Examining Rehab with Dr. Drew (Episode 3)



Dr. Drew’s weekly commentary on Celebrity Rehab continues! After the jump, VH1’s resident M.D. talks Jeff’s acting out, Vikki’s pills, being a lightning rod and his own sex-symbol status.

celebrity_rehab_3_3.jpgJeff starts to become a focal point for acting out in this episode. Was there any concern of him squandering the attention?

He was taking a lot of the energy and attention of the group, but that kind of works sometimes. Sometimes that’s OK if people are looking at what evokes in them, if they’re able to see their disease in him, if they’re able to focus on their own reactions. But it was becoming so disruptive that it was becoming an annoyance for people and taking them away from their work. That happens in treatment a lot: sick people are together in treatment, some people are sicker than others and get a lot of attention and the others get a little fed up with it.

celebrity_rehab_3_2.jpgThere’s a big confrontation between Jeff and Daniel at the beginning of the episode over the cocaine found in Jeff’s bag. Do you think that Jeff was really unaware that this was in his bag?

He was unaware. He said, “It was beknownst to me. I didn’t have it, it was in my bag.” I mean, inside I was dying like, “Jeff, come on.” He was very upset about it. People have to learn to look at people’s reactions in treatment through the prism of addiction. In this case, I actually gaffed a little bit because I’m always amused at how the public, even professionals like nurses, are freaked out when drug addicts have or do drugs. They’re drug addicts. The nurse at Huntington was sort of freaked out that he had drugs on him, and that was just sort of amusing. I brought that up to the group without thinking through what that would mean to them. And, of course, it means to very important things to them. The first is: oh my god, this unit isn’t safe. I can’t rely on this to be a safe place, where I won’t do drugs. That reaction everyone can relate to. The other reaction, which is the more powerful reaction is: you had cocaine on you and you didn’t tell me? You didn’t share it? You’re making me feel frustrated that I couldn’t use and now I’m pissed off that you used and I didn’t. That’s a lot of what was going on here. Jeff’s reaction was a lot more about that. It’s such an oblique dynamic that you have to really be familiar with how drug addicts think. When the day was done, I thought, “Well, of course that’s how he reacted. Of course.” These things can be important opportunities to learn, provided that everybody isn’t re-traumatized by the experience. We were at a very delicate point of treatment there, where people were beginning to talk about their abuse histories, and I didn’t want them to feel too evoked by those histories, let alone have somebody create an experience for them in treatment where they were revivifying those very issues. It’s important to acknowledge them, to understand they’re there, but to actually re-experience them can be very problematic. So this was the line we were trying to walk, and it made for a bit of a hair-raising experience. I didn’t want it to spiral, and thank god it didn’t.

celebrity_rehab_3_5.jpgThere was some chatter about Jeff snapping out of his enfeebled routine during this argument.

They all talked about how interesting that was over lunch, and it was important for me to see that, too, because it was interesting. During Jeff’s entire treatment, I’m trying to decide what’s real pain, what’s drug-seeking, what’s hyperesthesia, which is pain created by the pain meds. It was a very challenging line to walk with him. What kind of treatment did he need, was the question for me. What needs surgery? What needs addiction treatment? What needs anti-depressant medication? What needs muscle relaxants? What needs yoga? What I concluded to be the case in Jeff’s situation required a different approach.

celebrity_rehab_3_8.jpgWhen Jeff’s girlfriend Vikki comes to visit, she’s patted down. Is that standard practice?

Yeah, for the most part. Everyone’s a potential carrier.

Did you believe her when she said that she didn’t give Jeff any Norco?

I do believe her, but she did bring the pills onto the unit, which is not OK. Our patients are like sharks. When you throw chum in a tank, even if it’s across the way in a cage, the sharks are going wild. You can’t let the chum in.

celebrity_rehab_3_6.jpgIn this episode, we see more of Shelly. Can you talk a little about her?

Shelly was an essential professional in this process. She was the one on the ground with them, hour to hour. She has experienced pretty much anything you can imagine with the disease and treatment process. She’s been where they’ve been. And she’s a skillful professional. She knows what they need. They might not like it, but she was absolutely spot-on all the way through treatment.

It seems like they warmed up to her as the show went on.

Yeah. They stopped reacting to her as they would someone else in their life who reminded them of that person: their mother, their sister, whatever it was. Whoever it was that she represented to them. They began treating her as a professional who was there to help them, which is a very important transition for them. Having them see her as one of them was a very important thing.

Is there anything to be said for a good cop/bad cop dynamic that you guys upheld? It seems like she was the hard-ass, while your approach was a bit more gentle.

Yeah. We call it the lightning rod. Someone tends to be the lightning rod in treatment, and we will as a team, agree on who it’s going to be, based on what that person represents. You have to try to reach these patients from many different angles. They have to experience themselves vis a vis many different people and professionals. We have to strategically reach them by many different aims.

celebrity_rehab_3_9.jpgRicco comes in during this episode. He comes in clean, right?

Supposedly. Whenever anyone says, “I’m clean,” they gotta prove it. It’s whatever. I don’t care if they are or they aren’t if they clearly need help.

Beyond that, what were your first impressions of him?

Here’s the thing about Ricco: he’s basically a trained killer. The producers hand me a lethal weapon and say, “Deal with this.” It’s like, wow. How’s this gonna go? It was really in Ricco’s hands: he’s either going to cooperate with this, or we’re gonna have real trouble. From the moment he arrived, he was extremely cooperative. More than cooperative: he was fully engaged. During his first group process, I was able to use him as a lightning rod. He rolled with it magnificently. I was so impressed with that. The group let me know that we had someone who was in the game. From that point on, I was not worried about Ricco, other than some of his words to Shelly. That kept flaring up here and there, but he managed that, too.

Where do you think that came from?

He had people in his life that Shelly very much reminded him of.

The episode concludes with Jeff threatening to leave. Everyone assembles and you come in. Does that mean that you’re always on call?

Well, no. Normally, I have partners. You’ll see as the show goes on, I get pretty stressed-out myself. You kinda have to have your wits about you as best as possible. It becomes impossible to do day-in-day-out 24/7. It’s just too much. The disease is too intense. That’s why as family members, you can’t fight this thing on your own. You have to get support. It’s too much.

But you came in because of the nature of the show?

Well, no, I mean, I have partners. The point is that I can do this for three weeks, but I couldn’t do it for 30 months. I’m not sure I could do it for six weeks!

celebrity_rehab_3_14.jpgWhile you’re talking to Jeff, he sort of diverts the attention to your biceps. Is it weird that, as a serious doctor, you’re also kind of a sex symbol?

Jeff’s a great guy. He sort of lightened the atmosphere. I appreciated that because it sort of turned the heat off the moment. That could have been a very uncomfortable time for he and I, and we’ve always gotten along really, really well. That was just him being funny. But the other topic is, we as professionals start to represent all kinds of things to the patients. Attraction and sexuality are important things for them to work through and for us to hold the line on. It’s so horribly destructive if a treating professional or doctor goes for it when a patient expresses attraction. That’s exactly the moment where they’re doing their most difficult work, and you must hold that line and be there for that human being. You’re not in a social environment, you’re doing a job. So it actually isn’t difficult because you understand the implications of what this is for that person you’re trying to help. And if they get into that material, so much the better, because more work’s gonna get done.

celebrity_rehab_3_111.jpgBeyond being a doctor, as someone in the public eye, does it faze you that a lot of people think you’re hot?

That doesn’t affect me. I’m grateful that young people even allow me into their world. That they can experience me in some way is perfect: I get to do my work. I’m perfectly happy with my wife and family and there’s zero probability that anything would get in the way of that. So for me, it’s just a matter of how I can do my work better, number one. Number two…it just seems weird to me. It doesn’t even register on my screen. Thank goodness, I guess.

No ego-boost at all, then?

Uh, it’s nice to feel at my age that I can still be attractive. You feel good about that on some level. I want to stay healthy, too. So I try to balance my life and work out and do the things that I’m supposed to represent. But here’s the thing: if a 28-year-old is interested in a 50-year-old, there’s something wrong with the 28-year-old. She needs help. I know enough people to know that. You’re not going to see a Bill Clinton-type moment here.

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