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
“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
“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.
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
48 AARP THE MAGAZINE
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.”