Interventions, Life, Art and Storyboards

Does life imitate art or does art imitate life?

In the news of late, many articles dealt with the word intervention. Intervention is a powerful word, it grabs our attention and we are never quite sure if the storyline will be about war, drugs, climate change, a new television show, a family in crisis…the list is long. For example:
  • Following the horrific deliberate downing of Germanwings flight 9525, many specialists are observing “what if” the co-pilot’s employer, doctors or family members would have combined their efforts and intervened to insist that he get treatment for his mental illness(es).
  • This past week a few “rich and/or famous” families are in the news because family members are organizing interventions to help their loved ones who are struggling with addiction and more.
  • Some communities around the country have issued press releases to announce the establishment of crisis intervention specialists who will work with “at-risk” youth and young adult populations in an effort to prevent long term and perhaps irreversible damage resulting from exposure to drugs, alcohol and crime.
  • On March 22, 2015, television fans were pleased to see A & E bring back the series Intervention.

So the aged old question remains; does life imitate art or does art imitate life?  It is true that real life events take place and artists, writers and producers are inspired to create paintings, sculptures, novels, movies, television shows…and suddenly we have art. Then again, more than a century ago Oscar Wilde opined that “life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” This philosophical discussion will go on.

Mad Men returns for its final episodes…

It was last May when we published a blog about Don Draper’s intervention. While Don’s partners insisted that he take some time off, a leave of absence to deal with his alcoholism (albeit they avoided saying the word), they never insisted that he needed to go to treatment. Don, the character, knew he had a problem and his co-workers, among others, knew it, too. Interestingly, in the first episode of Season 7, (which aired April 2014) Don meets a woman on a flight from Los Angeles to New York. The stranger speaks of being a widow and when Don observes that she looks too young to be a widow, she offers that her husband died at age 50. Don asks what could have happened to a man so young. She answers: “He was thirsty, and he died of thirst.”

Last month it was reported that Jon Hamm (Don Draper) recently sought treatment for alcoholism. It was also reported that many fans were shocked and Mr. Hamm shared that he had the support of his family and asked for consideration and privacy.  At least one news outlet referenced “life imitating art.”

The power of storyboards

While Don Draper is a fictional character who works for a Madison Avenue advertising firm, there is a lot we can learn from the process of building an ad campaign. Storyboards! Do you recognize the term? Storyboarding dates back before the 1930s, but the use of storyboards in business has taken on a role of its own in Mad Men, not unlike alcoholism. You will always hear Don Draper asking his team “what story are we telling?” And from that simple question the creative team draws the storyboards to present to the client. It is important to remember there are multiple boards and they can be shuffled to create a whole new story!

The intervention process is similar…the interventionist works to determine the real story and where to go from there. The process begins by having a conversation with the interventionist about the loved one you would like to help. Imagine each family member arriving with their storyboards. Because of professional experience in the field of addiction and recovery, the interventionist has heard it all – there are no stories or situations that haven’t already been heard and no story or situation will be judged, it will all be kept with the utmost level of confidentiality. Although it seems trifling to tell personal details to someone you don’t know, upon sharing your situation your reservation will be met with warmth and understanding and the weight you feel will begin to lift as solutions are proposed.

One last thought from the fictional Don Draper: “Everyone has their own story to tell. It can only go in one direction. Forward!”

“Interventions” Happen On MAD MEN, Too!

Mad Men
Mad Men (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Are you a fan of MAD MEN?

This might sound like a strange question, but if you are a regular viewer, then you know that alcoholism and sobriety play a major role in this television drama. Mad Men premiered in July 2007 and its final season will air in 2015. If you didn’t work on Madison Avenue in the advertising industry in the 1950s and 1960s, then there is a pretty good chance you needed to learn that the name mad men was a nickname or slang for those who did work in advertising on Madison Avenue.

So why all this talk about Mad Men on a blog that generally deals with interventions? Well, it occurred to us that in today’s society many people have come to believe that interventions are of a fairly recent origin when in fact for centuries family members have often tried to convince their loved one to seek treatment for addiction and just as often reached out to a professional person of faith or a medical professional to intervene with their loved one.

It should not be surprising that often one’s employer forces the issue and place the addict or alcoholic employee on a “leave of absence.”  Even Don Draper (Mad Men’s focal character) was faced with a “leave of absence” at the end of the 6th season (please excuse the included advertisements).

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

Look closely, as Mad Men’s creator Matthew Weiner turns the lens on alcoholism

There is a very large story being told in the Mad Men series. For the generations who were not in the corporate world at that time it is shocking to see people smoking in their office, drinking alcohol in some offices, not to mention the covert and overt adultery and sexism. Regarding the portrayal of alcoholism Wikipedia sums it up succinctly:

ABC News noted that “as the show’s time frame progressed into the 1960s, series creator Matthew Weiner didn’t hold back in depicting a world of liquor-stocked offices, boozy lunches and alcohol-soaked dinners.” One incident in Season 2 finds advertising executive Freddy Rumsen being sent to rehab after urinating on himself. Don, Betty, Herman ‘Duck’ Phillips, and Roger Sterling were singled out by television reporters for their excessive drinking. During the fourth season Don Draper starts to realize he has a major drinking problem. ABC News quoted an addiction specialist who said that “over the last ten years, alcoholism has been more fully understood as a disease. But in the sixties, bad behavior resulting from heavy drinking could be considered ‘macho’ and even romantic, rather than as a compulsive use of alcohol despite adverse consequences.” One reviewer called the fourth season a “sobering tale of drunken excess” as the Don Draper character struggled with his addiction to alcohol.

Last week Don, back after his leave of absence, had an incident in the office and his long time co-worker Freddy Rumsen steps in to talk him through the episode…you can watch it here with Matthew Weiner commenting.

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here starting at 4:03.

Some closing thoughts…

Every person doesn’t have a Freddy who can step in to guide them towards getting sober, counseling them to “do the work.” Not every family member knows what to do or how to ask for help when their loved one is suffering from the disease of addiction. Sometimes we learn by reading a news story, or a novel, or watching a movie or even a television series.

When there have been several attempts at trying to help the addicted loved one to no avail, intervention services are often necessary. Call us 800-631-7753.

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