Addiction tears families apart. Jack Bloomfield puts them back together. The interventionist followed his mother’s path toward addiction as a teenager. Today, he gets high on helping families find happiness.
Jack Bloomfield grew up in a town known for its prison. In the 1960s, drugs were easy to find in Ossining, New York. Teens throughout the city were drinking booze, smoking dope and shooting heroin.
Jack knew how to get drugs at 12 years old. He bought a hit of acid from his older brother for $15.
“At that time it was going for $5 a tab, so he found a sucker who would pay him $15,” Jack said. “So my own brother got one over on me.”
It was Jack’s first experience using drugs. It was also the first time he felt relief from his troubled childhood.
“I enjoyed the euphoric feeling of being able to escape the inward angst I always felt,” Jack said. “Whenever I used any kind of chemical drug or alcohol, I took a liking to it right away.”
Jack grew up as the fourth youngest of five brothers. Their father raised the boys for the majority of Jack’s youth. When Jack’s younger brother was born in 1958, their parents were sleeping in different bedrooms and heading for divorce.
“In 1960, fathers never got custody,” Jack said. “We were taken away from my mom because she was a full-blown alcoholic. My dad got custody, and my mom disappeared.”
Three years after he bought LSD from his brother, Jack tried weed, cocaine and heroin. He was trying harder drugs and using them more frequently.
“There were so many young kids that were using needles. I had somebody show me how to stick a needle in my arm one time, and he said, ‘If you shoot it rather than snort it, it feels even better.’”
By age 15, Jack was injecting almost every day. He used almost any drug he could find until he landed in jail shortly before his 18th birthday. When he got out, he replaced his drug addiction with alcohol.
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Jack’s legal troubles disappeared, but alcohol didn’t solve all of his problems. He woke up every day knowing he had to quit drinking, or he’d lose every relationship he had. He’d lose everything he owned. But he didn’t think he could face the world sober.
“I walked into a support group meeting at the age of 20 years old and said ‘If this doesn’t work, I’m putting a gun to my head,’” Jack said. “I knew that I was at the end.”
Jack and his brothers didn’t have a lot of supervision growing up. Their mom was in and out of sanitariums and battling addiction until the divorce.
“We stole their money, and we stole their drugs.”
By Jack’s 15th birthday, his mom had achieved four years of sobriety. Jack left his dad’s house to live with her. She was getting better, but Jack was getting worse. “I had free reign over whatever I wanted to do,” Jack said. “Through the recovery programs, she knew that she couldn’t control me. She couldn’t make me stop.”
Jack and his friends were living dangerously. They were finding increasingly risky ways of supporting their lifestyles, including robbing local pharmacies.
“We would break through the glass door with a cinder block, jimmy the narcotics drawer and run out the door with the drawer,” Jack recalled. “We would get back to the house wherever we were, and inside that drawer was you-name-it narcotics.”
Jack and his friends shot cocaine, heroin, morphine and Demerol, among other drugs. He overdosed twice before turning 18.
“I was rushed to the hospital at 16 and 17. One was on Demerol and one was cocaine. That was when I shot up 10 times in an hour in the bathroom of my mother’s house.”
As his drug use escalated so did his problems with the law. The police never caught him stealing from drug stores, but he was charged with minor crimes like possession of marijuana and loitering with the intent to use drugs.
Jack’s addiction became more severe, and his behavior was getting out of control. Less than six months before his 18th birthday, Jack and his friends held up drug dealers on a nearby college campus.
“We stole their money, and we stole their drugs,” Jack said. “We thought there’s no way they’ll call the cops because they’ll have to tell the cops what we stole.”
When Jack got home, there were four police cars waiting for him. It was Jack’s fourth arrest, and his dad wasn’t bailing him out this time.
Jack and his friends were charged with armed robbery, and Jack was sent to a jail in upstate New York.
“That was a big turning point in my life because it was a very serious charge. That was the first time my dad said, ‘No more am I bailing you out of jail.’”
Jack was about to turn 18 wearing an orange jumpsuit and sneakers with no laces. He was haunted by the sound the electric doors of the cells made when they closed each night. After four nights, one of his brothers bailed him out.
Jack knew he had to make a change, and the legal drinking age was 18 at the time. So Jack started drinking.
“I wasn’t doing it intentionally, but I kicked the drug habit with alcohol,” Jack said. “I started drinking, and I realized it was legal. I wasn’t getting arrested.”
“I would stop for four or five days. Then I would get so uncomfortable living in reality, living in fear, that I would drink again.”
Jack wasn’t in jail, but alcohol wasn’t solving his problems. He was alienating people. He couldn’t control his drinking, and he’d get violent when he was drunk. He’d make mistakes and regret them the next day. He’d try to stop. He’d promise his girlfriend and his family that he’d stop.
“I would stop because I had done something that I was so ashamed of or felt so guilty about,” Jack said. “I would stop for four or five days. Then I would get so uncomfortable living in reality, living in fear, that I would drink again.”
Jack knew he would lose everything if he kept drinking. He knew he’d lose the girl he cared about more than anything else in the world. He didn’t like the way he acted when he drank around her.
One night, his girlfriend’s grandmother gave Jack two beers before the couple drove to a bar 20 minutes away. Halfway through the drive, Jack asked his girlfriend to pull over into a gas station so he could get another beer.
“She’d say, ‘You just had two, and we’re going to a bar,’” Jack recalled. “And I would get enraged because she was questioning me about my drinking.”
But Jack knew she was right. He was fighting an internal battle, and he was losing. “I knew if I kept drinking, I was going to die or lose every relationship that I had,” Jack said. “But another part of me thought I had to drink because I can’t live in reality without alcohol.
“If that’s your daily routine: I can’t drink anymore, and I’ve got to quit. But I have to drink because I can’t survive without it. That’s when I became suicidal because I thought, ‘I don’t know how to live.’”
With nowhere else to turn, Jack turned to the only person he knew in recovery. He asked his mom if he could go to a support group meeting.
“I got a sponsor, and I knew that if I didn’t take this seriously there was a good chance that this wasn’t going to work.”
At age 20, Jack went to a recovery meeting and listened to a 22-year-old man describe his experience with alcohol.
“A young man was up there at 22 years old, only two years older than me, and he had a year and a half sobriety,” Jack said. “He was telling his story, and I was shocked and amazed that someone could be clean and sober after hearing this guy’s story.”
After the meeting, Jack asked the man if he could speak with him. They spoke for two hours, and Jack went to a meeting the next day. He went to another the following night.
“I went to meetings every day for seven days a week,” Jack said. “I got a sponsor, and I knew that if I didn’t take this seriously there was a good chance that this wasn’t going to work.”
In November 2015, Jack celebrated his 40th year of sobriety. He hasn’t had a drink since attending his first meeting.
Jack liked the way alcohol and other drugs made him feel. But he didn’t like the things he did to get drugs. He didn’t like the things he’d do when he was drunk or high. Even with 40 years of sobriety under his belt, he knows he has to be careful because he has a genetic predisposition to addiction.
“My wife will have a second glass of wine and not finish it because she’s starting to get a buzz,” Jack explained. “That doesn’t happen to me. If I were on my second glass of something that’s getting me high, I’d want 12 more glasses.”
“When I was seven years clean and sober, my youngest brother did commit suicide.”
His wife is the same woman who questioned his drinking habits more than 40 years ago. Jack married her shortly after achieving sobriety. The couple brought a child into the world a few years later.
Today, their children are 36 and 32 years old. Their 36-year-old son has twin girls. There is pride in Jack’s voice when he says his children and grandchildren have never seen him drink or use drugs.
“My kids didn’t have to grow up with that,” Jack said. “It wasn’t a perfect household. There’s no such thing. But there was no violence, no anger and no dishonesty.”
Jack sees his grandkids all of the time. He loves when his son asks him to babysit.
“I never take it for granted that he’s calling because I’m sober,” Jack said. “Nobody calls a drunken grandfather and asks him to watch their kids. I’ve been able to have a family where alcohol addiction isn’t alive and well. Unlike my childhood, where alcohol destroyed it.”
There are several reasons Jack was motivated to stay sober, to avoid taking chances. He didn’t want alcohol to ruin his relationship with his wife. He also knew the toll addiction could have on a family.
“When I was seven years clean and sober, my youngest brother did commit suicide,” Jack said.
He was the best man in Jack’s wedding, but Jack said he constantly felt out of place and wondered where he belonged.
“When you’ve got that empty, lonely, nothing-fits-anymore feeling, it just makes me realize how close I was,” Jack said.
Jack never went to a rehab facility or received medical treatment. He believes rehab is necessary for some people, but others can quit by attending recovery meetings. It depends on the severity of their addiction.
“I was not a daily drinker,” Jack said. “I did not have a 10-year daily drinking habit where I had to get medically detoxed. That’s why I was able to walk into a support group meeting without treatment. I didn’t go into withdrawal.”
The social support he received from meetings and people in recovery have helped him maintain sobriety. He’s still active in his support group meetings. He’s seen too many people stop going after 10, 15 or 20 years of sobriety and relapse when they’re offered a drink.
“It’s my belief that if you’re an addict or alcoholic, that ain’t ever going away until your dead,” Jack said. “I’ve seen too many people relapse. They thought it had been so long and they could have one.”
Jack knows the temptation can sneak up on anyone. One of Jack’s friends was sober for 14 years when he had shoulder surgery. The doctor prescribed Percocet to treat pain from the surgery, and three months later his friend was smoking crack.
“It was because he didn’t tell anybody he had a prescription,” Jack said. “He kept the pills secret from his wife and from his friends.”
Jack has had a number of surgeries during recovery. Each time, he tells his wife and his friends that he’ll probably be prescribed pain medication. He also tells the doctor that he’s in recovery because the doctors never ask.
“I want them to know so I don’t do it in secret,” Jack said. “I’ve been clean and sober for 40 years. Every time I’ve had pain meds during surgery, I wish I had more. It lights up my system. The pleasure center of my brain is differently affected.”
Jack said he loves how the anesthesia feels before surgery. After a hernia surgery, he took one morphine pill to relieve the pain, and he wished he had four more.
“But I just can’t do it anymore,” Jack said. “I’ll lose my wife and my kids and my grandkids and the life that I know now. I can’t risk it.”
Jack regularly tells people in recovery meetings to tell people if they’re going to have surgery. If they don’t, they risk losing everything they’ve worked to achieve.
The people who know Jack today probably wouldn’t recognize him 45 years ago. When he talks about intervention and recovery, he talks about love, compassion and hope.
After retiring from a successful business career, Jack considered going back to college to become a counselor. But an opportunity to work in marketing and outreach for a West Palm Beach treatment center arose.
“My job is to make them feel safe and comfortable. No one is pointing fingers.”
The state of Florida became his territory, and he visited doctors, therapists and lawyers to show them how the center could help people recover from addiction. If his treatment center wasn’t a good fit, he’d recommend other options for patients and their family members.
Jack liked the fulfillment he felt when he helped families find recovery resources. He enjoyed the thank-you letters and calls he’d receive, but he conducted most of his work over the phone. He rarely got the opportunity to meet them in person.
“I thought the only way I can meet these people is to become an interventionist,” Jack said. “I knew I wanted to be certified. I didn’t want to just say, ‘I’ve been in recovery 40 years; I know how to do this.’ I didn’t know how. I wanted to be trained.”
He became a Certified ARISE Interventionist and has helped several families through the six-month ARISE intervention process.
“Now, I work with families week after week after week,” Jack said. “It’s an amazing thing.”
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The families are all different. They have different issues. Each is a different challenge, and despite his experience, interventions aren’t easy.
“You’re going into a situation, and your adrenaline is flying,” Jack said. “You don’t know what is going to happen. You don’t have any idea if people are going to be open, skeptical or shut down. My job is to make them feel safe and comfortable. No one is pointing fingers.”
He said it’s a great feeling when the person being intervened on agrees to treatment. But ARISE Intervention focuses on the whole family.
“The big joy is that everybody in that room is making a commitment to a healthier life,” Jack said. “It’s just as good a feeling when a mom says I’ll go to Al-Anon, and the dad says he’ll start therapy. And the other daughter who is 50 pounds overweight commits to join a health club and walk a mile three days a week.”
Jack didn’t choose to be an addict at 12 years old. He didn’t choose to substitute his drug addiction with alcohol. He did choose to ask for help, and every day he chooses to help families overcome the disease that so drastically influenced his life.