Celebrity Rehab – Wrong or Healing?

There has been much pooh-poohing surrounding VH1’s Celebrity Rehab. Many criticize Dr. David Drew Pinsky’s motives for doing a show such as this. Bloggers, recovering addicts and addiction specialists, feel that it sensationalizes the serious disease of addiction. William Moyers, the Executive Director of Hazeldon Recovery Center, states that Celebrity Rehab is “yet another example of the dumbing down and trivialization of a very serious and chronic illness that robs people of their dignity and respect”.

I consider myself a very compassionate and somewhat understanding person when it relates to addictions. I have many friends that suffer from this disease as well as a few close to me losing their lives, such as my ex-husband Daniel and best friend Bonnie, to this daily never-ending fight. And still, knowing some of the perils and gut-wrenching decisions addicts have to make daily in their lives, I did not understand completely and unequivocally this disease.

At first I admit watching that first show I was disgusted with the concept. People that have this disease that robs them of their lives should not be paraded like circus monkeys for our viewing entertainment. Then it hit me. I wanted to see what went on in a treatment facility. I wanted to hear what addicts had to say. I wanted to finally understand Daniel and Bonnie’s death. You see. Even though I was a first hand observer of what this disease does, I had run away from my own feelings of helplessness. I have spent so many years not fully understanding how this ugly memory of my past works. I am the typical bystander.

Several years ago, after my friend went into rehab, I was told that “I was really great at getting people into treatment but I was lousy at maintaining them”. Ouch! That really did hurt. But you see, I had no idea how treatment worked. Oh sure I had the ground floor understanding but I didn’t see past my own feelings of “Good you are in, now get better and don’t do it again.” I always felt that if the person really wanted to stop they would. Now this is very common feeling amongst the non-addicts but this feeling can also bring great pain to everyone involved.

I never saw what went on in treatment with Daniel. I went to the family meetings but swallowed too many bad tastes in my mouth to ever be really an effective supporter in Dan’s recovery. I didn’t see the disease Daniel had, just the horror it inflicted on me. The addiction counselors at the treatment center weren’t all that concerned at the time with the family, just the patient. Now I know that there have been huge steps in the way of treating the whole family not just the addict but in that era there was not much available with the exception of Al-anon for families. His own sponsor told me I was in the way of Daniel’s recovery. So I was left to struggle with my anger and sadness on my own.

For years I thought Daniel had his private club. A place where I was not allowed and I felt so left out that I could not deal with my own feelings of despair. So I hid them. Hid my feelings away in a nice tidy and mangageable package. I did what was best for my kids and me and I left Dan. Why not! He had all his addict friends, I had the shame that he was an addict. For years I ate my anger for sustenance daily. What a confused mess that was.

Watching Celebrity Rehab, especially the episode where the family was present enlightened me. The wives were saying what I had always wanted to say. The addicts let me know what was in their brains and I really started to heal myself. I started to understand what people with this disease go through. It made sense. I got to see the process. To see how painful it was and to start to really care about these addicts. I felt the years of hurt dropping away and I started to finally understand for the first time in my life that addiction is a disease. It is a disease that robs everyone of their dignity; addict and non-addict alike.

So do I agree with the experts that shun this show as exploitative? For me? No. Because I am seeing what I should have seen years ago. I know now I can ask questions of the addict without feeling I am invading a secret territory. I can stop being angry and hurt and I can understand.

Finally

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20 Responses

  1. I believe this blog was posed as a question…OK, I’ll give you my answer. I think more open communication about a problem such as addiction can only be helpful or healing. I have a small problem with the show however. Why is it about celebrities? I don’t think the show exploits their addiction as much as it exploits their celebrity. We all have a fair idea of how celebrites get involved in addictions. It’s a release from all of the pressure and attention, and they can afford it. But if the show is serious about improving the communication about addictions then why make it just about celebrities? I’m sure there are a lot of excellent stories out there that the average person could relate to better than the problems of a celebrity. For that reason I would be happy if someone like yourself could get something out of it, but I am quite sure that the producer’s motives were not all about helping people, and more about sensationalizing the problems of celebrities. It’s just another form of the strange reality TV.

  2. I agree that the celebrity factor gave it more of a tabloid feel. But would the public be just as interested if it were plain ole folk? I think it would be quasi-reality in that case. By having my own morbid curiosity at viewing a celebrity at their worst, captured me into examing my own feelings and past hurts. So in my case, Dr. Drew accomplished what he may have set out to do. Show the other side of the coin.

  3. I agree that the celebrity factor gave it more of a tabloid feel. But would the public be just as interested if it were plain ole folk? I think it would be quasi-reality in that case. By having my own morbid curiosity at viewing a celebrity at their worst, captured me into examing my own feelings and past hurts. So in my case, Dr. Drew accomplished what he may have set out to do. Show the other side of the coin.

  4. I agree that the celebrity factor gave it more of a tabloid feel. But would the public be just as interested if it were plain ole folk? I think it would be quasi-reality in that case. By having my own morbid curiosity at viewing a celebrity at their worst, captured me into examing my own feelings and past hurts. So in my case, Dr. Drew accomplished what he may have set out to do. Show the other side of the coin.

  5. Honestly Jude; I don’t know what to think of it.
    I am the child of two addicts, as you know, and I’ve had to seek my own recovery from the damage it did to how I even saw the world around me. I was raised with it, it’s all I knew. I was taught that their addictive state of mind was what reality was supposed to be, even though I knew something was amiss…as a child I couldn’t express it let alone understand it.
    So, only after I had my own son was I able to realize what crap I went through. I had to recover too.

    I think adult partners and other loved ones need their own recovery as well as the addict. Granted, I have a seriously sour taste in my mouth about 12 step programs as I honestly think they’re just a bunch of mutual mental masterbators. But individual care and treatment for those affected/effected by addiction from someone close to them is seriously overlooked.
    The affects/effects of addiction on the non-addict can be profound and long reaching.

    What you described of what you went through surrounding Daniel’s addiction was your need for your own recovery as well. You weren’t “bystander” you were a victim. Even though you never had a “victim” mentality, you were in denial of the affects of what his addiction had done to how you view the world.

    As far as this “Celebrity Rehab” thing is concerned. I personally think it sucks. All we need is another “Reality” program! NOT!
    I really is just another form of exploitation. We have enough reality in our own lives that we don’t need to be constantly bombarded with the supposed psychotic realities of these has-beens.
    Look they got themselves into their addictions with all the money and resources to either avoid it or treat it early. But the CHOSE to remain addicted. They and all the agents, press, directors, producers…etc. Celebrities live in a completely different world than the rest of us. I have no pity for them.
    This show and other like them, such as “Celebrity Fat Camp” and such (which by the way several of the “celebrity rehab” “patients” were a part of as well…coincedence?) Only feeds into their need for attention.

    The show “Intervention” had ONE pseudo-celebrity highlighted a few years ago. She was one of the nurses on “ER” and she had a real addiction to spending money. She got treatment, but there was NO publicity surrounding it or her. She just went quietly on with her life.

    Dr. Drew’ show only feeds into the biggest addiction these has-beens have, ATTENTION and the need for more and more of it.

  6. I chose the word “bystander” because that is the neat package I put myself into. Granted that many view this as exploitative but what about the few that it helps?

    No one chooses this disease to have but the choice to actively participate in their daily choices is up to them.

    I find the show “Intervention” as quasi-reality because from I have heard the addicts are coached on how to act and that to me is insincere. But whether these celebrities are doing the show for attention, we may never know. But what I do know is that is struck a cord with me and maybe “just maybe” that is what the original pure intentions were that may or may not have translated into some perverted ratings war.

  7. I chose the word “bystander” because that is the neat package I put myself into. Granted that many view this as exploitative but what about the few that it helps?

    No one chooses this disease to have but the choice to actively participate in their daily choices is up to them.

    I find the show “Intervention” as quasi-reality because from I have heard the addicts are coached on how to act and that to me is insincere. But whether these celebrities are doing the show for attention, we may never know. But what I do know is that is struck a cord with me and maybe “just maybe” that is what the original pure intentions were that may or may not have translated into some perverted ratings war.

  8. I chose the word “bystander” because that is the neat package I put myself into. Granted that many view this as exploitative but what about the few that it helps?

    No one chooses this disease to have but the choice to actively participate in their daily choices is up to them.

    I find the show “Intervention” as quasi-reality because from I have heard the addicts are coached on how to act and that to me is insincere. But whether these celebrities are doing the show for attention, we may never know. But what I do know is that is struck a cord with me and maybe “just maybe” that is what the original pure intentions were that may or may not have translated into some perverted ratings war.

  9. Stacey-as one of the mental masturbators that you so compassionately refer to in your post, I am afflicted with the disease of alcoholism. I had about the same “choice” of having alcoholism as you had the “choice” of the color of your hair. Alcoholism and addiction are progressive and genetic, and the likelihood of your son having this disease is pretty high. Only God, with the help of the mental masturbators, were able to put my disease in remission for almost 6 years. I will continue to work to make sure this help is available to those who need it, including your son, should that day ever come.

    I guess what hurts the alcoholic and addict most is that it takes TV shows for people they love to understand the disease they have. I have been willing to talk about this disease, even though I am uncomfortable sharing feelings. We are willing to sit down and talk, if you are willing to sit and listen. What I have learned over these years is that the message can be carried many times, and through multiple people, but until you are ready to listen, you cannot and will not hear.

    Judy – I am glad you now hear and I love you. Had it not been for your intervention and getting me to the hospital, I would be dead now. For that I am eternally grateful. My continued sobriety is a Gift from God that takes hard work, one day at a time. Friendship is a another God given gift that takes effort and a great cup of coffee :).

  10. this was a very open writing I totally understand it’s a whole family problem.good luck and all.

  11. Here is the interesting thing. When I showed this blog to some other people that are dealing with addicts and I mean “recent” addicts, ones that are still working through the multiple rehabs, it was mentioned that they still did not buy the term disease. It has taken me some loooonngg hard looks at myself to realize that yep it is truly a disease. Yes there are choices involved but those choices come when the person is actively choosing the route of sobriety but like my own diseases, I never know when it will rear its ugly head again. And Fee coffee sounds good!

  12. Here is the interesting thing. When I showed this blog to some other people that are dealing with addicts and I mean “recent” addicts, ones that are still working through the multiple rehabs, it was mentioned that they still did not buy the term disease. It has taken me some loooonngg hard looks at myself to realize that yep it is truly a disease. Yes there are choices involved but those choices come when the person is actively choosing the route of sobriety but like my own diseases, I never know when it will rear its ugly head again. And Fee coffee sounds good!

  13. Here is the interesting thing. When I showed this blog to some other people that are dealing with addicts and I mean “recent” addicts, ones that are still working through the multiple rehabs, it was mentioned that they still did not buy the term disease. It has taken me some loooonngg hard looks at myself to realize that yep it is truly a disease. Yes there are choices involved but those choices come when the person is actively choosing the route of sobriety but like my own diseases, I never know when it will rear its ugly head again. And Fee coffee sounds good!

  14. I had posted another response on MySpace that I feel that needs to be posted here too.

    Okay I need to address a few things. 1) I never saw myself as a victim. When I used the term “bystander” I meant that I was helpless and lacked total understanding. Not only was I too pissed off to be a victim but also I did not have the tools to deal with the disease of addiction. With my son Steve I was much better. 2) When I said that I was lousy at “maintaining” the addict’s recovery, what was in my mind was “Good you stopped. Now let’s all get our shit together and move on.” I did not realize or refused to realize that my level of support moved on after Daniel’s initial attempt at rehab. I did the same with my girlfriend, continued to invite her to parties that had lots of drinking at them, then feeling hurt that she was moving away from me, instead of calling up and saying “hey I want to see you. lets get coffee” Which in a small and big way would be my painless level of supporting her.

    In many ways this show smacked of personal exploitation. Personal in the way that the celebrity showcased even their own addiction. But there is a LOT of anger from non-addicts that were not given the opportunity to have their own emotional “rehab”. And in some ways this show allowed the feedback it may have been trying to get. I yelled at the TV, sniffed off some of the “reasons” for their addictions, rooted for the underdog that was trying and cursed the asshole. But when the water flowed under the bridge, I felt relief. Relief that I was finally able to do that. Something that should have happened YEARS ago, if the system recognized as they do now that families in some instances are wounded more deeply because most times we are either relieved that the addict is getting help, and don’t want to rock the boat by sharing our anger or we just bury it away.

    The GREAT thing is that we are talking. Whether it is anger, agreement or just thought provoking, the conversation is there and in many of our lives it is that sort of healing that we missed out on. So now it is time to get the crap out and truly bring our own brand of serenity back in.

  15. I had posted another response on MySpace that I feel that needs to be posted here too.

    Okay I need to address a few things. 1) I never saw myself as a victim. When I used the term “bystander” I meant that I was helpless and lacked total understanding. Not only was I too pissed off to be a victim but also I did not have the tools to deal with the disease of addiction. With my son Steve I was much better. 2) When I said that I was lousy at “maintaining” the addict’s recovery, what was in my mind was “Good you stopped. Now let’s all get our shit together and move on.” I did not realize or refused to realize that my level of support moved on after Daniel’s initial attempt at rehab. I did the same with my girlfriend, continued to invite her to parties that had lots of drinking at them, then feeling hurt that she was moving away from me, instead of calling up and saying “hey I want to see you. lets get coffee” Which in a small and big way would be my painless level of supporting her.

    In many ways this show smacked of personal exploitation. Personal in the way that the celebrity showcased even their own addiction. But there is a LOT of anger from non-addicts that were not given the opportunity to have their own emotional “rehab”. And in some ways this show allowed the feedback it may have been trying to get. I yelled at the TV, sniffed off some of the “reasons” for their addictions, rooted for the underdog that was trying and cursed the asshole. But when the water flowed under the bridge, I felt relief. Relief that I was finally able to do that. Something that should have happened YEARS ago, if the system recognized as they do now that families in some instances are wounded more deeply because most times we are either relieved that the addict is getting help, and don’t want to rock the boat by sharing our anger or we just bury it away.

    The GREAT thing is that we are talking. Whether it is anger, agreement or just thought provoking, the conversation is there and in many of our lives it is that sort of healing that we missed out on. So now it is time to get the crap out and truly bring our own brand of serenity back in.

  16. I had posted another response on MySpace that I feel that needs to be posted here too.

    Okay I need to address a few things. 1) I never saw myself as a victim. When I used the term “bystander” I meant that I was helpless and lacked total understanding. Not only was I too pissed off to be a victim but also I did not have the tools to deal with the disease of addiction. With my son Steve I was much better. 2) When I said that I was lousy at “maintaining” the addict’s recovery, what was in my mind was “Good you stopped. Now let’s all get our shit together and move on.” I did not realize or refused to realize that my level of support moved on after Daniel’s initial attempt at rehab. I did the same with my girlfriend, continued to invite her to parties that had lots of drinking at them, then feeling hurt that she was moving away from me, instead of calling up and saying “hey I want to see you. lets get coffee” Which in a small and big way would be my painless level of supporting her.

    In many ways this show smacked of personal exploitation. Personal in the way that the celebrity showcased even their own addiction. But there is a LOT of anger from non-addicts that were not given the opportunity to have their own emotional “rehab”. And in some ways this show allowed the feedback it may have been trying to get. I yelled at the TV, sniffed off some of the “reasons” for their addictions, rooted for the underdog that was trying and cursed the asshole. But when the water flowed under the bridge, I felt relief. Relief that I was finally able to do that. Something that should have happened YEARS ago, if the system recognized as they do now that families in some instances are wounded more deeply because most times we are either relieved that the addict is getting help, and don’t want to rock the boat by sharing our anger or we just bury it away.

    The GREAT thing is that we are talking. Whether it is anger, agreement or just thought provoking, the conversation is there and in many of our lives it is that sort of healing that we missed out on. So now it is time to get the crap out and truly bring our own brand of serenity back in.

  17. I think that rehab is good if you really have a problem with something like drugs or alcohol because it could help get your life back on track. However, plastering TV progs about rehab is demoralising, degrading and humiliating for the people involved. This is disgusting.

    http://scarletsculturegarden.blogspot.com
    http://jamjarsuperstar.blogspot.com

  18. Many people were bothered by this type of show jamjarsuperstar. If you watched it and got something out of it – great but the general consensus is that this type of programming serves no one.

  19. Hi…

    As someone with addiction issues, I went into the show with the pre-conceived notion that it would be an exploitative free-for-all. I was disappointed in Dr. Drew, for whom I’d always had an enormous amount of respect.

    However, after watching the first episode, I realized that — although the subject matter definitely made for compelling television — the issue of addiction was being treated with respect.

    In many ways, it helped ME find compassion for myself, whereas before I’d always felt a large amount of guilt and shame about my addiction.

    So, I loved the show and hope it returns with another crop of “celebrities.”

  20. Heather,

    Thanks for your comment. This blog really struck a cord with some of the readers on this site and on MySpace page as well. Thanks for your input and return again!

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