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Interventionist speaks to students about addiction

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Posted: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 2:25 pm | Updated: 11:50 am, Wed Oct 10, 2012.

Interventionist Candy Finnigan from the television series “Intervention” spoke at Sacramento State Thursday evening about addiction, her personal experience and how to confront a family member about it.

Finnigan has been sober for 26 and a half years, because her mother in law, who was part of the AL-ONON group of friends and family members who share their experiences and help families of alcoholics by following the 12 steps of recovery.

“She just didn’t want her grandchildren to be raised by an alcoholic mother,” said Finnigan.

Finnigan said her mother in law told her that she had 60 days to get sober. Finnigan went through treatment and eventually became sober in 61 days and her husband became sober 13 weeks later.

“I had no conceivable idea that all my pain and all my misery and all my hurt was due to me drinking,” Finnigan said. “I never thought alcohol was my problem, ever because I knew too many people who had way more problems than alcohol. It was the '70s and the '80s ,and it was very acceptable and so I thought what I did was nothing.”

Finnigan said that as the years went by, she became educated that addiction is about “how it affects you, it’s not what other people are doing.”

Finnigan’s personal experience with an alcoholic addiction made her want to help others who were struggling with an addiction.

“Because of getting sober, I knew the only way that I could stay sober was to help other people who suffered the same thing, same disease I had,” Finnigan said. “I had an undergraduate degree from Kansas University, but I really hadn’t had a career, so I just went back and started learning about the disease that I had and how I could help other people.”

Finnigan said, “A fabulous snowball avalanche started” and in 2004 she was asked to participate in show “Intervention.”

“I was a closet alcoholic and now these people on TV letting everybody see me in the world, I just thought ‘it’s fascinating’,” said Finnigan. “I was one of the luckiest people alive, because I’ve put hope and I’ve put a face on recovery and before that there hadn’t been very many true examples.”

Finnigan said the right time to confront a family member about addiction is when they've have done everything he or she could have to help them.

“The right time is when you have done everything humanly, spiritually, emotionally and psychologically possible to get this person to change their life and they won’t,” Finnigan said. “When you finally say 'I’ve had enough' that’s when you call a professional.”

Finnigan said that a professional can guide everybody at the same time, which is a powerful process that was started by Dr. Vern Johnson, a priest who asked family members at funerals what they liked about the person who passed away and thought it would be better to do so when the person was alive.

Finnigan said there are many types of addiction including alcohol, drugs, video games, sex, Facebook and shopping, which is much more of a compulsive act.

The worst epidemic is taking place in the United States and it is prescription medication that starts in college and 2,000 kids a day try prescription medications found in their parents' medicine cabinets said Finnigan. She said these statistics are what made her do the college series. 

Sophomore forensic chemistry major and UNIQUE Programs volunteer Carly Preston said keeping everybody’s interest helped the program bring Finnigan to campus.

“We look at people’s schedule and if they will be doing college tours or they will be in the area at the time,” said Preston. “She is a very fascinating person to listen to and we just considered the availability of our speakers.”

Senior Spanish major Ivan Mondragon is a member of UNIQUE and said the program offers entertaining events that can also be inspirational.

“Sometimes it leads you to make a change in your life like this lecture (and) helps people,” Mondragon said.

Intervention appears on A&E at 9 p.m. every Monday and Finnigan’s book “When Enough is Enough” is out for purchase.

Leticia Lopez can be reached at

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