■ BY MARCY SHORTUSE
On Monday, Jan. 13 at 9:30 a.m., St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church will host two people who are eager to help change the world. Debra and Jeff Jay, two very well-known counselors who have done some ground-breaking research on addiction and intervention, will give a presentation at the church. Everyone is invited and there is no charge.
But the Jays will be doing much more than giving a lecture on Monday. They will also be bringing their series of podcasts to the St. Andrew’s website, for everyone to utilize at no charge. In a series called “Get Help – Give Help,” Debra and Jeff chronicle the steps that need to be taken to help a loved one, from realizing there is a problem to conducting a proper intervention that might be more successful.
Church member Bruce Birgbauer is a friend of the Jays and has experience working with them in an intervention situation. With his help the Beacon was allowed to conduct an interview with the Jays, to better help people understand just how important this program might become in their lives. Birgbauer is on the vestry at St. Andrew’s, and he and Mother Michelle Robertshaw were talking about projects in which they could reach out to our community, as well as others. He mentioned to her that he had contact with the Jays, and he thought it would be amazing if they could come here. “We had no idea at this time that they would be at a conference a few miles away,” Birgbauer said. “When we contacted them they jumped at the chance, and even said they would do it for free. We are very excited to have them. This is an important topic. I know just in my men’s group here on the island, every one of us has been affected by addiction and/or alcoholism.”
Jeff Jay is a recovering alcoholic whose life was saved through intervention. He is now a clinical interventionist and addiction specialist and has been guiding families into recovery for more than 30 years. His work has appeared on CNN, the Jane Pauley Show, PBS, Forbes Online and in many professional journals.
Debra, whose life path actually started in the arts, was very young when a friend of hers went through treatment for alcoholism. After becoming more acquainted with the healing and recovery process, she had the epiphany that she was the daughter of a high-functioning alcoholic … and that fact has had a lot to do with who she is.
Debra has appeared frequently on The Oprah Winfrey Show. She is a noted author, lecturer and interventionist. She has been seen most recently on The Dr. Oz Show. She is also a guest speaker at colleges and universities and sits on several boards.
They are a very down-to-earth couple, and their motivation behind creating the podcasts and the website is simple – to make as much information available about helping their friends and loved ones to fully recover from addiction as possible.
“No matter how addicted someone is, if they are still breathing they still have a chance,” Debra said. “That’s why Give Help – Get Help is so important. If people don’t have the right intervention, or have the wrong treatment center, you can’t expect people to succeed. People who have low relapse rates have had a long, extended program that works for them. Compare that to people in the general population who are looking at a 70-percent relapse rate. That’s why something has to change. We have to get to ground zero, right to the families, to the churches and other community groups. Recovery starts when treatment ends.”
Debra said we learn behaviors when we have active addiction in our family.
“It can skip a generation, but the behaviors are still passed down,” she said. “Behaviors stay with people, and that’s why Al-Anon’s 12-step program breaks that chain. When we do that, we can change things for generations moving forward. When I spoke with an editor friend of mine, he related the startling revelation to me that we may be dealing with a pain in our life that might be 200 years old, unwittingly passed down from generation to generation.”
The website, gethelpgivehelp.info, will have links to 38 podcasts, a number that will continually increase. Each podcast is five to 10 minutes long, and they’re called “snap trainings.” They take families through planning and preparation for doing a good, structured, loving intervention. Other information will be available on the site as well.
While Jay and Debra travel the country (and sometimes the world) to help conduct interventions in person, and they have written numerous books on the subject together, on the gethelpgivehelp.info site their names are not mentioned. Their intention is to keep the material “pure,” and they hope people won’t connect their names with personal gain from the site.
“Partnering with the families’ churches keeps it clean; this is just meant to help people, we don’t need anything back,” Debra said. “So many times the church is where people turn to for help, and we hope to reach as many churches as we can.”
There is no charge for the program at St. Andrew’s, and you do not have to be a member of the church to attend. There will be question-and-answer session at the end and a reception afterward.