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Monday, September 1, 2014
The Other Kardashian - Stasie, The Interventionist
An exclusive interview with a Kardashian—but this one's been handling interventions before Kim, Khloe and Kourtney were anywhere near the spotlight.
By Amy Dresner
You know wheninterventionist Stasie Kardashian walks into a room. She may be short in stature, but she is a bigger-than-life personality with a loud gravelly voice that was earned through years of bad habits. She’s intense, talkative, open and eager to help. Despite her moneyed upbringing, she has that swagger of the streets and that wearied wisdom of somebody who hasn’t just been to hell, she’s lived there and is back to tell the tale and help other people escape.
What is your relationship to the Kardashians?
My father was their father’s uncle. I’ve never met them. It’s just so weird. And it’s actually a hindrance to my work. People think I’m going to be a typical “Kardashian” - flash, glam, attitude - and that’s not what you want in an interventionist.
They took me to the hospital and I found out I was pregnant with a cocaine baby wrapped around my left fallopian tube. I had 10 minutes to get into emergency surgery.
When you started doing interventions 14 years ago, Kim and Khloe and Kourtney weren’t even known social commodities, right?
Nobody even knew how to spell or pronounce my last name. Now they have no problem.
You had a reality series on the OWN network. Tell me about that.
Yeah, I had my own show. It was green lit. It was called “Stasie Kardashian—A Life Worth Living.” And basically, it was about my life growing up, all the trials and tribulations and why I’m so effective in my life’s work as an interventionist, specializing in teens and young adults. The way I grew up here in LA, all the insane things I’ve experienced give me an unspoken understanding with clients. Kids confide in me. They know I’ve been there just as an addict knows an addict from across the room. My crazy background has always given me an edge with interventions right out of the gate. Because it’s really like me intervening on myself as a kid.I get it. I was also an overindulged, entitled, bratty thrill seeker.
We shot a lot of the pilot in New Orleans. It never aired. There were a few reasons for that. OWN network was 2 years late in launching it. And the director of creative development got fired. To further complicate matters, my ex-girlfriend was a producer on the show. I had been moved back to New Orleans when I was 17 instead of being put into a California Youth Authority so it was very triggering to be back there, in the projects, where all the insanity had gone down. The producers wanted to shoot me going to my mom’s house without giving her a heads up that I was coming over with a crew. They wanted the grit and the surprise. But that whole scenario felt unethical to me. They told me I had creative control but nothing had ever been signed so I walked. And the new director of development cancelled all the shows that were slotted. So take your pick on why it never came to fruition.
You were one of the first interventionists approached by Intervention, and you turned it down. Why?
I didn’t know the premise of the show until I got there, saw video clips and met with Sam Medler, the producer/creator. I found the show incredibly exploitative. You get families and addicts at their worst possible moment who can’t afford treatment or an intervention. And then you cattle them up and put them on national TV. I was totally turned off by it and I said so. I will admit that it’s been a great public service but it has also created a glitch in the system. Now families think they can do an intervention themselves because they’ve seen the show. There is a modality and structure to doing it. My mentorEd Storti said it takes a lot more to be an interventionist than to just be a sober member of AA. All these yahoos think they can get sober and be an interventionist or open a sober living. You have to innately have a certain skill set to be a successful interventionist. And you either have it or you don’t. It can’t be taught.
You were first in recovery at age 14. Is anybody ever too young to get sober?
Nobody is ever too young however I went in and out for 8 years….from 14-22. But I always felt a lot of love there. The seeds were planted for me. I just had to do more research.
Why do you think you’re successful as an interventionist?
I can read a situation and anticipate what will happen, especially with young adults and teens. My ability to predict things makes me one step ahead of the curve. Ed (Storti) has referred clients to me that nobody wants to touch: scary, high risk situations. I’ll stroll right up to a crack house. I know the deal. I’m pretty fearless. I will be the one who will scale a wall at a clothing optional gay male hotel. I’ve stolen people’s cars, tracked their credit cards. Being an interventionist is like being a combo of an exorcist, Dog the Bounty Hunter and a private investigator.
The most successful interventions are when the whole family gets help and most people don’t know that. A lot of people think the intervention is for the addict. It’s not. The process is for the family. It’s a bonus if the addict goes into treatment. The key is to get the family out of the addict’s crisis, get them financially separated from the addict and get them into Alanon.
Before you started working as an interventionist, you worked in treatment. How was that? Why did you make the switch?
I worked with teens and young adults for ten years, from when I was 23 to 33. It was good. I feel like I was effective as a counselor but the work was very repetitive, same drill day after day. That’s not my personality. I’m not the 9-5 girl.
How I made the switch? Well, Cher called me and asked me if I could be involved in an intervention. (I used to date Chas) I had no idea what an intervention was. I called in sick to work and showed up at the Mondrian on Sunset. It was all industry people and an interventionist. And by the end of the pre-intervention, I was totally blown away. I was like, “Oh my God, I have to do that! I don’t know how you do that but I have to. Do you have to be a doctor?” I was so impressed with the whole formula and structure of what I had just witnessed. The next day was the intervention and there were over 20 people there. I didn’t think I should read a statement letter because there were people there who knew the guy much better than I did. People were going around the room, reading their letters, crying. They asked the guy if he’d go into treatment and he said, “I want to know what Stasie has to say.” I had nothing prepared but I said, “There is nothing that I can say that hasn’t already been said. Your addiction is far stronger than anything anybody can say that’s in this room.” Afterwards, when I was in the lobby, the interventionist pulls me aside and says, “You need to be an interventionist. I want you to come to the corporate office and meet with my team. Your presence and what you said….You’re incredibly talented and gifted.” I was in shock. Talk about not knowing what’s going to happen if you just show up! I was put in charge of calling all his friends and telling them to cut him off: no more drugs, no more money. I was told he’d reach out to everybody in the room and he did. He called everybody at the same time and we all had the same script: “I’m sorry but I can’t help you if you don’t go to treatment.” And he went to rehab a week and a half later….which is what happens if the protocol is followed correctly.
When you started you were the youngest interventionist in the business. Was that a good thing or did you face prejudice?
I didn’t face prejudice because of my age but one woman came up to me at a function and said, “You know what? We don’t need another interventionist in LA.” I got a lot of that. It was wild back then. We were all super busy but it wasn’t as competitive as it is now. I also got some prejudice because of my energy and how fearless I am.
Speaking of prejudice, you’ve mentioned to me that you have lost jobs because of your sexuality. Why?
Certain families have Googled me and found out I was in a relationship with Chas for 3 years. That freaks out some super conservative wealthy families, especially in the South. Honestly, I was shocked that that still exists.
Tell me about your education. You dropped out at sixth grade but still went to college. Explain. What did you study?
I was institutionalized for four years after sixth grade starting at age 14. They said I was “incorrigible.” There were no adolescent treatment centers in L.A. at that time. I was just a rebellious addict but I was put into adult psych hospitals. I was locked up in the now defunct Thalians for two years. I decided to check out college when I dropped my friend off one day. My major was psych and administration of criminal justice, the only two things I happen to know anything about.
Give us a little background on your using and sobriety.
I celebrated 25 years of sobriety on July 26th. When I was using, I would take anything. I never even asked what it was. I was addicted to 3 tabs of acid a day when I was 17. Then I was a heroin addict. I started shooting crystal at 16. From that I moved to cocaine becoming a crazy crackhead at 21. When I finally got clean, I had been up for seven days. I was barefoot, walking on glass, weighing a total of 87 pounds and coughing up blood.
Every now and then my sister would go down to ghost town in Venice and try to find me, see if I was still alive. I’d go to her house, sleep for a few days and eat. On one occasion I started projectile vomiting and had the most intense pain in my rib cage. They took me to the hospital and I found out I was pregnant with a cocaine baby wrapped around my left fallopian tube. I had ten minutes to get into emergency surgery.
I used to score on 6th and San Pedro on Skid Row. One night it was three in the morning and I had no syringe. I found a needle in the gutter. It was so old that there were no unit marks on it anymore. I bent the needle back into place and shot up in my friend’s car. And I am HIV negative which is a miracle. So there is no question in my mind if there is a God. But that’s how I rolled….impulsivity at a level 10, reckless, fearless. I turned tricks for drugs at 17. I was the only kid who was homeless in Hollywood by choice. I just liked being with the action at Motel Hell, a famous 80’s abandoned motel on Sycamore. It’s where all the kids squatted. And Okie dogs…you can buy drugs there 24/7. I hung out there a lot.
I almost lost my left arm when I was 20 from shooting up undissolved Percodan. I got an abscess. I went to the hospital and the doctor said “I have patients dying of illness and car accidents. You are just some junkie. You’re wasting my time.” She refused to give me stitches. So I had to pack it and unpack it 3 times a day. And I never thought, “Uh oh. I should really get clean.” I just thought, “Well I won’t shoot up in my left arm anymore.“ That’s the insidiousness of this disease.
What are your thoughts on Celebrity Rehab?
Hideous. It’s the same as Intervention. I don’t think non addicts, like Dr. Drew, can fully grasp the spectrum of addiction. It’s really about one addict helping another.
When do you know if an intervention will be successful?
If an addict doesn’t go to treatment that day it doesn’t mean it’s a failed intervention. It’s what we call a “holding pattern.” The key is the family getting help. If they don’t stop enabling the addict, the addict is not going to stop using. If they can follow the guidelines set up by the interventionist, eventually the client will go to treatment. It falls on the family. If there is one co-dependent enabler in the mix, it can be difficult. The addict will say they will never talk to you again to scare you into changing your mind to keep enabling them but if you hold strong, down the road they will thank you.
Amy Dresner is a columnist for The Fix.