It’s Monday, so it’s time to watch Intervention. Intervention is now in its 8th season, which explains why people are finally walking into their “final meeting” and going “I KNEW IT, FUCK ALL OF YOU!” instead of just resignedly sitting down and listening to their family read their letters. I’d be able to spot Candy Finnegan a block away, and I can’t believe that people aren’t running up to her everywhere she goes and begging her to teach classes in Cutting A Bitch With Your Eyes. Everybody knows Intervention by now. You think “your addiction is affecting your life negatively in the following ways” came out of nowhere? Think again.
Back when I wasn’t getting my ass handed to me every day at work (actually, I think it started when I was mostly unemployed), I hosted Drunken Intervention Fan Club at my house. Stephanie and whoever else wanted to would come over and we’d get drunk and watch Intervention. It sounds silly and it is, but it’s not as callous as it sounds. Yeah, we’d laugh sometimes and make fun of weird rednecks who looked like the janitor from The Breakfast Club and the people who passed out mid-explanation of how much of a problem they didn’t have, but you’d have to be a sociopath to never be affected by anyone on Intervention. Even the flaming crazy ones like Cristy, the meth addict from season 1, who walked around naked and high and acted like a batshit insane maniac, wasn’t entirely funny. I mean, it was funny in the “can you fucking believe this?!?!” kind of way, but it wasn’t hilarious. Watching Cristy caterwaul around a squalor-filled garage like it was a palace because her mind was gone – just burned out, eaten away, never coming back gone – was entertaining in its insanity, but it was also very, very sad.
I can watch Intervention because they manage to balance the sad episodes with the ones that reinforce your personal decision to never be an optional hobo with a fondness for pain pills dissolved in lighter fluid.
What I cannot watch, though, is Hoarders.
Like I said, Intervention has a way of balancing the sad and the absurd. This makes it compelling to watch, because not only are you completely absorbed in the troubles of its subjects, but you’re also at a healthy remove from all the fucked up shit they do. Yes I’ve done drugs, but I’ve never done them to the point of homelessness, prostitution, or embezzling from the elderly. But it’s not the same with Hoarders. While my messy house is not filthy to the point of vermin infestations or dying after being trapped under a pile of my own garbage, Hoarders is fucking terrifying.
It’s one thing to deal with addicts. I know addicts. I’m related to them. I was raised with people for whom alcohol was such a way of existing that it didn’t seem at all strange or wrong to me, and I was honestly shocked when I found out that their issues were big enough to be classified as even mild alcoholism. On the other hand, I’ve never known a hoarder. I’ve known dirty people and packrat people, but I’ve never known anyone with a psychological compulsion to hoard stuff until their house collapsed. So considering this, I should be far more aware and afraid of the damage caused by drug and alcohol abuse. Right? Nope.
Hoarders isn’t just gross. It’s sad. Like really, awfully, abysmally sad. Watching a hoarder react to their mess is like watching someone in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. They’re frustrated and confused and embarrassed because they know something’s not right, but there’s nothing they can do to stop themselves. And it doesn’t stop with the cleanup. Sometimes people get better in Intervention. Jesus, even Allison the keyboard duster huffer recovered, and she was walking on sunshine! But no one gets better on Hoarders. People just fight with their families and lose their houses and become wards of the state. I’m probably as big of an asshole as you think I am, but I still need a happy ending, or at least not a totally depressing one.
I’m pretty confident that I’ll never start huffing Freon. I probably won’t be giving out HJs for some generic Oxycontin, either. And while I don’t think I’ll collect cat pee-soaked newspapers until my floor falls in, well, you just never know.
For me, Invervention is a manageable way to view addiction and wonder what in the fuck is wrong with some people. Hoarders is a spooky, fetid possibility, and I’m too scared to keep watching it.