A&E struck gold back in 2005 when they launched the Emmy-winning Intervention, a docu-style series following alcoholics, drug addicts and those struggling with other disorders from the depths of their addictions through a staged intervention and, if all goes well, off to treatment. Though briefly canceled in 2013, the show was (thankfully) revived just a year later and is now continuing its 15th season. The first of these new episodes aired Sunday, June 19th.
This is Ginjer
Ginjer is a 28-year-old self-described “sugar baby” with a six-year-old son, a sweet but shockingly amenable boyfriend and an addiction to shooting Dilauden that sends me diving beneath coffee tables. (Let’s just say that if you’re the kind of person who gets flipped out by seeing needles insterted into necks, our Ginjer’s going to push your bougie boundaries.)
Still, Ginj, who has the stunned eyes of someone who simply can’t figure out how the fuck life got like this, has agreed to be in a documentary about addiction and I’ve agreed to stick with her through it. Despite the fact that her neck is a map of puncture wounds, she says that “sugar babies” are at the top of the prostitute social structure. (This may not be revelatory but these sugar daddies, by the by, do not look like the ones in Lifetime television’s movies for women.) Still, Ginjer meets men online so she never walks the streets or brings home ones she doesn’t know unless she’s like really desperate or something. Madame du Barry: Take notes.
Ginjer has a $300-a-day habit, so she sees these men constantly, in between looking after her nieces and nephews. As for the poor obliging boyfriend: he was originally one of Ginjer’s johns, but now hopes to marry her. He’s tender and weepy and wears pastels. His name is Percy, which is disconcerting because that’s exactly what his name should be. When Ginjer’s “daddies” come by, Percy gathers up the kids and takes them to the park. Then, at night, Percy stays up late to check if she’s still breathing. Methinks Percy was raised by addicts.
What It Was Like
As a girl, Ginjer was whip smart and breezed through school but at home, things weren’t so comfortable. Her older brothers essentially ignored her until she gained 10 pounds in adolescence, when they gave her the encouraging nickname “Fatty G.” As Ginjer points out, it essentially sounds like a cruel stripper name, so what fun when her father started calling her that, too! She felt more and more out of place, unheard and disrespected.
Even though she was smart enough to earn full tuition college scholarship offers, Ginjer’s family told her that any dreams of a profession were “impractical.” She joined the ROTC, but suffered heat strokes at boot camp and almost died of organ failure. This led to two years of constant illness while she was being prescribed Oxycontin, Fentanyl and Dilauden to manage her pain. During that time, she got a restaurant job and had a child, Brayden.
Addiction caught up with Ginjer when she was high on Dilauden and drove into what she thought was a mailbox—only to discover that it wasn’t a mailbox but a 16-year-old girl. The girl survived, thankfully, but Ginjer got three years in prison, two years of house arrest and a permanently revoked license.
In prison she made it through agonizing withdrawals, but then discovered the pen pal system: if you send men some pictures and make some promises, they’ll send you money! After serving her time, Ginjer walked out with 10K and a Dilauden addiction in remission. What could go wrong?
The inevitable occurred. Ginjer suffered an injury, and the doctor prescribed—well, you know. Now with no skills, no driver’s license and an awakened Dilauden addiction, Ginjer began looking for sugar daddies.
We head into commercial break with Ginjer stroking her neck, looking for a fresh vein, saying, “The only time I feel happy is when I have an extra pill and I’m with the kids!” Fade to black.
What It’s Like Now
We return with alternating scenes of Ginjer delusionally telling us about her quality sugar baby services (she offers the guys glasses of water!) and shots of various middle-aged men getting out of pickups, hoisting their guts up and heading into Ginjer’s filthy house. “You are their ideal of what they want in a girl,” says Ginjer in voice-over. “You don’t belong to yourself, you belong with them.”
Unfortunately, belonging with them can lead to some unexpected travails. “Let me go put a #*@**@ needle in my neck because I can’t deal right now!” Ginjer exclaims after one of the fatter sugar daddies breaks her bed. By this point, she’s out of drugs, owes money to her dealer and her landlord, and her son’s been taken away. Plus, she’s terrified of going into withdrawal.
Next thing we know, Ginger is wearing a dress the color of a Tequila Sunrise and trudging alone, at 2 a.m., up the highway towards her dealer’s house. She holds her phone aloft, like a lamp. It’s the only steady light in this girl’s life. “I have lost so much of who I am, what I was about, because of this addiction,” she tells us.
This time we’ve got Ken Seeley as the interventionist, and though he’s put on a few needed kilos since I last got a gander at him, he still wears the expression of a man who’s just sent his soup back. I like him. Ginjer’s family and the ever-patient Percy are slumped on sofas as Seeley points out that for 10 years the family’s been running behind the disease, and now they’re going to get in front of it. So, what are they going to say to get Ginjer into treatment?
Ginjer’s brother points out that Ginjer can get her son back if she gets clean. Ginjer’s father squints and grumbles some kind shit but seems sort of useless. Percy pouts that his job is to hold Ginjer’s hand and give love. Ginjer’s mom Shearon (this is a family that does not subscribe to easily spelled names) likes Percy’s admission, and is confused by Seeley’s barely controlled eye roll. When Seeley points out that the two of them seem to like the chaos, Percy sighs and Shearon clucks, but Seeley keeps on. “She’s addicted to drugs and you’re addicted to her.”
“What good does it do to fight on something that’s not going to change?” Percy mews.
“You can change it, by changing yourself,” Seeley says.
Silence. Crickets and tumbleweeds.
In a voiceover, Seeley points out that “the family system is not hearing their part in keeping her sick.”
But hark! Ginjer is arriving! She tumbles out of a mini-van and heads for the intervention room. Inside, her brother waits by the door to herd her in, like a fluttering moth. The music rises and the door opens…
We break for commercial, which with cruel irony or else the best timing ever, is for Gold Balm neck tightening and firming cream.
“Fuck this,” says our Ginj when she opens the door and sees the ominous grouping. But her brother herds her in and Seeley gives the interventionist’s spiel. Percy begins reading his letter to her. “No relationship should have to deal with multiple partners,” he weeps. “Your body is tired.” Ginjer puts her head on his shoulder, caresses his hand. Her intervention is very, very hard on him.
Ginjer’s brother pipes up. “You’re the worst junkie I’ve ever seen. Ever since you hit that girl, I realized your morals are gone.” She sobs as he more helpfully adds that she can get her son back if she quits.
“Do this for yourself,” Shearon says.
“When? I’m working with a six-hour window!” Ginjer replies. This isn’t the usual addict’s diversion tactic: she’s not talking about how she’ll soon be needed to manage the Syrian political crisis or even the menial chores many Intervention alum try to use as get-out-of-treatment cards. Ginjer means she’s got six hours until withdrawal hits hard.
Seeley explains that there’s a nurse who will travel to rehab with her, and he will make sure she’s okay. And with that Ginjer says, “Yeah, I’ll go.”
Percy seems the only one who’s really happy she’s agreed, though her brother points out that Ginjer has been ready for this—and it’s true, it certainly seems like this lost girl has been waiting forever for some actual loving help.
A song plays, “Ain’t a Game to Me Now,” but we know it never was for poor Ginjer. She heads to the Destin Recovery Center in Florida, terrified but thoughtful. “I’m really scared that I won’t be able to get the learning that I need, the loving myself.”
64 Days Later
Happy times! Ginjer’s been sober since the intervention. Her hair is clean and her neck is blessedly un-punctured. She has corresponded with no one back home, apart from Percy. I picture him donning a bonnet and churning butter, counting the days ‘til her return.
But Ginjer wonders if that’s the best relationship for her. She “doesn’t want anyone saving” her anymore. In a year, she hopes that she’s “still sober, that someone can say I’ve helped them…I no longer feel like a victim of myself.”
Final update: Ginger ended her relationship with Percy, and has been sober since December 17th 2015.
Originally published in AfterPartyMagazine