A&E’s Intervention program, which plays on Monday nights 9pm CST on Channel 39 per Cox Cable, was about a Hawaiian mother, Penny-Lee, whose life spirals out of control in alcoholism. Her second husband and her four children talk about their mother’s addiction to alcohol while A&E displays her under the influence talking to herself on her porch. Apparently when Penny-Lee drinks she likes to go outside on her porch, rant to herself and say whatever she likes. Her husband states that she appears to be “possessed.” She does appear quite crazy ranting to herself on the porch, pacing around with head bobbing while flinging her arms.
Penny-Lee wants to know why her daughter trusts her with her grandson, but she doesn’t give her any money whatsoever to watch him. Her complaint is, “Why trust me with my grandson but you won’t trust me with money?” Her daughter explains that if she were to give her mother money, she would just blow it on alcohol. The show also depicts the family getting together once per month at a family gathering. Because there is alcohol at these family gatherings, Penny-Lee drinks there as well. She usually drinks (12) 24 oz beers, which is equivalent to 24 shots of vodka at one sitting. That’s a lot of alcohol. One can wonder what her liver looks like. Penny-Lee had her “colon removed” but immediately started drinking after she got out of the hospital. This examiner thinks she probably had a “colon resection”. The colon is our large intestine. This colon can be resected which means a portion of it is cut out if there is too much damage to that portion. This is probably what Penny-Lee had. It is a serious operation, however, it did not stop her from drinking.
The show then delves back into her past family history. This is so important. It truly explains the why and how of when Penny-Lee started drinking. Hopefully, viewers will gain empathy, compassion, understanding and insight for Penny-Lee as her history tells her story. Penny-Lee was the daughter of an alcoholic mother. Though she was the “happy child”, the “popular one”, she felt abandoned by her mother and chose to get out of the house with the first guy that came along. Her family describes her as being the “gofer” in this relationship as her husband was extremely demanding. Though she tried to please him, they inevitably split up 4 years later due to his infidelity. During the brief marriage, two male children were produced.
For two years, apparently the first father disappeared, but then reappeared into the boys’ lives and resumed a relationship. Though, Penny-Lee was divorced now, she was able to move on with her life and relished her role as mother to her two sons. Several years later, Penny-Lee married again. A few years after the second marriage, (probably when the babies started to appear) the boys decided to live with their biological father and moved away to New York. This was devastating to Penny-Lee and marked the turn of her happiness. Could her 14 year old boy know that the abandonment of her would bring back old abandonment issues from her own childhood with her own “alcoholic mother?” Could a 14 year old boy know that his mother carried the “alcoholic gene” and therefore was more susceptible in succumbing to her own alcoholism due to her genetic predisposition? Of course, he couldn’t know that.
Next, the Interventionist appears and talks with the family about writing letters to their mother explaining and describing how her drinking affects them. The Interventionist describes what is going to happen and basically supports the family during the confrontation. Shortly thereafter Penny-Lee comes into the room and meets the Interventionist and her family. Her husband starts reading his letter in tears. He very accurately describes his wife and the demise of their relationship. He encourages her to accept the offer of the treatment program. Her eldest son starts next. Again, he very accurately describes how his mother makes him feel. He blames himself and recognizes that the alcoholism came about directly after he and his brother went to live with their biological father. He describes himself as feeling angry, guilty and affected by his decision at 14 years of age to leave his mother and go live with his father. He understands that he doesn’t know the “why of it” but that they must recover from what happened. He doesn’t apologize to his mother but one wonders if an apology to her would have started the healing process. They could have both grieved together the bad decision. He makes no mention of his biological father and if they are even in touch today. He refers to his adopted father as “Father” during the show. There is no reference as to when the boys moved back to Hawaii and decided to want to be with their mother and step dad as family. The children empatically wanted their “family” back and was all supportive of one another and their mother.
After treatment for 2 months, Penny-Lee appears to be doing well. She says that “sobriety” was her reward. She recognizes that she must “forgive herself, love herself and make amends to her family.” The show ends on a positive note however one wonders about the long term affects of alcoholism. What does Penny-Lee do when she gets the urge to drink? How does she handle her stressors now? Does she attend AA meetings? Does she regularly see a doctor? Did any of her kids develop addiction or drug problems? Did she gain insight into why she succumbed to alcoholism?
The A&E Intervention is to be commended for a job well done in focusing on hurting families affected by drug addiction or alcoholism. This examiner wonders if more long term follow-up is needed as a “short-term solution” is good for TV but not true reality.
There are several programs in Lafayette, Louisiana offering the Intervention style process. There is also Al-Anon for the families and AA for the alcoholic/drug abuser. http://bcove.me/ttezwjxa (Click the A&E link to watch the full episode).
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