—I'd like to add one quick thing like the snap trainings for families. There are already admissions departments sending people to, which is our website. Anyone can use those because what they essentially do is really cool down the system. And things like [chuckles] you know how to talk to your loved one's counselor. You don't get this barrage of all these phone calls and emails, so it creates manageability and so people are already using this. In their treatment settings.

0:09:29 William Moyers
So we're gonna have a third edition now of Love First. And it's a powerful resource in its own right. But Debra, your book It Takes a Family is gonna be a second—is the second edition. And how do those two go together? They're meant to go together, yes?

0:09:44 Debra Jay
They are. You know, they're published by Hazelden. And when we initiated the talks with Hazelden about this, we really talked about putting these together as companion books. So they're completely designed now to go together. But the reason is it brings us back to the first question you asked me. Is that if we are going to tell families you are now a family recovery team, we really need to give them something extraordinarily meaningful and something they will stick with as they move forward into that first year of recovery for their loved one. And that's what It Takes a Family does. So, today, Love First it, you know, it brings people all the way through the intervention but then it brings it to the next book in this set. And that book brings them through that first year of recovery. So that the whole family is acting now as a really fantastic support system. And they love it. They love it. And so it really works out well.

0:10:47 Jeff Jay
Yeah they're—the great thing is as you can imagine William if we can do more than just get let's talk Maria into treatment and recovery but also parents and siblings all getting into Al-Anon on their own so that everybody's working their own program and really getting into recovery as a group without getting into each other's business, it becomes so powerful. It's just life-changing.

0:11:14 William Moyers
We have about five minutes left and in the time we have, I wanna—I find it, you know, you've always gotta be suspect when you hear that something is free, right? [Debra laughs] But I know you all are offering free workshops that really sort of are pinned to these two books. Talk more about those if you would please.

0:11:32 Debra Jay
Well, you know, we're gonna do that. Because our books have been used for years. You know, Love First has been the top-selling intervention book for 20 years. It Takes A Family. And so, what we wanna say to people is listen, we wanna take you through this workshop. We're not gonna charge you anything for it. And it—and the reason is is because we want you to know what's new, what's changed, what's better. All the tools in there that you can use in your own practice and families can join too because for a lot of families, they may be very interested in this information. And we don't wanna charge anybody anything because that'll—that just puts up a wall for people, you know, maybe not to do it. So we just wanna say listen, just join us, let's do this together because we all are—we all are trying to help the still-suffering alcoholic and addict and their family.

0:12:29 William Moyers
Jeff, you and I talked off-camera a little bit about your own story and we talked about the fact that you all have had to adjust your business in the midst of this pandemic. We know the pandemic is still with us across the country. Here—here we are doing this interview this way. Hopefully by the time your book is out, in the spring of 2021, we'll be on the back side of the pandemic. But talk just a little bit Jeff about somebody who might be watching today and wondering if now is the right time to go and get help if they're struggling with alcohol and other drugs. Is—is the pandemic an excuse not to get treatment?

0:13:07 Jeff Jay
No, absolutely not. In fact, I think in many ways it's the perfect time to get treatment. So many things are shut down right now, it's the perfect time to take the time to move away. In fact I just helped a very top, top executive take time away from their job and go get the good residential treatment that they need. And families are finding out that even if they are dispersed across the country with different members living in different cities, we can all come together on Zoom, we can do the same kind of in-depth training and rehearsal and some people will be in the room with the alcoholic during the intervention process. And some of the family members will be in different parts of the country and joining by Zoom and be on the big screen TV in the family room. [smiles] And everyone will see each other. And the fact is that we've all become so accustomed to visiting with each other on FaceTime and Zoom and WebEx and what have you that this has become second nature. And I have a theory about it William that, you know, for many many decades, we've gotten used to having very powerful emotional relationships with people on the little screen or the big screen. Through movies and television. So really connecting with our loved ones in this way is not as artificial or strange as it may seem. It's actually very natural and we find that the interventions are just as effective doing it this way as they ever were in person.

0:14:40 William Moyers
And Debra, the last question to you—you talked about your own experience of being in recovery from a loved one's struggles, what is your final message for us today about families that are struggling right now with a loved one who has a substance use disorder and that person is not willing to get help necessarily? Should the family member go ahead and take care of themselves? How does that work?

0:15:06 Debra Jay
Well yes, there are two things that you can do. There are real action steps and that's what we're talking about with Love First. That really really work, high success rates of getting people to come to a place of saying yes, I will accept help. And it's a very smart, loving process. But the other thing is of course we wanna take care of ourselves. You know? And getting our own recovery as family members is the last thing we think we need. We're all that way, you know, I really haven't been affected, you know. I live in another state. Or I may live with the person but I've not been affected. Because we've spent all our time focusing on our beloved alcoholic or addict. And the thing about it is that when the whole family comes together and they get involved in the whole recovery process, it changes everything in ways you can't imagine. My own personal story I mean, I was a hard worker, I did everything right, and my life was falling apart. I couldn't figure it out. And it really was how much I'd been affected and what I couldn't see. So, there is tremendous hope. I am married to somebody who was considered a hopeless case. He's now 39 years sober and he was the worst alcoholic-addict you could imagine. [Both grin.] And there is hope. There are things we can do. We just need to reach out and get the right information, get the right help, have that willingness, and take it one step at a time. And things start changing.

0:16:38 William Moyers
Debra Jay, Jeff Jay, thanks for being the perfect example of hope and help and healing. Thanks for being with us today. [turns to camera] Please join us for another edition of Let's Talk. And make sure to tell your family and friends, colleagues and fellow travelers, to check out our podcast too. These podcasts bring us together and remind us that together we can build a healthier, wholesome, and happier tomorrow one day, one life, one family at a time. Take good care.

Want to learn more? Select a Tag to explore a particular topic or browse articles.