Jeff Jay is a clinical interventionist and addiction specialist. He has been working with addicts and their families for more than 30 years. His work has appeared on CNN, The Jane Pauley Show, PBS, Forbes Online and many professional journals. A graduate of the University of Minnesota, he is a certified addictions professional and a certified intervention professional. He has served as president of the Terry McGovern Foundation in Washington D.C., and on the boards of directors for the Michigan Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors, Dawn Farm and the Employee Assistance Professionals Association of Greater Detroit. In addition, he currently serves on the advisory board of Jefferson House in Detroit, Michigan, and on the editorial board of Human Development magazine.
Jay is also a popular writer. He co-wrote the best-selling book Love First: A Family’s Guide to Intervention (2008) and At Wit’s End: What You Need to Know When a Loved One Is Diagnosed with Addiction and Mental Illness (2007). His latest book from Hazelden publishers is Navigating Grace: A Solo Voyage of Survival and Redemption (2015).
The head of a national private practice that provides intervention and Structured Family Recovery™ services, Jay says he is “passionate about intervention for a very simple reason: intervention saved my life.” A former clinician with the Hazelden Foundation and Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Center, his personal recovery from addiction began on October 4, 1981.
With over 30 years of experience in the field, Jeff Jay, of Love First, Inc., is a clinical interventionist, certified addiction specialist, popular speaker, consultant and bestselling author. Claiming intervention and the support of his family and friends saved his own life, Jay’s unique perspective empowers his compassionate approach. In his interview, he tells us about his perspective on maintaining lasting recovery, gives advice to loved ones in the intervention process and shares what he loves most about his work.
What makes you passionate about recovery?
My story is somewhat unusual because I was a national merit scholar, yet I was also struggling with chronic alcoholism and drug addiction. As a result, I was homeless and sleeping in the bushes in the city park. I didn’t think I had a drug and alcohol problem; I thought I just had a cash flow problem. So, obviously, I was in denial. I am passionate about intervention because it saved my life. I had no idea recovery would take me to the places it has — becoming an interventionist, writing books, speaking on national platforms, but I’m immensely grateful. Love First is now the best-selling book on intervention, and I never would have dreamed this journey would have started with my own intervention.
What’s your favorite thing about your job?
Knowing that I can help a family in crisis. I never know what kind of phone calls I’m going to be receiving each day, but they’re usually from an addict’s close friend or family member who’s at their wit’s end. And just when they think there’s nothing more they can do, I can step in and tangibly help them move forward. It’s a powerful thing to feel like an instrument of love in this process.
What would you say to families going through the process of addiction with a loved one?
I would tell them that there is something they can do about it. First, learn about the illness. Knowledge is power when dealing with this disease, and it can help you identify your own enabling behaviors that are often subtle and unconscious. Second, take time to prepare carefully when trying to intervene — it must be well-planned. And, if you can’t afford to hire a professional, there are resources on our website that will show you what you need to know, such as our videos at lovefirst.net. Don’t go into it unprepared.
What do you do to stay energized during the day?
Honestly, my work is pretty energizing because it is rewarding but also because I never know what kind of phone calls I’m going to get or what I need to be ready for. It demands a constant source of energy to be working with families in crisis. Of course, I also try to do things to keep my energy up, such as exercising and eating healthy, but the nature of my work is very rewarding, challenging and energizing.
What are your hobbies outside of work?
My wife Debra and I live in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, and we love it here. I love boating, swimming, reading, traveling, spending time with family and anything out on the water.
If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to so many incredible places, so it’s hard to choose. I think I would choose Rome. I’ve been to Italy, but never to Rome.
If you were stranded on a desert island and you could only take three books with you, what would you choose?
The Bible, God Calling and How to Build a Wooden Boat (A little joke there!)
How do you know when someone is “getting it” in the intervention process?
Addicts don’t spontaneously ask for help for their addiction. Something has to happen in their lives that causes them to seek help. When loved ones come together with a detailed intervention plan and lead with love, it creates the best possible chances of being influential, causing the patient to agree to seek treatment. You can see the light go on in their eyes.
What advice do you have for people who are entering treatment today?
Addiction isn’t something that happens overnight, and neither is recovery. It’s an ongoing process and there will be setbacks and days where you feel hopeless and frustrated. But ultimately, the process will bring back joy and fulfillment beyond anything you can imagine. It worked for me, and I know it can work for you.
What advice do you have for people who are struggling to maintain recovery?
Do not think about the obstacles ahead. It is impossible to know at the beginning of the journey what will come along the way, and it is not necessary to know. Instead, focus on one day at a time. It sounds simple, but it’s very powerful.
How have you been inspired by people in recovery?
They’re miracle stories! I love watching families come together and individuals commit to getting their lives back. It’s truly inspiring to watch what happens when love goes first.
Favorite quote/best advice you’ve ever received?
“Treat others as you’d like to be treated.”