Examining Sober House With Dr. Drew – Episode 6

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Dr. Drew’s weekly commentary on Sober House continues! Below, the doctor talks about why being labeled a “has-been” can effect celebrities so profoundly, visiting the scene of Rodney’s police beating and the grim outlook on Seth’s future.

Andy says that Seth’s abuse made him realize how his own substance abuse affects others. This seems like a lesson that these people never stop learning.

Addicts are notoriously selfish and self-preoccupied. Something obvious like, hey, do you realize you’re hurting somebody? Only comes through when they themselves are sober and beginning to feel what it feels like when someone else with addiction affects them. Watching it affect other people gets through to them a little bit, but when they start to feel bad, they’re like, “Oh my God! It does affect other people.” That’s part of the defect of addiction: from the using and whatever traumas they’ve sometimes survived in childhood, they have a real empathy deficiency. They really don’t feel what other people are complaining about as the result of their addiction.

This may seem obvious, but that’s part of the strength of group therapy, right?

Well, it depends what stage of recovery. With the group, more often than not, you’re taking multiple people and creating consensus against one. Addicts split people one from another as a means of getting their way. When they see a unified front of solid opinion, they’re able to capitulate a little bit. The group functions as a source of opinion. Also, it allows them to hear the common stories that reproduce repeatedly. It breaks down denial more than anything.

Being called a “has-been” affects Seth profoundly, and I wonder if you could comment more on that since you’ve studied celebrities and their narcissism so extensively.

When people talk about celebrities having a stressful life, they don’t. That’s why people would kill to be a celebrity. It’s better to be a celebrity. It’s less stressful. You get things paid for, you make money, people like you, you get good seats at restaurants. What is stressful is the possibility of using the celebrity status. When you’re not clear about your worth or why you’re a celebrity, any little attack can be shattering. That’s particularly when someone does it like David, who was supposed to be on Seth’s side and helping him professionally. To have him undermine Seth like that…look, addicts look for any reason to go use. Here’s a good one!

You tell the group that they have to detach from Seth’s Internet-broadcast relapse drama and focus on their own recovery. Are addicts easily distracted?

They love drama. Drama gives them the same high as drugs. So they really get into the crazy drama around them. Some of it’s the high of the drama, but another part is the avoidance of the pain that comes from examining their own situation. Neither of which are good for their recovery. They also have to come to terms with the reality of addiction: it’s a deadly disease that affects them and people around them. I’m not telling them to be selfish, I’m telling them to focus on their own material.

During group, Bob refers to dying as a career choice during group, and I wondered what you thought of that? Do you agree? Was Bob being overly cynical?

I think he was being ironic. Bob and I have had many conversations about this: so many legendary performers died of addiction, flat out. When people talk about Heath Ledger, he didn’t die from confusing himself as the Joker. He died of addiction. People have a way of glamorizing that or downplaying the disease, but no: it’s addiction.

You visit the site of Rodney’s beating this episode. What was that experience like?

Amazing. Every time I discuss it with him, I’m shaken to my core. I have a certain amount of denial about it, it’s like I can’t believe it. To ride with him and retrace the steps and to hear moment-by-moment what he went through, I don’t have words strong enough to tell you how uncomfortable and…spooky’s not the right word. It’s unbelievable, really. The other unbelievable thing is that we were standing there looking at that building with the crazy roof and he said, “This didn’t used to be here. You used to be able to see the lake.” He was trying to run to the lake that night. We go inside and it’s the L.A. County Children’s Museum. They built the L.A. County Children’s Museum on the site of the beating! That’s crazy. We talked to the directors and they were like, “Yeah, we heard that happened somewhere around here.” It happened eight feet from there!

Rodney seems relatively well-adjusted.

He got a little jacked-up being there. He had some post-traumatic stress symptoms. He was getting a little anxious, his speech was getting pressured. I’m sure if I measured his blood pressure and pulse, it would have been way up. But he is amazingly forgiving about the entire experience. You know, his peers often say, they picked on the teddy bear. Why this guy?

Finally, Seth ends up at the Pasadena Recovery Center and you say that you’re convinced that he’s going to die of addiction.

Yeah. I still am. He’s really trying to decide between strippers and ecstasy and survival. Recovery. He can’t quite choose.

Out of everyone, he seems the most severe.

He is, but they’re all pretty bad. He has progressed in front of out eyes, which is probably why you have that reaction. He’s gotten worse when everyone else has kind of gotten better. In his progression, he’s unwilling to let us help him. All we can do is stand by. We love him, we make ourselves available to him, we do our damnedest but…boy oh boy.

Check out what Jennifer had to say about this week’s episode here.

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