Candy Finnigan from A&E’s Intervention
Hello everyone and welcome to the GOT mental health podcast. I am your co-host Rachel Kove. I’m the owner of Transformational Solutions, a life coaching business that specializes in addiction, trauma and self-destructive behaviors. I’m an author, podcast host, group facilitator, speaker and co-creator of the online eight-week self-development course, Divisions Program.
I’m your co-host Arthur Mogilevsky, a business entrepreneur, dad, animal activist and owner of AM Healthcare, California’s leading dual diagnosis and mental health treatment center, focusing on comprehensive and immersive treatment experiences with a network of facilities and dedicated professionals committed to providing each and every client the intimacy of care they so richly deserve. This is the GOT mental health podcast, a fun, open and safe space where we talk to experts, thought leaders and professionals in the mental health field. Our goal is to educate, inspire and empower people to take care of their mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. Join us weekly to hear Arthur talk like this, as we talk all things mental health. Follow us wherever you go to get your podcasts and don’t forget to rate and review as it really supports our show. Thanks guys and keep listening to Arthur.
RK : Welcome everyone, to the GOT mental health podcast. I am your host Rachel Kove along with my co-host Arthur Mokiki?
AM : It’s Mogilevsky, Rachel
RK : Okay thank you Arthur. Today we have a host that I am so excited to interview: Miss Candy Finnegan. You might recognize her from the A&E show, Intervention. She speaks all over the country, she’s a recovery and placement specialist as well as an addiction specialist and amongst many other things, a wonderful mother and I just can’t wait to talk to you today.
AM : Yes, very exciting.
CF : I wouldn’t go so far as to say a wonderful mother
RK : Well you’re a mother
CF : That’s for sure
AM : Well I mean, I feel like we have like a million questions but obviously because of your experience and knowledge and the space and outside the space I think the ultimate question is, where were we in Substance Abuse and Mental Health? Where are we now and where do you think we’re going?
CF : I got into the business 30 years ago and there was nothing competitive because there weren’t that many treatment programs. There was a diversion program where you went and threw up and said they were sick and Charter and all those which were bizarre, not 12-step based at all. And then you had your Betty Ford and your Hazelden and a few in between. ASAP, which was a really good program in Van Nuys hospital. So I think that everybody wanted everybody to get well.
AM : Yeah, that must have been such a great time.
CF : Well it was and it wasn’t. There was no adolescent care. I mean you went into a lockdown if you were mental – that’s just the way it was.
RK : Do you feel there wasn’t any adolescent care because parents were intentionally ignorant about their children’s mental health?
CF : No, I don’t think there was addiction anywhere near what it is now with adolescents. I mean I think 12 year olds were probably still playing with dolls. Social media has blown up the whole society.
RK : Why do you think that is?
CF : Because nobody can keep a secret. No, I didn’t want my parents to know what I was doing, for God’s sakes! And now you’ve got these kids that are getting high and I mean actually literally dying on social media.
RK : Literally dying!
CF : Yeah, of course I grew up in the midwest – I grew up in Kansas – and it took a long time to get anything there but this was the 60s and they were still behind the times when I graduated from high school and I don’t think I smoked pot till I was 19. But I’m an older generation but I got all these older musicians that started it but their music hardly got to Kansas.
AM : It’s interesting because I have this debate with my friends all the time – the culture of friendships and groups of friends has changed significantly because of the internet and because of social media whereas I remember when I was a kid we would go out in the street and play on bikes and soccer and fall down, cruise up and bleed and there’s activity.
CF : And you got home before dinner time.
AM : Right, so I feel like that plays a factor into it.
CF : I had a friend who had a younger sister who was certainly not mentally stable and she had an imaginary friend and I kind of dug it. She wasn’t any trouble, didn’t have to take her anywhere and doctor her all the time, didn’t argue. I thought, yeah, that’s not such a bad idea. But then the world is made up of that now. These kids that play video games and don’t even know each other, and the dating thing, oh my God, my daughter went on a couple of those and I just had to follow and have a gun ready. I don’t know how you trust people when we are a group of liars. I didn’t grow up that way – I mean I got punished if I got caught lying. Only thing I ever lied at was at confession because I couldn’t remember how many times I’d lied. So it was like one of those things where the older population, the respected parental guidance – no such thing.
AM : Not anymore, yeah that’s fascinating – I mean it’s participation awards…
CF : I think a lot of it started when there were two families that had to work and you had these latchkey kids and video games put a whole new twist on life and social media – I mean because the Tik Tok thing is a whole generation – that’s the bee’s knees. If you’re not on Tik Tok then who are you? A 16 year old – one of the big girls in Tik Tok – a 16 year old – just killed herself. A lot of pressure. Not all these kids certainly have addiction or mental problems but they have such enormous egos. To vilify everything that you think about yourself and you’ve perceived, and leaving it up to other people to know that you’re not that, then it’s a fraud.
RK : So how do you measure any of this?
CF : I have a whole theory as far as… I met a young man about about four or five months ago and he’s 17. He’s been in eight treatment centers and he’s now just kind of frenetically smoking pot constantly which is a psychosis in itself. But this kid loves treatment. He loves going away, there’s no responsibility, he doesn’t get any [ __ ] from anybody and I I said to him, “Really?” He said, “Well yeah, do you have a clinical diagnosis?” That’s the first thing he said to me at the intervention. I said, “Yeah, I do.” He said, “What is it?” and I said, “Full of [ __ ]! That’s my clinical diagnosis for you, buddy.” I said, “You have turned into such a brat. It doesn’t matter how you get attention but you got this other brother and sister over here making straight A’s, one of them leaving for college, and all they get to worry about is you and spend every last penny on you to try to get you well and it’s a game.”
RK : What was his response to you being brutally honest?
CF : He flipped me off. I said, “Oh, that is so threatening, God, keep it up!”
RK : Do a lot of the clientele that you work with respond well to brutal honesty?
CF : No, but I have to tell brutal honesty to 17 year olds because maybe they don’t know they’re full of [ __ ] because their parents don’t and it’s like you’re gonna go to treatment one more time? Really? Where would you like to go? Oh you’d like to go to Colorado because they’re skiing? How about going to the desert?
RK : So what would you tell the parents of a child who you view as full of [ __ ]?
CF : Get your [ __ ] together.
RK : So you see it as modeled behavior from the parents?
CF : No, I think it’s fear.
RK : Fear of what?
CF : Fear of them looking bad.
RK : Fear of the parents looking bad? I love this topic because I often feel like kids become these identified patients and it’s the parents not wanting to look at themselves.
CF : Well, I would have to say that a majority of the interventions that I do on a young person, a young adult, anything under 20, I intervene on the parents. The kid, I can get to do anything.
RK : I’m so curious how you do that, and your approach with that, because I’ve done a lot of family groups, I’ve worked with a lot of families myself, so do I know that it’s an art form because you can’t go in guns blazing at the parents.
CF : And you can’t mirror, “This is who I am and this is who you need to be,” because they all have a different story. I do a wonderful adolescent parent group on Saturday mornings with Lynn Peterson from One Recovery. The amount of mental illness, the amount of suicide ideation, the amount of self-harm and they always start out with this. My child doesn’t have a problem with drugs.
RK : It is unbelievable, the denial that exists within families. And also I find it’s not substances, like right now so many adolescents are self-harming and no one wants to talk about it.
CF : It’s more rampant than it’s ever been and there’s an awful lot of treatment centers that will not take clients – young people harming themselves. I just had it happen and the treatment center didn’t even know what was going on at the treatment center.
RK : So I am someone who has recovered from self-harming and I love to be honest about this because I cannot tell you how many clients I’ve worked with who struggle with addiction and then they get sober from addiction and they either had self-harming tendencies or behavior before the substance or they started doing it after. And that was my story as well. It’s frustrating because if parents want to stay in denial your kid is going to suffer and I’m curious like why do you think parents want to stay in denial? Is it because they want to avoid their own pain?
CF : Well, let’s ask an average parent. If they’re in their teens they don’t give them a bath or they don’t watch them shower. They don’t know they’re self-harming. A majority of self-harm is, other than your wrist, unless it’s really suicide ideation and then it’s always your neck. But what did self-harm do to you?
RK : For me, it was an escape from pain. It was like I’m going to alleviate the pain for seconds because with emotional pain there’s this feeling of powerlessness. With physical pain I can control it to a point. And I think that’s what people are looking for at the end of the day, is the sense of relief from emotional pain.
CF : But it’s also an endorphin high
RK : It is a total endorphin high and honestly, and I know this is a heavy subject and I’m glad we’re talking about it because for me, that was harder for me to quit than alcohol.
CF : Well, I understand that because it was your dirty little secret and parents don’t understand it. I mean there’s self-harm and then there’s self-mutilation and I did an absolutely heart-wrenching story on the show about the second or third intervention in the whole show that was self-mutilation. And it came from an incestual situation. She only cut herself with broken mirrors and it was very sexually graphic but she wasn’t trying to kill herself. She was trying to kill the pain from the incest. And it was her grandmother.
AM : I really want to take advantage of it since we’re already on this topic, I mean if you’d be able to give pointers or suggestions to somebody who’s watching who doesn’t know or can’t, is not watching their child take a shower, what are signs, what are things that they can be on the lookout for?
CF : If you had a psychiatrist, the best psychologist, the best adolescent specialist in the whole world the person that can answer that better is Rachel because she’s had that interior trigger in her soul. You can’t explain it to parents. The self-mutilation thing with this girl was that she bled and she wanted to make sure that she was still alive. She would almost have cycles with it depending on her mental condition. They were born again Christians and they thought it was the devil of course. So I can’t get into that with people.
RK : I can understand the feeling of wanting to be alive because often with trauma you disassociate from the body in order to survive and so then it leaves you with this feeling of numbness and so when you feel numb you don’t feel connected to anything externally and the only thing you feel connected to potentially is your emotional pain so then you cut, and you feel something.
CF : And it also goes along with eating disorders and at this point I think we never recognized that just your average young teenage boy has an eating disorder. There were hardly any places you could send them that they would take them. You had a lot of obesity but not real anorexia and purging. And of course, here once again we’ve created that you got to be thin. Rumor has it that Jim Morrison did not die of a heroin overdose, he died in a bathtub that he would sit for hours in a bathtub. Because he would go back to France and gain tons and tons of weight, eat everything that had butter on it and butter alone and gained maybe 20 or 30 pounds and he was getting ready to go back on tour and he went on the heroin diet. And there are a lot of really skinny young guys that were on billboards (that I’m not going to mention their names) that all got onto heroin to be able to not eat. Because they didn’t want to be really speedy and what’s a diet pill for this generation? There isn’t really too much right and then there’s Adderall.
RK : So do you feel that compulsive behaviors are a way to control the pain?
CF : Yes, I think kids get eating disorders. I was talking to a mother the other night and this is a boy and she said, “Oh my God, he’s in the bathroom throwing up.” And I said, “Is he sick or does he have bulimia?” And she goes, “Well, I don’t know.” And I thought, okay well maybe you do need my help. But really good treatment centers, as far as I’m concerned, are gonna watch you changing and shifting deck chairs on the Titanic, whether you’re going into an eating disorder and shopping, that’s huge, and anything that’s outside plastic surgery.
RK : Oh my god! Well, body dysmorphia just runs rampant
CF : But that is an eating disorder, I said body imaging, but we don’t call it that.
RK : I think this goes back to the question that Arthur originally asked in the beginning: where were we in the past and where are we now with mental health. Where do you think we are now with mental health?
CF : Well, I grew up with a brother that was severely bipolar and this was in the 50s. Thank God Menningers was in Topeka, Kansas because he did get good help but it certainly fractured (he was adopted too), certainly fractured my family. I truly believed as he got older, because mental illness is progressive just like addiction, I thought that he was a really good actor. I thought it was kind of to get all the attention, well I’d have none of that. You-who over here. So my acting out was much more prolific as far as barrel racing and on my horse and I mean it was like Junior Olympics swimming. It was like I wanted the accolades from something I did instead of my behavior.
RK : Because if you got the accolades what did you?
CF : I could take credit for it, not where I came from, who I am, who my parents were, Bob and Jenny’s daughter, which I loved being, but I didn’t meet up to Bob and Jen thinking they adopted this lovely girl and I didn’t. I never wanted to be a lovely girl. I wanted to be a kick-ass broad you wouldn’t mess with.
RK : Yeah, I understand that and because we’re on the topic of adolescence, recently I did an interview for Beverly Hills High School.
CF : I did the Sober Lunch there for 11 years.
RK : Oh wow! So they have a podcast there now and they have this new incredible program there called The Wellness Center.
CF : Oh I kind of started it
RK : With Ali?
CF : I started it a long long time ago with the Maple Center because it had to have somebody supervising me.
RK : So it was literally this week that I was interviewed by their podcast and I was crying on the show because that program was not around when I went there and I so wish it had been because I was suffering so much as an adolescent. I think we briefly grazed over it earlier but how do parents connect to their adolescents? What are some ways that you feel? Because I have a lot of friends and colleagues who have teenagers and they say well, my kid just wants to go into their room and be on their phone. They don’t want to connect with me. Do you think a part of that is true?
CF : What are they connecting with? I said this to a mother about a year ago. Nothing irritates me more than, “Would you like to go shopping and lunch. Really? That’s all you got?” I mean to dress them up and make them look cute or go have sushi? That isn’t any inner intermingling or any spiritual work with a kid. You walk in and say what the hell is going on? Or you go in your room with them.
AM : It’s interesting, because you see that a lot of times parents, and speaking as a parent myself and trying not to do these types of things, they try to make their kids do what they feel comfortable with doing at that moment rather than asking the kid what would you enjoy doing, and what do you have fun with? So for instance, my daughter loves to dress up like witches and fly around the house together with wands so we put on wings and we fly around making noises.
RK : I love that
AM : But instead I could be like oh well let’s just come with me and we can go watch TV or we can go drive around to the supermarket, watching movies. I think it’s too often because of the work, stress, environment, because of whatever the culture that we live in these days, parents are exhausted and they’re tired and so when kids come to them and say they want to play or want to do things, if you hear enough of the times “I’m tired, I’m not interested, I can’t, I’m working, I’m whatever.”
CF : Then who’s become the world’s greatest nanny? TVs and video games. I mean, you think about Columbine and you think about Sandy Hook, and you think about all those tragedies – all those kids never shot a gun until they planned this whole thing it was all kill ‘em on video. I’ve done two interventions. One completely out of this crazed on video and no addiction. And now, for the grace of God, there’s Don Grant who is a master. I gave him his first job – he’s a master genius – I hired him as a tech. But there are four of them and there’s one treatment center and it’s just for boys. But when I was growing up and even my daughter didn’t have 11 princesses and all 400,000 dollar outfits and the red cruise on Disney that you spend five or six hundred dollars on outfits for – that outer extension is just separating us from the real spiritual work. It’s been a long time – even though I’m very active in 12-step – I don’t see a lot of parents that took their kids to church except maybe on Easter or something. Of course I was made to go to church but I at least had a foundation. They say the least amount of activity in a church is Sunday school. I get it Sunday you’re tired, you’re exhausted. Catholics go to church on Saturday for God’s sake – that’s when confession is – because they want a day off. So I think the pandemic just put the icing on it. 100,000 deaths from January ‘20 to ‘21 with opiates alone.
AM : That kind of leads me to the third part of the first question was, where do you think we’re going with everything, obviously with Covid and with mental health on the rise?
CF : Well I think there’s more severe mental illness right now than there’s ever been. I can say some of it is linked to addiction but mental illness is now considered OCD, ADHD, dementia. It isn’t just your bipolar, depression, anxiety – how many kids have anxiety? How many kids are on medication? Nothing is tested on an adolescent pharmaceutical wise because it costs them four or five times what it does to get an FDA but they’re handing them out like candy. I mean I have not met, well maybe one or two, who haven’t at least tried Adderall, that are either in college or high school.
RK : Parents are doing that when their kids are like seven and six and eight.
CF : A mother just told me that at 11 years old her daughter was diagnosed with bipolar. And I said to her, “Give me that guy’s name.” It is frustrating because I said that’s impossible.
AM : I’ve heard even five-year-olds – I don’t know if it’s an excuse because they just don’t want to deal with it and they’re just trying to find a reason just to put them on something so that they can just walk away and say get rid of it, get medicated.
RK : Can you speak to what he just said – do you think that is one of the main reasons?
CF : Yes, there’s families that ring a bell for you to come get your meds.
RK :I mean it’s just unbelievable. They don’t know what to do and they think that if they just fix the kid, that will make them look good, so it’s like they’re trying to preserve their own self-image and really trying to control and manage their own anxiety.
CF : Absolutely. So here we are in Los Angeles, California. You give birth to a baby and if you want them to go to a really good preschool you have to sign them up within three or four months.
RK : Insanity. I remember that. I’m like, I have to now think about, okay if my son wants to go to Harvard I need to start figuring out the preschool he wants to go to now.
CF : All of those feeder schools, so well, I have two children and I would say at least 400 to 500,000 dollars is what we spent on them.
AM : There’s so many outliers it’s unbelievable because my wife is originally from Belarus, she lived in Israel. The level of education in Russia is like 10 times higher than it is here and so like when she came here and she understood the language, obviously spoke a little bit of English here, and there she went to Birmingham High she graduated as valedictorian, after just being here for like a year. Just the the style of education, the quality of it, how much effort they put in
CF : Must have been really easy.
AM : But that’s a transition here, from an education standpoint, absolutely, there’s just so many factors in play here.
CF : I went to a Catholic school and a lot of it was crazy – I mean we spent weeks on the pope which wasn’t going to get me anywhere – but it kind of kept me tuned in so I wasn’t crazed but there weren’t drugs or alcohol and me growing up.
RK : There really wasn’t? So how do you think that has now developed into what it is today? Are there just more drugs now?
CF : Oh my God, yes.
RK : And there’s Craigslist because people are now buying fentanyl off Craigslist and this is the horrible thing about the world we live in now.
CF : I didn’t have anything to escape. There wasn’t reason for me to escape. I got up, it’s a beautiful season, there were four of them, I went to school, I came home, I hung out with my friends, I rode my bike, I had a horse, what am I running away from? I had dinner with my family every night at six o’clock unless they had liver and onions and then I’d fly and say I was sick and I mean where was I going? It’s like all the shows were Ozzie and Harriet and Make Room for Daddy and I mean it was all a life that existed – it wasn’t made up [ __ ] like it is today.
RK : That’s a really interesting line: it is that it was a life that existed and not made up, I mean wow.
CF : I watched Ricky Nelson – he was three years older than I was and he was cute and he was and everybody’s dad went to work and his mother wore an apron in a dress every time when the father would come home she would be in a dress and an apron making dinner. Although my mother didn’t cook without aids, it wasn’t so far out of reach to believe that you could look into somebody’s life. And I’m sure there were many poverty areas and stuff they didn’t have but there wasn’t an 89 percent chance of the father leaving.
AM : That’s not the real statistic, is it?
CF : Yes, it is. It really is.
AM : As a whole in general, regardless of culture, background, area?
CF : Well, it’s mainly in large cities.
AM : You’re kidding. Over what period of time?
CF : Maybe like five. By five my kids went to private school when my daughter went in my daughter’s 42. When my daughter went in, myself and one other family, two other families were the only ones married out of a class of 30. So you had my dad, my mom, my stepmom, my stepdad, and so at parent meetings I think, God, these people have four parents.
AM : I kind of love this conversation and we can go on for hours, but I do want to curtail it back to obviously your specialty and your wisdom in the space of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.
CF : My resentments, right?
AM : I’m trying to prettify, beautify this conversation. Obviously, you’re very well known for your experience in the intervention world and so I’m curious, what led you to want to become an interventionist? What inspired you to start this?
CF : It found me. Lori lived across the street from me and she said (my kids were going and I probably had maybe five or six years of sobriety) and she said, “Let’s go to UCLA and become drug and alcohol counselors.” And I said what? She said, “Oh yeah, let’s go get sushi and see a movie and tell them we’re going to school.” But I already had an undergrad degree and she had been an actress and she only had a high school degree and she is the most magnificent learner. I mean she ended up getting her PhD. And I went okay, how else am I going to get out of the house? It sounds good to me. My kids were young.
RK: How old were you at the time?
CF : 52, no 48 when I started, I was 52 when I graduated. I got straight A’s – I’m certainly ADHD and I got straight A’s. And the reason is because of the topic and I was fascinated with pharmaceuticals and I loved all of it and I went to work at Charter I got my hours at Beverly Glen Hospital. It was like 3,000 hours – a lot of hours. I got sober on May 1st of ‘86 and in June of ‘86 I’d met a man named Buddy Arnold and he was starting and trying to start a musician’s assistance program because when most of us got sober and particularly all the musicians there was no help. The union didn’t help at all. The union didn’t have insurance. I was lucky enough to have SAG after us so we did have really good insurance. I miss SAG – it was so good. We started having a picnic, musician’s picnic to raise funds to put people into treatment and we’d get treatment centers to give us a good deal and I’d say we spent maybe five or six thousand dollars on somebody and then we asked that they do community service when they get out. Well, who was going to go get these people? Me. Because now all these musicians that were loaded are now sober and they’re out on tour so I volunteered. I was at the Musicians Union, my husband and David Crosby were very instrumental in starting it and I’d go to these people’s houses and this be-ragged wife or girlfriend would come to the door and I’d go, “Hi I’m here from the Musicians Assistance program and they’d go, “Get in here and get this [ __ ] out of here.” And I’d go, “Oh, you’re not going to help me?” And so I started doing mini interventions without knowing the name. I did a huge band that was very well known and so I had to have the band in the intervention to say if the lead singer didn’t go he couldn’t work. So that was how it all started. I would just go over and go, “Are you really pooping on the couch? Wait till I tell people. You’ve got a big reputation.” Because I married the man, not the job, I didn’t really know anything about music other than Dolly Parton and so it was like it was a perfect fit for me. Because I didn’t know who anybody was and I wasn’t very impressed with them and I had a lot of great stories.
RK : Did it feel fulfilling?
CF : I didn’t know what fulfilling was at that point. I knew they might not die because by that point there’d been like the Mama Castles and the Hendricks and the Tommy Bolens and I mean, it just kept happening and I would go, don’t these people know that heroin kills you?
RK : So at that time were there a lot of interventionists?
CF : No, there were two women interventionists.
RK : Were you one of them? Or two other women?
CF : Yes, one of them was a woman named Joanne Tall who lives in Crawford, Colorado now and the other one was Pat Kelly and she was a Christian interventionist.
RK : So for people that don’t know what an interventionist is could you define what an interventionist is?
CF : Somebody that comes in and ruins an addict’s life.
RK : And the family system sometimes – comes in and ruins the family of the addict.
CF : Well, it’s a person that comes in and interrupts a family because it’s a family disease. It interrupts a cycle of not knowing what to do and having them look at their part, having him hopefully get into Al-Anon, having them hopefully know that they didn’t cause it, they can’t cure it, they can’t change it, but every time that they open their mouth and give them money they’re killing them.
RK : When you say it’s a family disease can you explain that?
CF : Well, we have a designated patient but how did they get there?
RK : For parents that are listening out there this is not about blaming you.
CF : Oh no, you can’t blame them because they didn’t take the drugs. They didn’t take the alcohol.
RK : I always tell clients that I work with because often children are so loyal to their parents. They want their parents’ approval and love so badly so they never, usually they never want to say my mom is a bad mom and my dad is a bad dad – sometimes they do but I often find that when I say to them how did you learn the behavior growing up? If your parents were these teachers and you were a student coming into the world where did you learn that behavior?
CF : Yeah, where did you learn the cheating and thieving? Well we’ll see because the kids are the secret keepers. My daughter certainly was with me. But nobody made them – you don’t pour alcohol down somebody. Now I know an awful lot of parents who smoke pot with their kids and I just shamed him. I don’t know what else.
RK : You shamed the parents? How would you do that?
CF : Well, I’d go, “You smoke pot with your kid? Tell me why. Do you know about the adolescent brain? Do you know that what you’ve just caused them is to feel so differently that they’re going to chase it for the rest of their life?
RK : Is that shaming or is that bringing clarity?
CF : It’s shaming him because they’re not getting the same thing out of it as the kid is, and it’s a bonding technique.
RK : It is, it’s sad because it is a way they’re trying to connect to the kid but they’re so disconnected from themselves that they don’t know how to connect.
CF : Well I had this dad go, “Can you imagine going to Disneyland and not smoking a joint?” and I go, “As a matter of fact, I can. What made you think your 14 year old should smoke pot before he goes to Disneyland?”
AM : What do you say to the argument, “I’d rather have my kid do drugs with me than do it on the streets on their own?”
RK : Great question.
CF : Well I’d have to say I’d like to take you to the street. I’d like you to see what the hell you’re doing to this kid. There’s a whole bunch of people down by the Greyhound bus station that didn’t have any parental guidance.
AM : The sad thing is that this is such a generational problem. It’s like when you become a parent…
CF : Well, they don’t want to be parents, they want to be friends.
AM : Exactly, but at the same time when you become a parent you’re sitting at the hospital and this magnificent situation happens and it’s just beautiful and it’s emotional.
CF : And it’s downhill from there. I destroyed my life.
AM : But I mean, there isn’t anybody just standing there that’s like, “Oh, here’s a handbook and if you follow these steps you’ll be an effective person.”
CF : The more you read the more it doesn’t come true. Somebody said what books did you read when you were pregnant? And I said, well I got through one chapter and it scared the [ __ ] out of me and I thought I don’t want to do that.
AM : I’ll tell you something even funnier. I mean we read an entire children’s names book and we ended up picking up a name that wasn’t in it and it was like 500 pages so it’s like you can’t read about this which is sad and funny.
CF : Right, but you have wonderful Russian names that people can actually remember
AM : Because they can’t pronounce them well
CF : But neither can they Irish. I was gonna name my daughter Fiona and my son Seamus and they were calling him Shamu – that’s a whale. And then I was gonna name my daughter Briar because that’s a patron saint of song because of my husband, and I ended up naming him Bridget because that’s the same patron saint of harmony. But in Ireland there are no seconds and thirds – everybody has their own name, so my son is Kelly Patrick Finnegan and my husband was Michael Kelly Finnegan, so you join the people up here and down there and you get a name. But I didn’t know there were going to be a thousand little girls named Kelly right because that is such a masculine name in Ireland and he’s got five girls in his first grade class that have the same name so he’s going, why did you give me a girl’s name?
AM : It is a stressful process because you have to think of all the bullying that could potentially happen with your child’s name and I mean I can’t imagine if the kid’s name is Umbrella.
CF : By the way, my name was Candy House.
RK : There was a kid in my Elementary School whose last name was Poopus.
AM : That’s really sad.
CF : I lived next door to Crystal Chandelier of the Learjet family
AM : You’re making this up
CF : No I’m not, and King David, and Jay Bird lived two doors down from me, I mean give it up.
AM : And now you fuel it with social media and forget about it! I mean that’s why people change their names.
CF : I use my first legal name which is Heather and my maiden name on social media because I had five or six thousand – I had fourteen thousand people on my Facebook and I’m not gonna put my kids playing downtown theater so I finally had a little picture of me with my horse when I was five and so everybody thought what is a small child doing on Facebook and they finally got tuned to it but I cut the social media off quickly because of four – five thousand letters every six months. Why won’t you help me? Why won’t you get me on the show? What made you not answer me? I got it originally because A&E made me but they were maintaining it. They weren’t really giving questions and answers but I did give the general number to where you could apply if you wanted to be on the show but make sure you know what you’re doing.
AM : That must have been so difficult for you knowing that you come from a place because you love helping people and you’re doing this for the right reasons.
CF : 95% of everybody that went on that show was so lost.
RK : What was your intention for creating that show? I didn’t create it – I became one of them. It’s when you meet somebody, first of all in recovery, and second of all who’s authentic, you can really see through people in the darkest hours of their life and I just made sure that they were very clear that I was the voice and the feeling behind this but then I brought somebody much bigger than I am into that room to help them. Love and God are not going to save the person that’s dying – you are, by acting differently. They’d go, we prayed to God and he brought me here. And I don’t mean it in any other way other than that it’s incredibly spiritual work to me. I mean these people are dying and I have to say to them you can baby them and bury them but don’t call me. And many times when I’ve got a really tough one I’ll just say let’s calm down, let’s quit arguing, get a piece of paper, get a pencil (I’ll hand it to them) and go, let’s plan your funeral because you should have everything you want.
AM : Wow, that’s profound.
CF : And I said so, what’s your favorite flower and please not No Tears by Eric Clapton because that’s been done.
RK : What is typically their response to that?
CF : They have none. Amazing Grace.
AM : Amazing Grace is usually the number one song?
CF : I mean if they’ve been at church. I mean these kids usually went like yesterday or something like to some Metallica thing or something so I just say there’s no way out of this. You’re not gonna stop, you’re only getting worse but I will tell you the consequences for you not going today. I’m going to make sure that everybody sticks because I don’t write letters, I do statements.
AM : Your process – what goes on in your mind? How do you stage it, like the basics? What does it look like to bring you on board on a case and what’s your stuff?
CF : Tell me the truth and then I’ll teach you how to lie to your kid long enough to get them in there.
AM : Wow, that was again, simple but amazing.
CF : I mean I’ve had people, very well-known actresses come here because they want to talk to you about a script. Any parent in the world, we’d like you to come over because we have birthday money for you, I mean whatever.
RK : Oh my God, I remember when my parents did mine, I was so devastated because they knew how to get me. My parents are divorced but they’re still best friends and I was sleeping at my dad’s house. My dad’s like, “Hey we’re gonna watch 24 together, just me, you and your mom, and I was like “oh my God, oh my God, it is so exciting, I love 24!” Watched 24, woke up the next morning, “hey do you wanna have some breakfast together?” “Yeah sure, I’d love that,” and then they just laid down the hammer. “I’m taking you to treatment” and they had to lie or I would not. Of course they had to lie by having that family experience for me because I love being with my family.
CF : And I’ve had great situations. I had the woman that walked in and she goes, “Is it my birthday?” I went “yeah it’s your birthday. It’s your rebirth day.” I’ve had people going, “Who’s that guy?” And they go, “I was married to you.” I could write a book on the hilarious things that have happened. People walking and going, “I thought you were dead.” I said No.
RK : Have you ever had people be violent with you?
CF : Yes but I’ve left two treatment centers – I mean when I was taking them to treatment I knew that one of them had a knife. I had them searched and this was before we got to the airport. I let people get high before they get on a plane, I buy them their last drink. I’m not God – just getting them where they need to go and I don’t want them to start going through details.
RK : It’s emotional that you say that.
CF : Because I don’t want him to start going through details. They go, you’re gonna buy me my last drink? 80 dollars later I go, I think you’ve had your last thousand drinks.
RK : So when you work with a client and their family you are typically the beginning of their treatment.
CF : Well I’m the introduction to “There’s help.”
RK : How long do you typically stay in communication with them after they go to treatment – residential treatment?
CF : Well, for the parents or the loved ones I usually have a closure situation. I don’t send people to any place that doesn’t have good treatment because I don’t want to have to follow them and hear all their bitching and moaning that the food isn’t good and I don’t like the girls standing. I send them to some place that can handle treatment.
RK : What do you think a good treatment center is? What do you think they provide? What do you look for when you send a client to it?
CF : Really, really good medical detox. I like medical detoxes that are on the facility because once they feel good there is a little chance at getting them to the next level. So like Betty Ford has the Ottenstein Center and they detox you there. And the same thing with The Meadows and other places. It’s not always possible but if you go to detox and you start feeling good why do you want to go to treatment? You gotta get up, go someplace else, start all over again. I absolutely insist on gender specific treatment – really important to me because I think women have much different issues than men and who’s the next victim when you go to co-ed?
AM : I couldn’t agree with you more than men with gender-specific programs.
CF : I like people who really know what they’re medically doing as far as detoxing benzos and because it’s not a seven day turnaround.
RK : Do you feel that you feel that people get money hungry? Who come into this field really genuinely wanting to help people and then they start making a lot of money from the work that they’re doing and then they lose all sense of morale?
CF : Well I have some other thoughts too. A nice kid whose parents have money, never had a job, might have gotten out of high school, maybe yes maybe no, and they’re now sober six months and let’s get you sober living, let’s get you a treatment center, we’re off and running. There’s an adolescent treatment center that the guy just sold for 1.1 billion dollars so it’s big money.
RK : If they go to a treatment center and they feel it was successful what type of care do you think they’re getting?
CF : 90 days, repetition, first month teach them the 12 Steps, teach them about and the anonymous programs. Second one to have them start working them. But this isn’t the only time you’re going to do this. You’ve got to get a sponsor. I’m not a big proponent of getting a part-time sponsor if you’re out of the city or if you’re in another state and they go you can get a make-believe one. Just get your own.
RK : And what about for the people that don’t do 12 steps or they’re opposed to it and what are the other options besides 12 steps that you find are beneficial or helpful?
CF : Buying a horse. I mean I think that there are some decent ones. Modern Management or whatever that was where you could have two drinks on Thursday and four drinks on Friday and the woman ended up being drunk and killed a daughter and father and ended up in jail and went to 12-step. I don’t think there’s any such thing as moderation of anything but I think that there’s some programs I’m sure that can help. They just don’t have a spiritual component.
AM : So are you saying anything that has some form of a spiritual component? There’s Refuge Recovery, there’s Celebrate Recovery.
CF : I don’t think that they are proven as much as AA but here’s the real truth for me. I don’t want a treatment center that is run by 12-step. I want them to have the philosophy. I don’t want anybody to have to go to 12 step. I was just talking with the treatment center and they said mandatory 12-step meetings. I said, “my good fellow, that’s against all principles and traditions of AA. And he said, “What do you mean?” I said, “You have to have a desire to go to a 12-step. Nobody can make you do anything and when you do it’s because you don’t have a program.
RK : Do you feel a program is a way to keep people accountable to their personal growth, for their spiritual elevation?
CF : I think it’s a way to get you off the street. It’s easier to get high in there now than it used to be. I think it lets you be not so isolating, lets you be with a bunch of people like you don’t get to brag how good or how bad you are. Although it is difficult if you’re an older person and an alcoholic and you’re rooming with the 21 year old heroin addict I would like you to be able to at least try to get a community. I think you’re taught things. We did the thing where this is a disease and you’re not a bad person, you’re a sick person. And I I’m okay with that but how about, “you’re mentally ill?” I mean, you don’t get up every day and almost kill yourself when you’re stable. And then eventually it came around that this was a brain disease but it wasn’t before – it was totally physical and psychological. So I think that they need to know the facts. I used to love the treatment center that took them to the morgue but 50 or 60 percent of them in there was an overdose, homicide, suicide, drug overdose, and they all mainly had underlying drugs or alcohol. But they don’t do that anymore. And jails – visit a nice jail. Sit down with those.
AM : Experiential therapy?
CF : Well, reality. But kids don’t get arrested – nothing happens, especially like in L.A these days. So you can’t get any shock treatment out of it.
AM : I’d be fascinated to get your opinion because obviously you mentioned in the beginning that back in the day when treatment was just in its infancy it was a cash pay environment. You live in a world now where 95% of people in treatment are utilizing insurance.
CF : And every three to ten days they tell them that they have to leave. So who do you have in conjunction that is going to appeal and appeal and appeal and appeal?
AM :One of the main reasons we actually hired a physician in-house because honestly being an in-network provider with a lot of carriers we’re constantly having to fight and convince.
CF : Well, Betty Ford is now a 14 day Treatment Center and then they move over to Daisy Lane which is IOP and sober living. They’re not even really interested in fighting the fight.
AM : Yeah, we fight the fight. I mean, we’re a minimum of 30 days and residential detox minimum, I don’t care who you are. And then the outpatient’s six months. So for me it’s how can we be better in fighting the insurance companies for better coverage but now you tackle on because you’re talking about finding the community-based programs, finding a higher power, spiritual beliefs, so now I’m going to throw a screw into this plan. So you have let’s say United Healthcare – it is one of the largest insurance providers. They look at the statistics and they say we’re not getting anywhere with this. Let’s start pushing out MAT programs and unless you are ready to offer a suboxone form or maintenance program that’s methadone based or suboxone-based, Vivitrol whatever it is that you end up using, how do you balance the philosophy that you have (which I agree with) and now you have somebody on the line at an 800 number that’s telling you how this patient’s treatment should be run.
CF : I was in the very beginning of Buprenorphine when it was being smuggled into the country and it was working. I was the first recovery ambassador to Alchemy’s pharmaceutical company in Boston (it’s now in Ireland) for Vivitrol. I set up their whole pharmaceutical sales force and everything and everybody had to be in recovery. All of their original testing was for alcohol and they did it in Russia and then when the opiate came in it was basically Naltrexone and it didn’t last 28 days – it lasts 21. They paid me really well, I took a shot, it didn’t get me high. I went to the pharmaceutical place in Cincinnati, I was at a ton of training and it would have worked but just as it started to really work, now they want to take it into prisons. And they couldn’t stay little to get big, they had to get big. Insurance pays for us as long as you’re in a treatment center. They don’t pay for it if you go to a doctor but back East they have Vivitrol clinics and it’s paid for but it’s like 400 bucks. Who’s got 400 bucks? How long do you stay on it? Is it a six-month program? Because Suboxone was a 21 day program. You had to be trained by a doctor who would give you Suboxone. You could not dispense it if you had not been through this training and they had a whole bunch of incentives.
AM : It’s unbelievable. I started really about a couple years ago. I checked – there were about 960 Suboxone approved physicians in the state of California.
CF : There were 11 in the country.
AM : None of them had a clue. They were very excited to meet with me because they were like, “oh wow, so we can work with you in providing therapy to our clients who are putting these meds on?” and I was like, “Yeah, absolutely, we can actually create a cohesive relationship but 98% of the doctors I talked to had no idea about anything to do with mental health and they weren’t offering any support to their clients. They were just offering a drug. I mean it’s just fascinating and that number is going to be growing and growing.
CF : So that was the thing – you had to wait till the train was going to run over you and then you’d get Suboxone or Subutex. Now they carry it in case they can’t get a drug.
RK : So fascinating! If you had a magical wand
CF : I do have one
RK : Fantastic, is it Harry Potter?
CF : No it is pink and it has sparkly things on it
RK : Oh I thought it was the one from Harry Potter World at Universal Studios
CF : I always pass it around in my groups – I did adolescent groups for a year and I’d go, “Okay, here’s the magic wand. What are you gonna do with it?”
RK : So what do you want to do with your magic wand to the mental health industry?
CF : I want to provide enough good care at a reasonable price and have incredible follow-up.
RK : This is the frustration I have, is that it’s really hard to provide really good care sometimes if you don’t have money, so what do you do for those people that don’t have money?
CF : Go to DD Hirsch – it’s a wonderful place and I gotta tell you River Community is primarily mental health, it’s all Medicare and it kicks ass.
RK : Do you actually believe that you have to have money to go to some place that is helpful?
CF : Well, tell me because when Reagan was in office and let 1650 people go with two days of medication, some of them are still living on the streets of Los Angeles, you get somebody and you give them medication and how long till they go off of it? At least three weeks they’re gone and they don’t titrate themselves down. I would love to have a mental health center – it could even be named the Finnegan Center – I wouldn’t object to it – and I would do nothing but really good assessments so you don’t have somebody who is living off the quandary of I’m bipolar, versus No, you’re taking Adderall and benzos: same thing – bipolar. So I think that to get a really good assessment and then when you do spot neurological problems that you get an MRI. I mean a lot of older people fall and bang their head and then it looks like dementia, it’s alcohol dementia. There’s opiate dementia. What are we doing about that?
RK : So you’re saying a problem right now is the assessments are not complex enough?
CF : I don’t think they are – it’s 20 minutes.
RK : It drives me crazy. I had a male client one time and I’m not a doctor, but it’s just frustrating to me because after doing this for 13 years it’s the same story it’s the same pattern and it’s exhausting to experience because they’re not getting the they’re not getting the correct treatment and they’re being diagnosed over the phone. Within 20 minutes this male client was diagnosed bipolar with borderline personality disorder and I often find in this case and it sticks to them because there’s a part of them that goes, “Oh yay, finally found an answer.”
CF : And they can never ever get out of this. An interesting story as I had a 62 year old woman. She was a drunk like she’d been drinking for 40 years and she could still kind of walk at a very reputable treatment center and she had to do an assessment after the intervention. I was sitting right beside her which kind of helps if you can do one instead of weeks before and she said, “Oh I only drink two drinks.” I guess they were 58 ounces apiece, then she had two bottles of wine a night and they said, “Well, you don’t meet the criteria to come into our program,” and I’d grab the phone and I said, “What did you just say?” And she goes, “Well, two drinks – she doesn’t meet the criteria.” I said, “This woman just wet herself, she is a die-hard alcoholic. I’m sitting with she and her family. I can’t interrupt because of HIPAA during the assessment process and you just told her that she doesn’t need to come in. Who are you and what is your name?” She said, “Oh my name’s Vanessa and I have a book here that I have to ask these 12 questions and it’s California state law you have to do an assessment before they come in. I don’t work with anybody as an interventionist. I’ll sit with them for an hour after I get them to treatment and if they tell me they don’t qualify and I’ve done an intervention and I know the treatment center then I’ll take them back home or I’ll find someplace else but I’m not going to have them lie to you. Who’s doing these assessments? Or you’re hiring the people that graduated from your treatment centers where three weeks go by and they get out and they go to work for them. I think that you can have peers and you can have a community that comes in and talks to people and stuff that are newly sober but I don’t want you working there.
AM: What would you say is the magic number? What’s the magic time?
CF : For treatment?
AM : For us it’s two years of sobriety before you can apply for a job – not alumni just in general.
CF : Oh I want you to have a year of sobriety. It used to be at UCLA you had to have a year sobriety although I don’t know how you proved it – I guess brought over their chip or something, to be able to go to their school and you can have 20 minutes now, As you can see Ken Staley has his new certification and Sober College has a certification and it’s weekends and every other Saturday or so, I mean it’s some dumb thing and you get your CDAC. Then try to get a job someplace for 3000 hours. We have enough I always say, include your hopes and dreams and don’t say drug and alcohol counselor.
AM : So I have a I have my final question for you…
RK : We’re having you back Candy by the way.
AM : Yeah, you’re coming back because I can go on for hours. Taking what you know now, taking the knowledge you’ve had, the experience of what you’ve seen, if you can go back in time when you’re first getting started in this space what piece of advice or information would you give yourself?
CF : Don’t think you’re going to get rich. This is not a job. This is not a career. It is your life’s work and if you don’t care about every single person that you come in contact with, get out of here. I’ll show you the door. Get some intervention training that has to do with a spiritual connection of working with dying people. I took a hospice course – it really helped.
RK : Where could people go to get really good?
CF : The Johnson Institute is owned by Hazelden now and there’s some reputable places but you could take the three-day class and hang your little sign out that you’re an interventionist. There are a few organizations that don’t mean much. CIP is a certified intervention professional and there’s a BRI board registered intervention that went bankrupt and then people make them up all the time and give you certificates for them but you, by spiritual connection, need to go and get your CADC, get some education and go to an addiction studies college and or one that has a course – Pierce’s excellent with Alan Glass’s A Dream Come True for me. He won’t teach intervention but he asks me to come in every semester and explain it and do a mock one but he said I’m not teaching this in this school, are you crazy? And because you don’t have any criteria that you can turn people down. I would hate to be a minister and not believe in God.
RK : Well, to speak to that a little bit and then we’ll wrap it up. I really want this podcast to be a place where people in this workspace can come and listen to and gain knowledge and gain support. Because honestly, unfortunately I think there’s a lot of unwell people that work in this field. I don’t mean to say that to put people down. I have been very unwell in my life, I’m not a saint. I’m constantly doing inventory on myself to make sure I stay aligned to my values and my purpose and I am constantly seeking my spirituality and I’m in therapy constantly. How do you stay mentally and emotionally sane? How do you stay close to God?
CF : Oh my God, I’m not kidding Rachel, I think I’m one of the luckiest people in the world, that people trust me and they call me at their lowest possible. Can you help me? And I will never say no. I might not be able to but I had a woman call a couple days ago whose son is very very mentally ill and I said, “Here are some numbers. I’ll call them first, I’ll be on a call with you so I can explain and blah blah blah blah blah.” He’s living in a tent in a park and it’s lucky that she does have some money because then we can go out and try to see where he is because he’s been in and out of 5150s for I don’t know maybe two or three years. She said, “I just can’t let him die out there,” and I said, “You’re not kidding. I’m so grateful you called me.” I mean I worked 24/7. The last couple of months my husband was so sick I had to cut it way back. By the grace of God everything was really cut back for me just so I could take much more attention of him and take care of him, but the truth of it is that my God, I never dreamed I’d have a life like that.
RK : What is something you do for your self-care every day?
CF : Ask God to let me do the right work and think the right thing. I’ve probably done thousands – people ask how many interventions have you done and I said, “Why would I know? I have no idea, I really don’t, I have no idea. “What’s your success rate?” and I said 100% because if I get in your family you’re gonna change. Getting them to treatment is not the success for me.
AM : I love it, for everything that you’ve seen, for everything that you’ve done, for everything you’ve been a part of, the fact that you’re able to stay so humble through this in an ego driven industry. that’s inspiring.
CF : When you asked me how I became this, it picked me. Am I the girl that’s gonna keep a secret? Am I the girl that you’re going to ask to come in their family and really, honest to God, air all your dirty laundry? And some of it’s hellacious. Am I the one that’s gonna go in your family and care about you and I don’t want your person that you love to die? Yeah I am. How I got here was I got sober, I never looked back, I looked up, not down, and I knew I had to help somebody in a real strategic manner to be able to keep my own recovery. Recovery comes first to me. Not always – in the last couple years it’s waned but I go to three meetings a week because I don’t know which one I need to be at. I still am a deep believer of The Big Book as a textbook. I wrote a book called When Enough is Enough because there isn’t any way anybody can’t do an intervention and it’s a comprehensive guide to doing an intervention and there isn’t any reason.
AM : Where can you purchase it?
CF : Amazon and you can get it used for $1.50.
RK : Candy, you are an absolute joy and I look at you as like a mentor. I know we’re still getting to know each other but I really appreciate all of your words of wisdom and everything, that you just stay so loyal to your truth and even though people may get mad at what you have to say I love that you say it anyway because you’re really someone that fights for people’s lives.
CF : I have to fight for them until they can fight for themselves. Well, both of you are heroes in this too. I mean, we have to be warriors at this point because the war keeps coming and I keep having to change the way I act and change the way I do but I’m never going to change the way I feel. Because what if I don’t do what I’m supposed to do? Same thing with both of you. Podcasts are a wonderful way of of intervening on people without having to go through the process because it’s a learning. Podcasts should be a learning process that someone can listen to and walk away with it with a new idea or a new feeling. It’s a wonderful medium.
AM : I can I can’t count how many people are going to be like super excited about this one
CF : And she only says [ __ ] four times
AM : I gotta applaud. You manifested that before the podcast started.
CF : I don’t like bleeps.
RK : Candy, thank you again. I adore you, I love you, I appreciate you so much and for everyone out there, thank you for listening to another episode of GOT Mental Health with myself, Rachel Kove and Arthur Mogafliti…
AM : Mogilevsky, Rachel
RK : Okay and please go to Apple podcast, rate, review and follow and we look forward to your feedback. And next week we have a new episode, thanks guys!