Introspect: Former drug user draws on experience, helps others fight addiction

In Features, Introspect
Ken Seeley, a former drug addict, now helps other addicts battle addiction. Photo courtesy of Ken Seeley

Ken Seeley was 27 when he hit rock bottom. He had been kicked out of the Air Force, convicted twice of DUI and was selling drugs in the clubs to support his crystal meth addiction. His health was deteriorating; his skin hung loosely from his gaunt frame.

The final straw came when his employer, a medical billing company, confronted him.

“They said ‘we think you need help and we hope that you choose to get the help that you need, but we can’t work with you anymore,’” Seeley said, recalling the fear and humiliation he felt at the time. “My life came crumbling down on me.”

That was 20 years ago. Today, a clean and sober Seeley uses his experience to help other families suffering from the devastation of addiction, both in his private practice and as an interventionist on the popular A&E reality show “Intervention.”

Seeley’s own drug use began with marijuana as a teen and soon progressed to harder drugs like methamphetamine. Today, opiates – prescription meds, oxycontin and heroin – are the fastest growing segment of teen drug use, he said.

“(Opiate use) is running rampant all over this country; kids are getting addicted and they’re dropping like flies.”

He said teenagers and their families are among the hardest on which to intervene, a fact he attributes to human nature: parents want to protect their child so they often make excuses for them and minimize the problem.

“When I was smoking pot at 15 or 16 and my mom would find my pipe, I would say it’s my friend’s pipe or my friend’s marijuana.” Seeley said, recalling that his mother’s response was always “Oh, we knew you were good. We knew you weren’t doing it.”

“They want to believe their child,” he said. But if they examine the types of behaviors in the time frame they started finding the pipes they might see other things that are happening that may be part of the bigger picture.

Seeley says red flags include changes in behavior, erratic behavior, changing friends, mood swings and dropping grades. “A lot of the families that contact me are … putting it toward puberty or ‘this is just what teens do.’”

Seeley said at that point it’s critical to contact a professional to decide if their child is “just being a teenager” or is heading down the road of addiction.

For Martha and Henry L. of Houston, the changes in their 19-year-old daughter, Allison, were obvious. She became caught up in the party scene at college and started missing classes, causing her grades to plummet. Allison entered treatment in Los Angeles, but after four weeks she left the center on her own. The couple contacted Seeley to help locate Allison and get her back into treatment.

“Ken guided us through the whole process,” Martha said. “After we first met him that night at the hotel he could have easily left us and said ‘call me when you find your daughter’, but he didn’t. He told us no matter what time of the night we heard from her to call him.”

Allison was found and brought in for the intervention the next day. She agreed to go to treatment and she and Seeley left for the treatment center the next morning. What was so outstanding about Seeley, Martha said, was that he was in contact with them through the entire turbulent transition and he continues to stay updated with the family.

“Not only is he wonderful to us as parents … but he was willing to spend as much time and have as much respect for Allison as possible,” she said.

A Certified Addiction Specialist and Registered Interventionist, Seeley joined the show “Intervention” six years ago. Today, he divides his time between the show and running his private practice, Intervention 911, which he has built into the number one intervention case management company in the country.

Dennis Wallin, program director for Anamika Recovery Center in Anaheim has known Seeley since 2003, having worked with him to transition clients into treatment.

“Ken is a true leader and visionary within the recovery and intervention field,” Wallin said. “His motivation in his work is to be of absolute service to others in need of help. That willingness to be of service, in my opinion, has been the foundation for Ken’s success as an interventionist.”

Though Seeley boasts a 98 percent success rate in getting addicts into treatment, he is quick to point out that is only part of his task.

“Anybody can get somebody to treatment,” the soft-spoken Seeley said. “It’s about setting healthy boundaries and putting accountability to the addict and helping to support them in recovery. That’s what we focus on.”

Seeley’s fees for an intervention range from $3,500 to $10,000, depending on whether he is hired by the treatment center or by the family.

But he notes that you can’t put a price tag on the feeling of watching an addict surrender to treatment, recover and then later thank their family for putting them into treatment.

“It’s never easy,” Seeley said. “I promise you it’s not easy for the families and it certainly isn’t easy for the addicts. But when you get to that other side there’s no better feeling than to turn over their loved-one and watch them start on the road to healthy recovery.”

For more of this week’s Introspect visit: http://www.dailytitan.com/2010/02/introspect-heroin-sweeps-oc and http://www.dailytitan.com/2010/02/touchstones-treatment.

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