Left with a void in his life, Varney did some soul-searching and came up with the idea of handling interventions for others. With the help of a friend, he created a website for his business, which he calls Intervention First.
Things often start with a phone call from a worried family member. After the initial consultation, Varney compiles a longer list of family members and acquaintances who should be involved and works to get them together. The key to a successful intervention, Varney explained, is including people from all areas of the addicted person's life.
Some interventions take several weeks to organize. More than once Varney has relied on the skills of advocacy he learned arguing on behalf of clients in court to convince unwilling family members to participate. "Sometimes, you get a hold of family members who don't want to bother. They've given up on the person with the drinking or drug problem," he said. "So that can be challenging."
Mary Alice Moore Leonhardt, a member of the Connecticut chapter of Lawyers Concerned For Lawyers, knows of Varney's work and calls it "highly commendable." Leonhardt is known statewide for providing support for attorneys who suffer from debilitating conditions, including alcohol and substance abuse.
She said substance abuse issues afflict many in the legal profession. She said Varney's decision to help others as part of his own recovery is a good example for other lawyers struggling with addiction. "By helping other people, you are able to reflect on your own recovery ... It helps with your own recovery," Leonhardt said. "So it's selfish and selfless."
In an intervention he completed recently, Varney said he was contacted by the 80-year-old parents of a 58-year-old man who had been drinking heavily for more than 40 years.
"Their son was essentially homeless, he was unemployable for years, and he was being hospitalized on a regular basis for alcohol poisoning and he was falling down and hurting himself," Varney recalled. "His parents weren't sure if they could help him, but they were afraid they would feel horrible if something happened to him. And for them, it wasn't a matter of what would happen to him, but when."
With that concern in mind, Varney had to work fast. He organized an intervention in a few days' time. One important participant was the man's son, a teenager, who hadn't been in touch with his father for several years.
The group surprised the man at his parents' house one Saturday, and sat in a circle around him. Instead of confronting the addicted person with threats or ultimatums, the model Varney uses calls for friends and family members to share their love and concern for the person. In this case, each of the eight or so family members told the man why they wanted him to get help.