A few years ago my family try to bully me by staging a drug intervention. The event caused a catastrophic disruption to my life that forced me to double-down on my own mental wellness and inner work. The bullying shocked my body.
Afterwards I found a series of helpful strategies to help me regain my strength, calm, and health. Some of these tools include meditation, breathwork, sound baths, yoga, journaling, group healing, and therapy.
After decades of working on my own healing, I did not realize how my own healing would cause ripples in my family, which caused a giant wave to crash onto me. My family intentionally hurt me. I do not think I’ll ever understand why they got so violent with me.
I am on a life-long path to wellness, self-love, and self-acceptance.
I am doing well, and feel more resilient than ever. I got through the bullying, and I wrote some actions and takeaways to help you in your own quest for a healthy life.
My children and I have a wonderful and loving relationship. They are what is important.
I’m far from perfect, yet I strive to grow. I have a lot to be grateful for. I was whole before the intervention, and after building myself back-up, I am still whole. I have always been enough even if those who raised me believe otherwise. I am loved.
The day after the intervention
It is 5:00 am and the sun isn’t yet up.
The sound of an Amazon delivery person slamming a package on the concrete outside the front door startles me awake.
I am hungry, scared, and lying on a couch at my friend’s house in Venice, California.
I have a new reality on my hands.
I have no idea where my children are.
For the past seven years I have known where my children have slept, until now.
My heart is shattered in a thousand pieces on the floor.
I do not know when I’ll see my children again. I miss them greatly.
I feel acid reflux in my stomach after the stress combined with a loss of appetite come together with my feeling of deep loneliness. I had no appetite the night before—my body was still in shock. I feel hungover as if I had drunk half a bottle of tequila last night, yet I am stone cold sober.
I rest, covered in a blanket and my head on a couch pillow, wishing I were sleeping in my own bed. As I reflect on what happened the night before, I cry.
I am scared. I know my life will never be the same. I am heartbroken.
Just twelve hours earlier, my family botched a drug intervention, for weed.
After my diagnosis of C-PTSD, a form of on-going childhood trauma, I had been using a small amount of cannabis before practicing yoga or meditation.
I have been into yoga for decades and cannabis helps me to deal with the physical pain of the practice. As a newcomer to meditation, cannabis helped me get into twenty minute sessions within a few weeks of practicing. Eventually I was going into forty minute sessions after a few months of practicing, it was helping to sooth my body.
WTF is going on. I openly shared with my wife that I have been taking cannabis, which is a plant-based medicine. We even went to a cannabis dinner a month prior to this intervention.
Cannabis greatly helps me to process the physical pain in my joints, wrists, hips, and ankles.
The cannabis helped to treat my pain when I experienced PTSD flashbacks during the practice.
Don’t get me wrong, in my twenties I smoked my fair share of cannabis, and it could have been seen as excessive. Yet, at this phase of my life, I felt the medicinal benefits of the cannabis plant to help with the physical stress of healing my trauma.
I’m grateful that I live in California, there is a cannabis dispensary a mile from where I live.
In order to helpmyself find answers, I meditate. I reflect on what happened.
The last moments of my pre-intervention life are walking home from a church.
For an hour prior to the intervention, I attended a community-organized meeting at a neighborhood church with a few other local parents. We discussed a local ballot initiative to tax corporations who are avoiding paying their share of taxes. A teacher from the local school ran the meeting, and he is hopeful to sponsor a California ballot initiative to return the tax money to fund public education.
Leaving the church, I check my email. I see a bizarre email from my wife, who is forwarding me an email from my brother-in-law.
The email subject says:
Fwd: ryan letter
The email is blank, and includes an attached letter. I don’t bother reading the letter, it feels too random for me.
I text a friend about the bizarre email because my brother-in-law has rarely emailed in my ten years of marriage to his sister. In fact, he doesn’t have my email address, which I later learn is why my wife forwarded it. We have only ever chatted on the phone less than five times.
My brother-in-law has a low key southern drawl and speaks with few words. He is well over six feet tall with blonde hair and speaks in a meaningful way so that each of his words count. Years ago he shouted at me to argue that the Confederate Flag was not racist, and that was the most in depth conversation that we have ever had.
Walking in the darkness of night, I am calm. My wife is out of town in North Carolina visiting her family with my two young daughters. Her sister just had a baby, and they are off visiting the new bundle of joy.
My wife also has blonde hair, and is a few inches under six feet. When she is around her family her southern accent comes out, yet while we are living in California I rarely hear the draw. I can usually tell when she’s talking to her family on the phone based on how much of her accent comes out.
My wife is supposed to be out of town, and seeing her alarms me.
I continue walking. I am a bachelor in spirit, excited to saunter home, take a bath, meditate and snooze. I am peaceful. I am excited for some alone time. Except I am not alone as I walk towards my house.
I have a work bag on my shoulder, and in it my car and house keys.
I am shocked to see my wife in the driveway. She is supposed to be on the east coast, or so I thought.
I get a pit in my stomach. I am scared to imagine what she is doing back. Her entire body language looks off.
She carries herself more like a police officer than my wife, and I do not like it.
It had been a few months since our marriage counselor diagnosed me with a form of insidious, ongoing childhood trauma called Complex PTSD. Now, my wife surprises me by standing in our driveway. What was she doing here?
My wife’s presence was the first sign that something is about to go terribly wrong.
I walk in front of my next neighbor’s house. This feels like a spooky Halloween movie where I am waiting for someone to jump out and scare me.
My wife exclaims in a concerned tone and no southern accent: “Ryan’s here,” motioning to a group of people in the yard.
In shock, I sternly say: “Katherine, what are you doing back?”
“Hi Ryan,” she says blankly, with no emotion.
WTF is going on here, I say to myself again.
I see bodies in the background that appear to be my two brothers who live in Northern California, and my brother-in-law.
Then I spot a stranger, a long haired man lurking in the nighttime shadows in my front yard.
They are all approaching me.
As I write this I am feeling the fear again in my body.
The random person I see looked like my brother Michael’s friend named Andrew. Andrew has long hair, and for some reason I think Andrew’s in on the intervention. I am scared.
“Andrew’s here?” I blurt.
“What the f*ck is Andrew doing here?” I demand.
My younger brother blurts out: “Ryan it’s not Andrew. I love you bro.”
He opens his arms up and is walking across the yard, motioning to give me a big hug.
My brother used to have blonde hair, and now has more of a receding hairline style buzz cut. When my younger brother is upset, he has the energy of a pit bull.
The last time we had a meaningful exchange about our family he texted me to “f*ck off” and that “I think we both agree that it’s in our best interest to not speak for a while.”
I took him literally and we haven’t spoken very often since then. He can go from happy to angry without a moment’s notice, and I’ve enjoyed us taking a break from one another. I don’t need a hug from him.
His energy is off, he is trying to close in on me. I think to myself:
Oh sh*t, are they trying an intervention?
I see the long-haired guy back-pedaling into the shadows. It isn’t a good feeling. I later find-out this person is an interventionist, focusing on drugs and addiction. I see his floppy hair waving in the wind, as he walks backwards hiding.
He does not identify himself which is a sign that this is not a safe environment for me. If he wanted to engender trust I would expect him to raise his hand and introduce himself and the goal for the conversation.
In my head:
This isn’t cool. It feels unsafe. Why isn’t this strange long-haired man identifying himself?
As everyone lunges towards me, as if they are about to ambush, my intuition kicks-in.
It feels like I was reliving my childhood trauma in real time, but I am not a kid. I have options.
My survival instincts immediately fire up.
Conveniently my car is right in front of my neighbor’s house. I grab the key in my hand, open the driver’s side door with the key fob, and jump into my Prius.
Like Lightning McQueen around a turn, I peel out from my street, looking for somewhere safe to drive to.
Thinking to myself:
What the hell is going on here? And where the hell are my kids?
I find a church a few miles away, and park close by with plenty of lights around me. I feel safe. I exhale.
What the hell just happened?
Since my Complex PTSD diagnosis, I have been aggressively working with both eastern and western methods of healing through therapy, journaling, psychedelic medicine, yoga, and meditation. I vociferously read books on trauma and healing, specifically Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery. She writes that in the 1970s, people who’d experienced various forms of trauma were labeled as “hysterical” when talking about their pain.
Some of these patients were taken to insane asylums, clinics, and doctor’s offices to be “cured.” I got scared of thinking of myself strapped to a chair against my will, while some doctor in a lab coat experimented on me. I immediately went to the worst place when I saw these people.
After meditating in my car for a few moments, I made some phone calls. I need some grounding and reassurance that I am not crazy. I call some people who know me, and can help calm me down.
I called my marriage counselor, but she is on another call.
I then call my two friends. They both are shocked at what is going on, and have no idea that anyone in my family wanted to stage an intervention for me. They know me reasonably well, so I am surprised to hear that they are not dialed into this intervention.
Friend number 1 is a doctor whose heritage is Hispanic. We once traveled to Istanbul, Turkey together. On the plane ride over we were both asleep when someone yelled “is there a doctor on the plane.” He instinctively woke up and went to attend to a sick person on the flight. He is surprised on the phone.
Friend number two is a low key and mild mannered friend of Indian descent. We had recently spent a weekend together over the summer hanging out at the OC fair drinking beer, eating fried food, and watching Michael McDonald perform with Chaka Khan. He is easy going. He is a lawyer and also surprised to hear the news.
I am sweating, incredibly nervous at this point. I am breathing to stay alive. If I do not breathe, it feels like I may not live. I am anxious, scared, and very alone.
I give my friends my wife’s phone number, and brothers’ numbers, asking them to check in with my wife and family.
Friend number 2 reports back in a few minutes, they are now at a restaurant/bar called Upper West having dinner. I exclaim:
“They just had an intervention and are at a f*cking bar eating burgers!”
Friend number two calls back and says that they want to speak with me. I agree, and await for our marriage counselor to call me back.
My marriage counselor, finally gets back to me after what feels like an eternity.
She is in her mid fifties, with grayish black hair, and has shows empathy for her clients. She initially diagnosed my C-PTSD and I am forever grateful for her work. She has a service dog named in her office which helps calm her child patients down. She also sounds surprised.
“Hey, what is going on? Katherine staged an intervention, do you know anything about this?” I ask both confused and angry.
“Ryan, I have no idea what is going on,” she says, equally puzzled.
“Wait, you don’t know what is happening? How do you not know?”
“I have not spoken to your wife since our last session in which she said she was no longer going out of town.”
“Well, she changed her mind, again. And she went out of town, and came back early. She brought some out of town family and staged an intervention. WTF is going on?!”
She calms me down and says, “Why don’t we call her on a conference call.”
After trying her for a few minutes, my wife finally gets back to me.
On speaker phone, my adrenaline is pumping.
I angrily demand that she answer a simple question: “Katherine, where the hell are our kids?”
“Ryan, they are safe.”
Terrified, I keep talking with my face in my hands: “Katherine, and whoever is on the phone right now, where are my children?”
“Ryan, we’ll tell you that when you meet with us.”
Frustrated and ready to pull my hair out, I reply: “What are you talking about? Are our kids here in L.A. or back on the east coast?”
“They are safe, and we need to meet with you.”
Why is she so adversarial?
I have the most adrenaline going through my body, possibly ever in my life.
I am furious that they will not share my kids location.
Then in a feverish outburst, I hear a series of voices telling me such things as:
“Ryan, you’re addicted to cannabis.”
“Ryan, you’re on the verge of a psychosis breakdown.”
“Studies show that cannabis can cause psychosis breakdowns.”
After a confusing phone call with no clear agenda, we say goodbye. The people on the call demand that I meet with the interventionist, and then they will share my kids location.
My kids are now the center of a hostage negotiation for a meeting. I am appalled.
When it’s just the two of us, the marriage counselor says to me: “Ryan, that isn’t the wife that I remember talking to during our last session.”
I tell her thank you and we log off.
I am still terrified that they would not tell me where my kids are. I do not want to sleep in my house that night. I am scared they would come back and try another intervention.
What the hell is wrong with legal cannabis? Are they following the outdated Nancy Reagan Just Say No to Drugs campaign? Cannabis is a plant and it is medicine. My younger brother smoked pot out of a soda can in our basement when he was in middle school. What is he thinking now? I am confused as to why no one ever mentioned this addiction before.
I received no calls from my family, in-laws, or wife prior to this intervention ever confronting me for an addiction. No one has ever asked me if I have a cannabis problem. There were twenty steps between doing nothing and taking my kids away for an intervention. WTF?
I call my friends in Venice, and they put me on their couch for the night.
Waking up the next morning helped me realize that while my heart is broken into a thousand tiny pieces, it’s up to me to put it back together. I am powerless against my family, my wife, and the drug interventionist.
While this is a nightmare to contend with, I ultimately spend 5 weeks apart from my children, while my family attempts to shove rehab down my throat.
I refuse to entertain any rehab, psychological evaluation, or their request to send me to a psychiatric hospital for an overnight stay.
Over the next few weeks I created my own program to recover from my C-PTSD, that includes these elements for how I healed with over 100 sessions in a 5 week span:
- Sound meditation baths
- Therapy sessions
- Practicing gratitude
- Group healing in support groups
- Ancestral healing by making amends to distant relatives
I also gave up alcohol and cannabis for the remainder of the year.
Additionally, I celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s without my children for the first time in my life.
I cannot control other people. I can only control my actions.
I prioritized rest, meditation, and being honest with my truths.
I did not let anyone twist my truths into their agenda.
In the spirit of mental wellness I share this story to help recover from my C-PTSD and the worst 14 hours of my life as an adult.
Interventions are cruel, inhumane, and punishing things. There is no due process.
I had nothing else to do except take care of myself. I even thought about taking him to court in order to strip him of his license, except that is too much work. This man helped break up my family, and it devastated me at the time.
This felt like capital punishment as my kids were taken away without getting a hearing, or even a courtesy heads up that anyone felt like I was an addict. There was a small mob of people outside my house ready to bring me to the executioner with no just cause. Led by a man in the shadows—a stranger with long hair.
I later found out that my parents had sponsored the intervention behind my back. It was a gut punch to get the news.
I did learn a lot after the intervention, and in some ways am grateful for it. I realized how sick my family is, and how much work I’ve done to improve my mental health over the years.
How I changed after the intervention:
- I am more gentle with myself. I am kinder to myself when I make mistakes.
- I accept that I did not cause my family to run an intervention. I cannot control them or their behavior, the intervention was their choice, not mine.
- I can only take care of myself and my children, otherwise I am powerless over people.
- I made a New Year’s intention to love myself and my children, and no longer spend time with people who are not serving me.
- Live and let live, I cannot change anything in the past. I accept what I cannot change.
- I take life one day one at a time, and focus on the next step to take, focusing on the moment
The cannabis helped me go deeper into each practice, enjoy the deeper state of my mind, while soothing my pain.
Meanwhile both my family and in-laws have generational alcoholism in the family tree.
A few weeks before the intervention, I confronted my father-in-law about his alcoholism over the phone. He father-in-law has grayish hair, is around 6’5”, and in his mid-seventies.
He often has a Bud Light bottle in his hand anytime I see him after 6pm. When I come to visit him he usually buys me a six pack of a favorite beer, and we spend time talking about football or basketball.
Separately around the same time, I had recently confronted my Dad about his anger and bullying ways towards me. My Dad is also in his seventies, and has a quick temper. He has two modes, calm, or enraged. here isn’t much middle ground.
A few weeks before the intervention he yelled at me over the phone. I called him to ask a question about the time frame and urgency overbooking Christmas travel airline tickets, and he shouted at me.
His anger upset me, and a few days later I texted our family that i would not be attending Christmas vacation with our family this year. For the first time in a long time I opted out of a family holiday trip.
Did I shake up the family trees? Did I confront two powerful men about their own character defects? Was this intervention retaliation?
I’ll never know. It doesn’t matter. I created my own program and now it’s up to me to keep doing the work to help myself, my children, and anyone whose love comes into my orbit.
It took me an entire year and a half to publish this piece. In my heart I knew I was right, I just had to pick the pieces and put it back together.
I have not spoken at length with my brothers or parents since that night.
They have told me to “deal,” “get over it,” and “we don’t know how to help you.” I learned that unsolicited feedback is criticism. So I move on.
If I had to do it again, I would not change a thing. The intervention really clarified my position towards my family. I love them. I do not think that I will ever trust them again, and that is okay too.
I am truly happy in my life. I love myself, and that is what matters.
I have been doing the work for decades and it is paying off. I have a solid health and wellness tool kit, and I hope that my stories can help you too.
Big thanks to my editors:
Sara Campbell, Drew Stegmaier, Lyle McKeany, Tom White, Julie Trelstad, Zachary Zager, Maria Sweeney, Katherine Canniff, and Joel Christiansen.