Tags: Pointer 2016
February 18, 2016Jeff Jay may live in Grosse Pointe Farms and have an office in St. Clair Shores, but the founder of Love First works around the country helping families help their loved ones through intervention.
It’s more than a professional undertaking for Jay, who was born and raised in Grosse Pointe. It’s a personal endeavor as well, as Jay knows all too well the perils of addiction.
“I was the poster child of Grosse Pointe alcohol and drug addiction,” he said. “I was a National Merit Scholar, president of Grosse Pointe South’s student association, head altar boy at St. Paul when I went there. I looked really good on the outside. Then I went away to college.
“By the time I was 26, I dropped out of college,” he continued. “I was hitchhiking around the United States. I wound up homeless, penniless, with a bleeding ulcer, a bleeding colon, neuropathy in my legs. I still didn’t think I had an alcohol problem; just a cash flow problem.”
Jay had solid plans to commit suicide, unbeknownst to his parents. However, a last-minute intervention got him into treatment back in Michigan. That intervention has made all the difference to Jay and in return, to thousands of lives he has since touched through his work.
“When I was five years sober I decided to stop making a decent living and start being an alcohol and drug counselor,” he said.
He worked at Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Center in Michigan, then moved to Florida to work for a branch of Hazelden, where he met a counselor named Debra, whom he later married.
“In 1993, we decided to set the world on fire and try to make ‘intervention’ a household word,” said Jay, who has been married just shy of 24 years. “By some miracle, we got Hazelden to put in a bunch of money and Betty Ford Center to put in a bunch of money.”
The couple moved back to Grosse Pointe in the late 1990s and saw success with Love First, a national private practice based in St. Clair Shores.
“We have clinicians in different parts of the country, I travel to interventions around the country, we offer structured family recovery and high-level training for clinicians at Betty Ford Center,” he said. “The thing I love ! is when somebody calls me and they’re at the end of their rope. It’s finally gotten bad enough they’re calling Jeff Jay. They don’t know what to do. Here’s the great thing — I do know. I’ve worked with thousands of families. No matter how bizarre the situation, I know how to help them one way or another. When the phone call ends, they are calm and they have the beginning of a plan.
“I love that moment. Even though I don’t have a clue what they’re going to say, I can very quickly start to see what needs to change in a family system and what has to happen for this person to get well. I want to change them from an enabling system to an intervening system.”
In 2000, the Jays published their first book, “Love First,” and have followed it up with several others, most recently Jay’s “Navigating Grace,” published last year.
“They’re clinical books written for families and professionals,” Jay said. “‘Navigating Grace’ is more personal, more spiritual. That one I put my heart and soul into ... It was a five-year process, but I contemplated writing it for 20 years. I rewrote it and rewrote it and rewrote it until it was what I thought it should be. It was well-received.”
Jay also serves as webmaster of the Love First website, lovefirst.net, which offers more than 100 pages of advice and resources. There are 4 ½ hours of video online that walk people through the intervention process. Getting started on the road to recovery, Jay said, can be as simple as reading the books, watching the videos and following the directions.
Jay, who has been alcohol- and drug-free for 34 years and a clinician for nearly 30, said the mission of Love First is close to his heart.
“It’s obviously a huge concern — drugs and alcohol — in our community and nobody likes to talk about it,” he said. “I’m a big believer in this personally and professionally. If someone wouldn’t have helped my family, my family wouldn’t have helped me.”