Junkies beware. A modern-day mercenary is on your tail.
“People watch that show a few times and think they can do it,” says Ceraso.
Some of the people signing up to train want to become an interventionist after they experience their own, like the new bride who wants to be a wedding planner. Then there are the academics. O.G. interventionists shrug off the former and roll their eyes at the latter.
“You have guys who get their master’s degrees, then there are guys like me and Ken,” he says, referring to Ken Seeley, star of Intervention , one of the most well known interventionists in the country.
Indeed, between street-smart guys who have innovated their own niche job in the recovery industry and so-called “guys with PhDs” lays a Wild West. With no real governing board or required formal degree, both Ceraso and Seeley talk with disdain about the sudden new minefield of hacks, hucksters and those who mean well, but just can’t cut it.
“Right now, everybody is just building a website and having 20 days clean and calling themselves interventionists,” says Seeley, on the phone from his office in L.A. To that end, Seeley and co-horts from the show, lead by co-star Jeff VanVonderen, established a governing board called the Association of Intervention Specialist Certification Board in an attempt to regulate practitioners. Still, it’s only a recommendation and voluntary and serves mostly as a guide for rehabs who don’t have their own in-house interventionist.
Even as qualifications become standardized, there’s no way to predict how a person is going to react under pressure, or when they realize that behind the telegenic cowboy confrontation lies a weird, grueling, emotionally exhausting job.
While organizing an intervention is tough work for a family who has to make the call, it’s no picnic for the interventionist, either. The hours are long. During the week, conference calls and prep meetings take place after everyone else’s working hours.
On weekends, a simple, close-by intervention can be a 15-hour Saturday when you add up the drive, the pre-intervention meeting, the waiting, the confrontation, escorting the target to rehab, then getting back home. Once home, Ceraso’s drained.
“The time I put into interventions … takes away from my family,” he says. “But it can’t be done 9 to 5.”
Ceraso says his family is more than understanding. The golden rule to retain sanity in his home life is no phone calls at the dinner table. Other than that, everyone knows Dad’s in his office on the phone after dinner.
“It’s like you’ve built up to this highly emotional procedure, and it’s over and you can exhale,” he says. “Most of these are on Saturdays so I can get real lazy on a Sunday after an intervention.”
Ceraso says he chills out from the stress of his round-the-clock job by cruising Jersey roads on his motorcycle—customized with Eagles colors and symbols—while puffing on a cigar.
It’s a rare moment alone for a guy whose livelihood—and the livelihood of those around him—depends on interacting with others constantly, calming people down, talking them off the ledge.
By nature, people usually call an interventionist when it’s almost too late. Because despite everything we know about addiction, despite watching the shows and likely knowing someone who lost the roulette to an accidental overdose, it’s always a shock when someone you love turns into an addict. People don’t call the interventionist because they want to, they do it because nothing else has worked. They do it because it’s time to hear the bells going off, open the door and confront the ghost in the room.
“If you keep a united front, the addiction never wins,” says Ceraso. “One on one, the addiction always wins.”
Here in the detox center of Livengrin Foundation for Addiction Recovery in Bucks County, drug addicts thrash, jerk and sweat addiction out of their dilapidated bodies under medical supervision, with the worst cases taking drugs to get off drugs.
Yaya Liem prolongs life by providing IV drug users with clean needles—along with HIV tests and referrals for training, counseling and treatment. It's a controversial job, but one he does with joy.
Letters to the Editor