As a former social worker in recovery from addiction, I was initially skeptical of the VICELAND Series Dopesick Nation because I thought it would follow the familiar formula of A&E’s Intervention and TLC’s Addicted. I was wrong. Dopesick Nation is different from these other shows for many reasons, but it’s especially good at illuminating the unique difficulties of being a recovering addict while also working with and helping other people struggling with addiction. Dopesick Nation explores the thin line between interventionist and client, recovery and relapse. This is a common struggle, as 37 to 57% of professionals in the addiction field are in recovery themselves. Due to stigma, there is sparse data on how often people working in this field relapse, but I found a preliminary study that found 14.7% of addiction treatment professionals relapse over their career lifespan. I can relate: I’ve relapsed twice while working in the field.
Let me start by saying that I commend all people working in addiction and recovery treatment. While I have mixed feelings about Intervention and Addicted, I have deep respect for the interventionists who have made it their mission to help people with addiction while also navigating the daily struggles of their own recovery. The traditional interventionists of Addicted and Intervention appear so stable; each of their stories follow a typical trajectory from drug addict to helper. On the opening montage of Addicted, interventionist Kristina Wandzilak says: “By the time I was 15, I was addicted to drugs and alcohol. I robbed homes, I sold my body, I dug in dumpsters to pay for my habit. Today I am an interventionist…”