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Boomers on Drugs

Families are being torn apart as addiction rates rise. The good news: There's help.

Ron photographed at his home

Family and friends staged an intervention for Ron Dash in 2005. The 57-year-old has been sober and straight ever since. — Photo by David Eustace

En español |In the predawn darkness of December 5, 2005, Patricia Dash woke her husband, Ron, and led him downstairs to the den of their house in New York. Ron was groggy — and confused, because standing by the fireplace was a stranger wearing a white turtleneck under a black sweater.

"What's a priest doing here?" he thought. "What the hell is going on?"

Maybe Ron was dreaming. Or maybe he'd drunk too much wine and vodka last night, or maybe it was the OxyContin and the Ambien he had popped along with the alcohol.

But the guy in the turtleneck wasn't alone. Perched nervously on the edge of the sofa were Ron's 8-year-old son, Sam; Ron's two older brothers; his 13-year-old niece; and his 86-year-old mother.

"Ron, say hello to Bob," said Patricia. "He's going to have a chat with you."

And that's when Ron got it: This was an intervention.

"She's gone way too far," thought Ron. Not only had Patricia recruited other family members for the intervention, but she had involved young Sammy.

In the world of substance-abuse treatment, an intervention is a loving but direct call to arms, and often the last attempt by loved ones to end the destructive path of addiction. Patricia had hired Bob, an interventionist, to ensure that the family's initiative would succeed — and that no one would get hurt.

"It got to where my wife was afraid to come home from work. Would she find me dead on the floor?" — 61-year-old recovering methadone addict Russ C.

Ron scanned the faces in the room. He looked awful that morning — "like someone had hit him with a baseball bat," recalls Patricia. "He had gained a lot of weight and was all swollen." And he looked far older than his 52 years.

It hadn't always been this way. When Ron was enticed out of bachelorhood at 40 by his stunning Venezuelan bride, they had made an attractive and charismatic couple. They had also built a beautiful home: three stories with a bay view, an emblem of Ron's business success. Only a few years into their marriage, however, Ron began drinking at every possible occasion and started doing drugs more and more often. He became unpredictable, sullen, and sometimes violent.

So this morning his family had no idea how Ron would react to their collective action to end the chaos. They had all written him letters explaining how much they loved him and how much they wanted — needed — him to get sober. Haltingly, each family member read him their letter. Sam had written that he'd lost his father and wanted him back.

"I was enraged," says Ron. He ran upstairs and grabbed the kitchen phone. "I was calling the cops to have everybody thrown out." Patricia, a slight size 4, threw herself at her bear of a husband. Ron shoved back. "If you don't go to rehab," Patricia screamed, "you'll never see me or Sammy again!"

And then Sam snapped.

"He marched to his bedroom and ripped up his letter," Ron says. "He grabbed a pen and carved the words 'I DON'T HAVE A DAD' in the doors of his closet. Then he came to me holding a picture of the two of us and cut it in half."

Seeing his little boy fall apart finally got through to Ron. "I saw — outside of myself — what I was doing to my loved ones. It broke me."

Ron fell down on his knees and grabbed for Sammy.

"Okay, I'm going," he said in tears. "I'm going."


*Names changed for privacy.

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