Interventionist Joani Gammill Rescues Drug Addicts On The Brink Of Self-Destruction

10:33 PM, Nov 3, 2011   |    comments
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WUSA) --  As the sun sets on the scenic waterways of Annapolis, a darker side to life in Maryland's capital city emerges. Drug dealers, many selling crack cocaine, emerge on street corners in a certain part of town.
It is also where interventionist Joani Gammill and her little dog Lucy have literally rescued addicts on the brink of self-destruction.

One of them is a young woman named Stephanie, who kept coming back to these streets even when her life was clearly in danger.

Stephanie says, "One time in particular, I got jumped.  They pulled off my clothes. I am running through the hood, naked, with crack in my hand. I am thinking I got away with it... Like, they didn't get my drugs!"

Yet Stephanie knew those drugs were destroying her. 

She remembers, "I was smoking crack and shooting heroin.  I would probably wake up around 5pm. My ex-boyfriend and I, we would go and do bad things,  criminal activity stuff, and go to the pawn shop.  And then go and get heroin and shoot heroin and smoke crack all the way to 5 o'clock the next morning. And drink a bottle of whiskey or whatever, go to sleep, wake up and do it all over again. "     

Finally, a friend brought Joani Gammill in to help. Gammill is a former addict herself and now a drug and alcohol interventionist.  What Gammill does is video tape the tumultuous lives of addicts. Then she gets them on as guests of the Dr. Phil show. And the show sends them to rehab.

When asked if having a camera chronicle her addiction was hard, Stephanie answers, "Not harder than what I was going through with the drugs. Nothing is harder than that. To be in active addiction and not want to use. It is a nightmare."

A nightmare Gammill herself knows well. The child of addicts, she started abusing alcohol and marijuana in her early teens.  As an adult, she became a registered nurse, and then 'diverted' or stole prescription drugs from hospitals where she worked. 

Gammill says, "My first Percocet was stolen at my first job as an RN. And, oh my God, I just loved it. It was like nirvana."

"And that's the difference between my brain and a non-addict's brain. They would not feel that euphoria, that pay off."

Gammill continued abusing prescription drugs even after her children, Mary and Max, were born.  Both have since been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.   She remembers driving them years ago, in their baby car seats, heavily under the influence.

Gammill says, "I did not feel like I was putting my children at risk at the time, and that's the addict part of the brain that is hijacked. Your sense of responsibility is gone."

"There was an instance at the pumpkin patch when Max was young and I passed out and went through a red light and ended up stopping right at a tree before the pumpkin patch.  There was no major accident, but I had blacked out."

"Yeah, I put my kids at risk in the car.  The ones that you hear about are catastrophic.  They have already killed their kids.  But I guarantee there are people out there driving around with kids while they are high on prescription drugs."

Gammill herself finally "got well" with the help of Dr. Phil.  She had been surfing the Internet, trying to discern if her addiction played a role in her son's autism.  She ended up posing that question on the talk show's website, and a producer asked her to come on as guest.  At the end of televised intervention, Gammill agreed to go to rehab.

In the years since, Gammill has brought twelve other addicts on the show. Stephanie is one of them. She has relapsed once since, but received treatment at Serenity Acres in Crownsville, Maryland and is clean again.  She has no desire to go back to "the streets."

Stephanie says, "When I am sober and happy and free, I don't ever want to be anywhere like... that place back there."

Joani Gammill, R.N. is the author of the book "The Interventionist".


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