relapse prevention

The Anonymous Letter

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I am a mother, a wife, a sister, daughter, friend, a business owner, an author, a media expert, an All-American athlete and a recovering drug addict with 25 years clean and sober.

I have spent half my life being of service to others. Through my work as an interventionist, I have fought on the front lines of the disease, waging the war against addiction. I have been transparent about my story and my recovery, in my writing and in the media with the hope and mission of inspire others.

I have felt so much support from people across the world. I do not know most of them but none are strangers. Through, emails and social media, I have felt carried and encouraged in my career as well as my personal life. I have also have received a lot of hate. People can be very unkind and send incredibly ugly messages. I have been tormented, stalked and targeted by strangers. I have learned to have a thick skin but it took some time. In the beginning, it was very painful and shocking to feel, read and hear such hateful words and messages. One of the most painful was a comment saying “I don’t blame your husband for killing himself. If was married to you I would want to die too.” I am a professional but also human and that comment stayed with me for years. I will never forget the feeling in my stomach as I read those words. They actually took my breath away. For a few days, I considered retreating from the public eye but with support from my friends and family, I refused to back down or to turn back. I have a message to share and inspiration to offer, not only though my profession, but in how I live each day. I do my best to do good in the world and to be kind, and loving. I do not do it perfectly, but I do the best I can. However, I will not have my personal story of addiction and recovery mistaken as a sign of weakness.

I will not be silenced or bullied.

The second most unforgettable verbal assault was a few years ago when I received an anonymous letter saying I am 'a filthy derelict drug addict who deserves death.' Anonymous went on to say that 'every addict is the dirt and down fall of our society.' Anonymous wished me 'failure and relapse.'

Without any return address or identifying information I responded with an open letter on FB.

Dear Anonymous:

There is nothing you can say to me I have not heard a thousand times before. Your words roll off me, easily, smoothly without question or pain.  

I am a woman who knows the desperation of needing a drug so badly you are willing to die for it. I have been a lair, a thief, a derelict living off the scraps I found in dumpsters and the change dropped in my Styrofoam cup, on the street corner. I am a woman who broke the hearts of the people who loved me most, promising over and over I would be different, only to sneak out the back window, in the middle of night, not be heard from for days, weeks or months.  

I am also a woman who is a mother, a friend, a trustworthy family member, a business owner, making it my life's work to help addicts and their families, an author, an All-American athlete and an all-American drug addict, with 25 years sobriety.  

We derelicts and scourge of society are your law makers, school bus drivers, teachers, CEOs, government workers, fireman, union workers, nannies, doctors, nurses, lawyers and neighbors, to name a few. We are everywhere, living sober, bright lives full of love and laughter.  

I know this, that those who spit hate, have hate in their lives. My guess is you are addicted or have been hurt or abandoned by an addict.  

To this I say, if you are addicted, there is hope. You can find recovery. Change is possible. You do not have die the cold, painful, lonely death addiction guarantees. There is an expansive and beautiful life for you outside the small dark hole, from where you wrote your letter.  

If you were hurt or abandoned by an addict I am truly sorry. Addiction is an awful ugly disease and we cause incredible hurt to the ones we love most. My addiction changed and altered the lives of my family and this heavy and painful truth I still carry with me today, over two decades later. Whatever happened, it was not personal to you and I am certain you did not deserve it.  

I hope you find your way to heal the hate in your heart, find peace and live a better life. And next time you send a letter, sign your name. Be proud and own your shit.  

You have caused me no pain. You have only refueled my energy to wage the war against addiction and fight for addicts everywhere. We are an exceptional group of individuals of which I am very proud to be a member. Your letter inspires me to shine brighter, love deeper, live bigger and continue to thrive in recovery. For this, I thank you.

I will save a seat for you, keep the fire burning and when you are ready for recovery, I will be here. Until then,  

Fuck off.  

Sober and Shameless, Kw

Do Interventions Really Work?

Working as an interventionist for the last 23 years, I have been a maverick in the field, swimming against the current “surprise model” so much the center of many reality shows and the media. I don’t believe in subjecting unsuspecting addicts to surprise attacks. All my research, studies and practice have continually reinforced the belief that addiction is a family disorder. We need to move from the idea that we’re treating addicts as flawed individuals to an approach that recognizes that addiction is a family disease.

I specialize in an open and inclusive model of intervention. Where, with coaching, the addicted person does become aware of the intervention. The message being that we as a family are ready for change, and we would like you to join us, but with or without you, we are moving forward.

My main problem with the surprise method is that the process is entirely addict-focused, with the whole family’s health hanging on its most dysfunctional member. I do not want the success of my interventions--and the health of my clients--to be contingent on the choices of the most impaired person. There was a time in my career that I considered getting a person into treatment a great success but I’ve learned over the years that this is actually the easiest part of my job. The real challenge is working with the families. There can be one person drinking and many people affected by addiction. Why create an intervention for just one person when the whole family is hurting and needing help? I consider it a successful intervention when I have a family who is looking at their caretaking and enabling behaviors and at their own relationships with the addict and asking themselves, “How did we get here?” “What is my part in this?” “What can I change in me that will benefit my life and my family?”

Families and partners play a major role in the progression of every addiction. Behind every addict is a codependent, and the main thrust of my job is to collapse the codependent inter-family structures that allow addiction to progress. Often driven by misguided love and loyalty the codependency will cripple the addict and splinter the family. Trying to control and contain addiction will result in many lost and unhappy years. Families don’t have to wait for their addicted relatives to decide to change their lives. They have power to influence the lives and decisions of their loved one. Families can create an atmosphere of curiosity by changing their behaviors and reactions to the addiction. Families are engaged in a sophisticated and deadly dance but when family members decide to change the ways they interact with troubled members, addicts will shift their behavior in return.


I’ve come to understand that underneath the massive weight of addiction is a lost, hurting, terrified, good and decent person. The skill of a great interventionist is to be able to access that person quickly and effectively. I don’t think that surprising a person with their closest friends and family is the way to begin a trusting relationship. It is my job not just to get addicts help but also to inspire change and it’s my calling to ignite the small flicker of light that is buried deep within every addict. And I begin this connection by being honest, up front and respectful.

With the invitational process, 95 percent of the time, the addicted person will join the intervention day but in cases where they don't, the intervention continues as it is as much for the family as the addict. Families do not have to suffer with addiction; they can heal, with or without, their loved one. We look at addiction, codependency and enabling and caretaking behaviors. If the addict agrees to treatment, he or she leaves as soon as possible. If help isn't accepted, we talk about how the relationships in the family will have to change. Either way, treatment recommendations are made for each member of the family.

"Aftervention" – a copy righted concept -- is when we come back together, once the addicted person and the family have completed their treatment plans. We look at how far they have come as individuals therefore creating a healthier family system that is in recovery. Aftervention is a beautiful time of reflection and commitment moving forward.

While working as an interventionist is not always easy but it is fulfilling and I consider a great privilege to have spent half my life helping addicts and families. I am fueled and driven in this endeavor by my hard-earned personal experience with addiction, education and my great passion for addicts and their families. Recovery is possible and families do heal, change and grow.

I meet people and their most broken, create a connection and help illuminate the way out. I have a front seat to watching the most extra ordinary stories of redemption. I am humbled and forever grateful for this career that has taken me on great adventures and to the door steps of some of the most exceptional families. Like the faint smell of a beautiful perfume that lingers in the room, long after the person is gone, so it is with every family I have ever worked with. I carry on my heart a piece of every intervention: I am changed. I am stronger and I am wiser for this work. I thank every family that has trusted me enough to open your door and lives to me, you are my greatest teachers and I am better for having met you.


Sober and shameless, Kw