"The man's son spoke last, and he said he forgave his father, and he wanted him to get treatment," Varney said. "And the father agreed. It was an amazing experience."
He finds the work rewarding on professional and personal levels.
"I've had family members come up to me after an intervention and say they were changed by the process, which is something most people don't ever experience. You sit in a room with a person who is dying from an addiction and tell them how much you love them. It's really powerful just to get families together and make that happen. Most people don't ever get that chance."
The A&E television network show Intervention has made the practice more familiar to most Americans over the past couple of years. Although Varney has no addiction treatment license and has completed no coursework in the subject, after handling more than a dozen interventions (though none involving other lawyers), Varney has become something of an expert.
"I watch the television show and I notice they emphasize some aspects of interventions to pull viewers in," he said. For instance, the interventions he handles are rarely as combative as those seen on TV. And unlike the show, which often features addicted people who attend expensive rehabilitation centers like the Betty Ford Clinic, "most families don't have that kind of money for rehab."
Varney said he measures his success not based on whether someone accepts treatment or gets sober, because that is really beyond the control of anyone but the addict. Instead, his goal is to just get family members together to talk. "My success is whether the families begin to heal after suffering for a long time in the shadow of the addict," Varney said. "Addiction is a family disease."
The intervention business does not take up all of Varney's time. He is also doing clerking work under the supervision of lawyers in some small firms. Moving forward, Varney intends to apply to get his law license restored in January. He said he would balance a legal practice with his newfound avocation of helping people get sober. "That's my goal," he said.