Dr. Drew’s weekly commentary on Celebrity Rehab continues! After the jump, the hardest-working doctor in showbiz talks Ricco’s boat-jumping scene, the real reason behind Jeff’s departure, why 12-Step programs aren’t talked about on Rehab and what he thought of that food fight.
There are four days left at the beginning of the episode. How confident about the general state of the group were you at that point?
Well, they were unraveling. What happens when people are getting ready to discharge, what addicts tend to do is devalue their experience as a way to manage their feelings of leaving the program. Once they’ve made an attachment, it becomes painful and they may have a hard time leaving. They were beginning to get more irritable, more aggressive, more nasty, more demeaning of their experience. What you don’t see on TV is we were trying to get them to obtain their sponsors, complete their 12-Step work and figure out how they were going to continue their treatment. Another thing you don’t see on TV is that they were starting to resist going to 12-Step meetings, which was outrageous. Here we are approaching discharge, and they’re resisting the basic thing they need to do when they get out. They had so many b.s. reasons that they didn’t want to go to meetings that I was getting very frustrated.
It’s not so explicit that they’re attending 12-Step meetings on the show. Why is that?
Twelve-Step is the cornerstone of treatment. However, you have to understand that there’s something called the 11th tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous and 12-Step, which is you don’t talk about 12-Step in the media. For Bob and I, that was our most significant struggle in proceeding with this project, trying to figure out how to preserve the 11th tradition. I didn’t feel it was my place to trample on an international tradition that people held in great value. So we asked that all the 12-step references, the step-work and the meetings, be left out of the final cuts of the show. Fortunately, there was no resistance because they were deemed too boring. That’s another thing you have to understand about treatment: the treatment part is very boring. The actual treatment is like watching hair grow. What’s interesting is people’s stories and their personal experiences and what happens in their struggles to come to terms with things. And that’s what fascinates me: the one thing we were so proud of, having created a distinction between the 12-Step work and the treatment work, we thought we’d be applauded for that, for walking that line. Instead, people are being critical, saying we should have shown more 12-Step. That’s mind-boggling.
Not that it’s specific to this episode, but in general, what kind of feedback are you getting on the show?
I thought it was going to be galvanizing. Like 50 percent would be into it, or some kind of 60/40 split, but about 90 percent of what I read and hear is positive. The other 10 percent is vehemently down on it. A lot of what people render as criticism of the show, just sort of exposes that they don’t understand what they’re responding to in the first place. Television only lends itself to certain kinds of storytelling. It doesn’t lend itself to treatment. Treatment is too boring. My lectures about biology? Boring. I give the group lectures all the time about addiction being a brain disease, but television is about storytelling, about interpersonal experiences and drama. You don’t see the specific step work, because a) they asked that we didn’t show it, b) we were trying not to trample on a deep tradition or c) it just wasn’t good for TV. So when people go, “Oh, it’s exploitation. It’s too this. It’s too that.” That isn’t a result of the treatment being that way, that’s just what goes on TV. And then the criticism follows that. “Well, how can that be good to show on TV? Doesn’t that distort the view of rehab?” Not really. It just lets people know that treatment is intense, it’s painful and it’s hard work. Those are the messages we really want to get out.
Sober-living comes up a lot during this episode. Beyond logistics – money, planning, etc. – why do addicts tend to be so resistant to enrolling in a sober-living program?
They don’t want to get sober! It’s the moment of reckoning, like, hey – are you gonna be serious about this, or not? This is particularly hard for these people because after the facility, there are no more cameras. This is it. Are you interested in sobriety, or aren’t you? I was surprised how into it people were. They were really good about it. At first, at least. There’s more to be revealed, I gotta tell you.
Ricco is taken to task by Jessica for being so closed off about his past. In your one-on-one, he’s still very guarded. Any theories on that?
In real life, it didn’t feel that way. It more felt like he was only willing to go so far, because I think there were real legal issues. And remember, he was motivated because of legal issues to obtain his child. He didn’t need more entanglements.
Ricco becomes a focal point again when he jumps off the boat…
Speaking of not needing legal entanglements! The whole day had me on tinder hooks, a bit. It was an amplification of a feeling I had all week, which was: these are my patients, I’m responsible for them and if anything goes wrong, it really is my responsibility. The decision to go on an outing and then having them do crazy things, that did not make me feel good. One of the most vivid moments of the entire experience was a moment that Ricco and I shared up in the process group in Catalina. They didn’t show this on TV, because I think they’re so interested in portraying me as not having any weaknesses or concerns. In the process group Ricco was already apologizing to the group and making amends and stuff for making such a stupid decision. I said, “Ricco, I accept your apology, but the reality is, it’s my fault. I let you down. I shouldn’t have put you in a position where you had the opportunity to behave like that, and I’m really sorry.” That for him was somehow an overwhelming thing. It was somehow shattering to him. To have someone who was sort of a father/authority figure to him, it made him grovel. It was like no one had ever done that on his behalf before. He was really moved by it, and I was really moved by that.
Last week, we talked about Brigitte being triggered by the bar at the restaurant, and you said something along the lines of not being able to protect these people forever…
No, no! That’s why we take these outings. Granted, they’re headed toward discharge and they should be able to handle themselves. They should be able to deal with the real world: it’s only three or four days away, anyway. But still, I wanted him to know that I accepted the responsibility. The whole day was rough. I was very concerned about Jamie, particularly. She was starting to come up with all these reasons why she couldn’t do anything, why she couldn’t go to sober living. This was when my concern for Jamie became acute.
And then Jeff leaves. That’s, uh, weird.
He and I had made the decision in the one-on-one we had. Here’s what happened: he was getting better, getting better, getting better. This last week, you see him do a tap dance for Christ’s sake. His pain was getting better the way I expected, and then all of a sudden, the pain becomes worse. I saw him in Catalina walking around on the boat and I could tell, just by the way he was walking, that he had unstable bones. As a clinician, I was looking at him. Forget the context, forget the addiction, forget the pain-seeking, whatever, I knew there was something very, very wrong. I said, “Jeff, there’s no doubt in my mind that you need an operation. I need to get you to the neurosurgeon right away. They’re going to put you on meds, but we’ll deal with that later.” There was no option. I sent him to two neurosurgeons, who both said that he needed an operation, and he went and had it. He’s had four operations since. It was just unavoidable. And, by the way, had he not been detoxed and off meds, we wouldn’t have had any idea what was wrong with him. Now that he’s had the operations and he’s stabilized, now we can go after him and really work on his sobriety. We’re still after him. We’re gonna get him.
The final point in this episode was the food fight.
Yeah, you’ll see next week that we have a big reaction to that. The food hit the fan at night, but the s*** hit the fan in the morning. My frustration was building with the meeting resistance, but then trashing the unit and tagging the table, no no no. No way. Bad vibe. With a day or two left, are you kidding me? Give me a break.
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