Examining Sex Rehab With Dr. Drew

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The premiere of Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew ventured into territory that was uncharted not just for VH1′s Rehab franchise, but for TV, period. Below, Drew helps us sort out some of our questions regarding sex rehab in general and the show’s premiere, specifically. Along the way, he talks about the trouble with our culture’s blase attitude about sex, his thoughts on the sex industry and the plan Jennie (aka Penny Flame) arrived with to sabotage the production of this show.


I think this show is going to make a lot of people wonder if they’re sex addicts.

Yes. But I think it’s not so much sexual addiction that people are going to think about. They’re going to think about love addiction. Or they’re going to see periods of their life where they had sexual addiction or compulsion. And when it comes to sexual addiction, really you have to look at how deeply embedded in trauma that frequently is. Not everybody has trauma. People have periods of their lives where these things come up, and they might get carried away, let’s say. That does not an addict make. That’s just like when someone binge drinks for a while and then stops. I certainly hope it will make people think about their behavior a little bit, [and learn] that it comes from a place that’s maybe not so healthy and not as cool as our culture makes it seem. And then the love addiction angle everybody can relate to. Everybody has had manifestations of something like that at periods in their lives. Every sixteen- or seventeen-year-old has had those feelings. Most people outgrow them, but we can look at that and go, “Oooh, wait a minute. I’ve done some of those things. Where did that come from?” And maybe this thing that we value and call “romantic love” is not necessarily steeped in health. We’ve sort of adopted it as a sort of ideal, when in fact it’s not. And we have to really look at these things and get a good look at ourselves. The issues of intrusiveness, abandonment, abuse and neglect are so common in our culture, and they’re manifestations in our adult interpersonal lives.

Sex addiction seems like a slippery slope, because, as I said to Jill, a healthy lifestyle typically includes sex, as opposed to drugs or alcohol or the other addictions we hear about more often on TV.

Yeah, it’s a more difficult treatment course. It’s more treacherous, fraught with ups and downs and pitfalls. It’s not so easy to measure success. In treatment, use this idea of the “bottom line” and circle plan. A circle plan means there are certain behaviors for a certain time they must remain clearly abstinent on. And it allows them to start developing the emotional machinery to manage the emotions that were motivating the behavior.

Was that like when you told them, “No masturbation?”

Yes, that’s one of the inner circle activities. Their computer use goes in the circle, their touching goes in the circle. Thoughts and fantasies and toys and all of these other things are going in the inner circle, and you are not to do those things. And if you slip, then you talk about it and process it, and go to your sponsor and do some 12-step work on it, and then you go back to putting it back where it belongs.

No masturbation seems like the hardest rule to contend with.

Yeah, it’s tough on them. It’s not forever. I take lead of experts like Jill on when to bring this all back. Like everything in addiction, my interaction with them is in the acute phases, when we’re trying to get them to stop everything. How you add it back is more Jill’s domain.

Do you think that pornography is the root of this evil?

No I don’t. I think we don’t know the full impact of early exposure the stuff. It certainly can wire in some problems. I think the fact that we are so casual about these things means that we don’t really look at the difficulties in regard to our relationships. I mean, Internet porn addiction is one of the most rapidly increasing diagnostic categories in the country. And it’s a significant and serious issue for some people. Is it the root of everything? No. The root is how we’re raising out children. We’re abusing children, exploiting children, intruding on children, abandoning children. That’s the main root of all this. That’s the issue.

But between Mary Carey, Penny Flame and the Internet porn-addiction outbreak, do you think the sex industry is fundamentally destructive?

I know that trauma survivors gravitate there. Whether it’s prostitution, or stripping, or pornography, that’s where they go. If you talked to Penny Flame years ago, she’d say that it was the greatest thing in the world, and how dare you [imply otherwise]. It’s like talking to a heroin addict or an opium addict when it’s working for them. When they believe it’s working for them, you can’t assail it. Nor would I try to. My thing is to help you when it falls apart, which it will. And that’s all. I’m not inclined to lay blame.

It just seems that from the Rehab shows, we see nothing good coming from porn.

You should talk to Mary. It’s a very complicated thing for her. She doesn’t see it as all bad. Even as destructive as it’s been for her, she still feels like, “Well, it worked for me at the time, and that’s that.” She doesn’t feel bad for her choices. She understands them as deeply affected by her experience. And such is life. If I really have to cast judgment, the indictment is on our culture at large for not being more realistic about our behavior and what the implications are. This last 30 years of, “Hey, whatever you’re into!” is meaningless if what you’re into is simply wrong. People are entitled to do whatever they want. That’s fine. But to say it doesn’t have meaning is a huge mistake.

Regarding the show, I was curious about the idea that comes up with Amber: sex addiction is often diagnosed after drug addiction.

That’s very common. One of two things happen when the drug addiction is treated: either they throw themselves into recovery, in which case all of these issues double down, including the sexual compulsion. Or the sex or the gambling, whatever the behavioral addictions, kind of seep through and keep going and they need primary treatment of their own.

Was this show particularly more difficult to do than Celebrity Rehab?

More intense. The most intense show we’ve ever done. I can’t even tell you. I was in an altered state the whole three weeks. It was deeply deeply moving. And we need to acknowledge the courage of these people for doing this. This is another first-time experience. It’s never been done before.

It’s kind of a quieter show – at the beginning of Celebrity Rehab seasons, people show up drunk or high or just sort of wearing their addiction on their sleeves. But this is a lot more introspective in that respect. It’s a lot more internal. They’re obviously not having sex while they’re checking.

You’re right, the withdrawal kicks in later, and the emotions unveil themselves slowly. It’s very different and very difficult work. But when you see people do it, it’s so impressive when they throw themselves into it.

Can we go through the cast members, and hear your first impressions of them?

Sure.

So, James?

Initially, it’s not clear what’s going on with James. Clearly it’s sex addiction, but I have a feeling that there’s something psychiatrically going on with him too. I wasn’t sure if it was some developmental problem. There seemed to be more going on. On top of that, when I did his initial physical, I found this tumor on the back of his throat. It was clear to me that he was going to need an operation.

How about Jennifer?

It’s funny, I found her super entertaining and charming during our first interview. After having what I thought was an interesting and fun interaction with her, which I thought was fairly honest, Jill pokes me and goes, “Oh yeah. You see what she did to you?” And I said, “What? What happened? I missed it!” And Jill said, “Oh, she was very manipulative, and very charming.” And I thought, “Oh, well this is why I have somebody else in the room with me.” That’s always why I have somebody there: because the addict sucked me in. But I did sense a willingness and enthusiasm that was at least interesting.

Her personality sticks out immediately.

Yeah. But she had come in with the intent to sabotage us. I mean, she’ll tell you. She brought 12 tubes of toothpaste, and her plan was just to screw up our production. She was going to put obscene pictures on the wall. Her thing was, “Hey, I’m a porn star. This is how I make my living, and screw you guys.” She had no intention of doing treatment. And she was shocked at how fast she got into it.

Phil?

Phil immediately was a likable guy. I felt immediately that there was much more to be revealed. We heard his story, and he kept telling us that there were, “No problems, no problems, nothing in my childhood.” And Jill and I just looked at each other and went, “That’s not possible.” Not with this story, it just doesn’t add up. So we know more is to come.

Nicole?

Nicole seemed resistant. I don’t want to say that she was hostile, because she was nice and pleasant to deal with, but there was a deep resistance that I wasn’t sure I was going to get through. She had trouble identifying as an addict, and had trouble being open and honest. She does eventually open up, but still…she seemed really ambivalent about doing the work, let’s put it that way.

Kendra?

Kendra jumped in right away, and clearly had just tremendous trauma stuff going on. I knew immediately that this would be important for her. I was shocked at how quickly all of them jumped into the trauma issues. I mean, these people sat through a couple of hours of lecture a day. A couple of just pure informational lectures. Drug addicts will not do that. They will not sit there for two hours a day. And by the same token, if you get too quickly into trauma stuff, they just go out and use. They run away. But this team puts them through those paces all the time.

And Kendra’s also unique because she’s in a serious committed relationship.

Right. But again, we were going to have to unpack that relationship a bit, because clearly there was trouble. I mean, given just how badly Kendra was traumatized, we knew that the husband had to have issues too. And we had to look at that.

How about Kari Ann? Talk about hostile! That was the most negative first interview I have ever seen you do.

Yeah. And it gets a lot worse. Oh my god, it gets so much worse! I long for those early days! Yeah: hostile, aggressive, uninterested, defensive, unwilling, all that good stuff. But the problem is her behavior. The behavior starts to jeopardize the integrity of the unit. But if we’re going to get into trauma stuff, we have to be delicate, gentle, and give them room to get with it. In substance treatment it’s, “Hey, you either want to get with it, or you don’t. If you don’t, get out of here.” In sex addiction, you try to give them a little more space and that’s why we were sort of trying to cooperate with her.

Why would Kari Ann show up, then? Just to be on TV?

Oh, just to be on TV, yeah. She actually had a whole other thing: she was going to show women how to be empowered through their sexuality and be like her. It was such a distorted and bizarre way of looking at things. She finally does come around, but at the beginning it was very distorted.

It’s so weird that people are showing up with their agendas.

There are agendas, but it’s like always. My thing is that, whatever their motivation, I don’t care. If we can get them in, we can work with them. If it’s just to be on TV, if it’s just to get paid, I don’t care. We’re ready to go. We’re ready to roll. And this was a great example of that. We had a lot of people deeply changed, with limited motivation.

How about Duncan?

Duncan’s great. I knew he was going to be very challenging. I knew that he was going to be extremely difficult for me. But he intrigued me, and he’s such a bright guy and such a talented man, that I was hell bent on forging a relationship with him. And I’m happy to say that I really have a great relationship with him now. I mean, he really knew the condition.

And then finally there’s Amber.

She was more of the love addiction. In reality, she was sexually anorexic, which is sort of the flip side of sexual addiction. But this whole story about her father emerges, and we got none of that before. That’s really her big thing. I mean, the mom, obviously was a challenge. But the thing with the dad was completely buried. And that’s very painful material.

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Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew show page
Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew cast reveal

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  1. Toby Lucas says:

    I think it was extremely insensitive to put a Trojan’s sex toy commercial on during Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew.

  2. sara says:

    I am grateful to the show and encourage the staff of Pasadena Recovery Center, as well as any other treatment center working with Sex Addiction and any Sex Addict looking for hope to check out this blog:

    http://www.thereisanelephantintheroom.blogspot.com/

    It is written by a man that has struggled with Sex Addiction that began when he was 7 years old. My prayers and thoughts are with all of those affected by this addiction. There is hope for all.

  3. lizzy says:

    When I seen this was about sex rehab i couldnt wait to watch it. I met someone last year who has sex addiction and fell for him I truly didnt understand the addiction we would have sex but he would feel so depressed after i told him to watch this show he is a great person I truly would like for him to get better to have a life he wants………thank you dr. drew for what you do.

  4. LeighAnn says:

    I came across the show last night on accident and I am truly touched. I am 41 and was a stripper in my early 20′s and an escort in my late 30′s. I have been married 2x and I have a history of cheating and lots of meaningless sex. When I watched these people, I could relate soooo much and I didn’t know why I felt empty and have intimacy problems but I am hoping the show helps me figure out how to help myself to deserve more and better. I really came on this web site to try to sign up for the program and decided to share this while I as here. I hope everyone can benefit from this show that doesn’t even know they have a problem.

  5. mnchick says:

    I watched the live stream of the show on Friday and was shocked at how LITTLE I understood about sex addiction. I thought it was honestly a made up addiction….an “excuse addiction” if you will (” I can’t help that I cheated on my wife/husband. I’m a “sex addict.”) But I now see that there is so much more that is underlying and leads to the addiction and we are just starting to get at the heart of everyone’s issues. I applaud Dr. Drew for bringing this to light and especially applaud each and every participant for allowing us to get a deep glimpse at their lives and for being courageous enough to go to rehab with all the world watching. Hopefully, this will help others out there who are struggling as well.

  6. JenDiggity says:

    Wow – great interview! I was sort of sad when I heard this show was coming. I figured it would be sensational crap TV aimed at guys who just wanted to see hot girls talk about what sluts they are. The previews looked so interesting, though, that I had to give the first show a watch and I’m sorry I judged the concept so harshly. I think this show can do some real, real good, not just for the patients but for the people who watch and see some of themselves in these people. Dr. Drew is an amazing man.

  7. Emerald says:

    I agree Toby Lucas…putting that on along with the pregnancy commercials was highly inappropriate.

  8. Jimmy says:

    Dr. Drew. Big kudos for putting some good information about sex addiction to a large audience. As a recovering sex addict, though, it was difficult to watch. There is a lot of provacative imagery, which is not necessary. It seems to glamorize the problem rather than focus on the solution. Out of respect to those who are vulnerable, please tone down the imagery.

  9. Jimmy says:

    I want to also say that I was deeply moved by the participants. The details may be different, but I certainly relate to the pain and hopeless-ness. It takes A LOT of courage to begin being honest with yourself and to admit that you have a problem. When I began acting out, I had no idea how trapped I’d be in short time, and how hopeless,painful, and out of control it would be.

    I’m active in recovery today, not acting out, and life is mostly great, but it is far more manageable. To the participants and other addicts who are looking for answers: there is a way out of this thing. God bless each of you on your journey.

  10. Heart says:

    Thank you Dr. Drew. I was recently involved with a man, I fell deeply in love with him, but now, after watching our show, I know that he is a sex addict. I thought that there was something wrong with me, that I wasn’t good enough. Now I know, its not about me, unless he gets help he will have these same issues with everyone else he will be involved with. I care about him so much.

  11. mark says:

    this show is a joke all guys are adicted to sex and want to sleep with as many girls as we can its in our dna.and the girls are just sluts.trust me inow 2 of them

  12. mark says:

    this show is a joke all guys want to *@!%)+~_~%~((&~$ every hot chick they see and sleep with as many girls as we can its in our dna.and the girls are just sluts.trust me i know two of them

  13. mark says:

    this show is a joke all guys want to @(`&@_!$(_*+$&_+ every hot chick they see and sleep with as many girls as we can its in our dna.and the girls are just sluts.trust me i know two of them

  14. mark says:

    this show is a joke all guys want to @$(((+_$)^)~!!&! every hot chick they see and sleep with as many girls as we can its in our dna.and the girls are just sluts.trust me i know two of them

  15. trying to understand says:

    Dr. Drew,

    First of all…Thank you for addressing this addiction. I am a 38 year old woman whom came from a seriously disturbed family and I began masturbating at age 6. The additions had led to drug, alcohol and eating disorders. All in an attempt to ????? I still do not know. After ending up in a rehab a few months ago completely suicidal and lost…I was told by a doctor that my sex addition and all proceeding addition were a form of passive suicide :( and then was told to abstain from all forms of addition and use Cognitive and behavioral therapies in place of my distorted and irrational forms of coping, that I picked up as a child. I have abstained from physical contact with others, but can not stop with the masturbating or fantasying… I really want freedom from this addition and sought out Sex Addicts Anonymous in my area, Only to discover it was all men only groups or men and women groups, but no only women! My life has been wrought with abuse, incest, rape, etc. and I do not want to share this with other men. Thus I have been left to hide in secrecy and shame, desperation and loneliness, confusion and fear. I so hope that the answers I am looking for can be found in your show and if there is a way to post helpful information for those of us whom suffer from this disease I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you again and again for bring light to this and for the women who are courageous enough to admit to the world that YES WOMEN CAN BE SEXUALLY ADDICTED, too. Respectfully, trying to understand

  16. jules says:

    Thank you to the cast for being brave enough to come out about your addiction. Speaking first hand as a Sex & Love addict, I don’t think this is an addiction many people understand and I think it is incredibly brave for you to come out & say it. I know there are so many SA & SLA out there who don’t even understand that this is a true disease, just like alchoholism. It took me 2 divorces to figure out I had a problem. I knew I had a problem, but never could put a name with it until my counselor did. So, thank you Dr. Drew & cast, this show might just save someone’s life. You will all be in my prayers, God bless.

  17. viv says:

    This show is brilliant in its honest portrayal of those suffering from the most common addiction in our country. I think it will help many people as they watch along.

    Please consider how the audience, many of whom are struggling with this addiction, might be affected by triggers like Trojan commercials, especially on this blog.

    Thanks a million, it’s a great show!

    PS-I’m forwarding this site to a couple of friends who participate in Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.

  18. renee says:

    When I seen the previews for this show I thought 2 things…1st) its about time someone is exposing this addiction so that people may better understand it and 2nd) I hope it is truly helpful to the people who’ve entered the rehab and not destructive because of the closed quarters and the publicity that is bound to follow.

    I am a sex addict and have been for 20 years(more than half of my life). I was in and out of psychiatric wards and therapy trying to figure it all out and stop feeling so lost and shameful. About 8 years ago, I had an epiphany and sought treatment. Sex addiction rehab was not available in my area so i had to make due with drug rehab instead. It took me another 4yrs to really put into effect all that I had learned through the therapy and the rehab. I am happy to say that at this point I have stopped behaving in destructive ways and have learned to cope without having to participate in something sexual to do so. Though I am still an addict and always will be, I take comfort in the thought that I control it now and it doesn’t control me. It is wonderful to live without shame.

    I just wanted to say my thoughts and hope are with these people and kudos to Dr. Drew for taking this on. And also, to Trying to Understand, I’d like to offer some encouragement by sharing something one of my therapist’s said to me that has always helped me fight to be better. When I was upset with myself for slipping or for not progressing as quickly as I should’ve been, he said “It took 15 years to make you into the addict you are today so don’t expect to be better tomorrow or even next year.” It is a long, slow and often heartbreaking journey but at the end of it, when you look in the mirror and truly love the person staring back at you, it is well worth the struggle. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

  19. Scott says:

    I have so much to say about this show.
    I will start with this… Thank you very much forgetting this show to air. As you say sex addiction is horribly shameful. I know I wish I could be ‘normal’ but I don’t even know what normal might feel like. I question if I really love my fiance or is this an addicted reaction. Because “Sex Sells” in America Sex is EVERYWHERE! American advertising spoon feeds sex to us all day long, Viagra commercials, Cialis commercials, Ky, ‘Smilin’ Bob’, Victoria’s secret, sexy jeans, Trojan sex toy comercials…
    Women are told that unless they are sexy they are nobody and nobody will like/love them, men are trained to be predatorial and if not they are weak and not men. This coupled with the ubiquity of internet porn and sexed up TV shows where the principal objective of many of the persons on the show is to get laid and joke about those who fail to get laid.
    All that said as you might have gathered I am watching because I Hope to get some help. Initially I used to joke “I don’t ‘suffer” with sex addiction… I love every minute of it” (an old joke I paraphrased)… until it all fell apart. I am in a place now where I seem to have reined in the destructive behaviors, but not the thoughts.I cant yet not claim to be in control. I used anger to achieve this, what every ‘this’ is. I know its not healthy but it is better than what was before… at least for now.
    I am hopeful that I can glean some bit of wisdom to help me be more ‘normal’ and stop “white knuckling” life all the time… and maybe sleep the night through once in a while.

  20. harperssorrow says:

    I am so grateful for all of Dr. Drew’s Rehab shows. I went through rehab 16 years ago for chemical abuse. These shows have helped me to remember a lot of the important things I learned and the experiences I had. Thank-you to everyone involved in bringing these shows to television. I hope there will be many more seasons ahead.

  21. cara says:

    this is in response to the episode i just watched

    I really think the colored lady is not compatible with that girl. also having such a variety of people like the british fellow who is well worded and collected make her look like a flake. she may be very accustomed to a way of life people her age and social level call normal. i honesly believe she should discharge and come in more prepared, dont know why she didnt. otherwise things in her life she has not dealt with will only make it worse and obstruct the healing process. as it stands she has already been humiliated. it doesnt have to be about drugs, ive been there even in recovery without drugs there is a huge attachment to organisation of one’s life. but i dont know on what grounds she was put into the show.. she makes it sound like she was brought there with out warning

  22. Jim says:

    you guys have got to be _~+_)(*#~$%&&*&` ting me, you have 4 or 5 tranny’s a ~(`~%+~)^&~`(`_ and god knows what the rest are. oh and don’t forget kerri ann, who i am sure still has her balls and ^+#(%+~&`%+*^$_%# strapped up somewhere. what a joke

  23. Jim says:

    you guys have got to be _!^`_%&*)((`^@_# ting me, you have 4 or 5 tranny’s a $`$`^$!@_&)#(%& and god knows what the rest are. oh and don’t forget kerri ann, who i am sure still has her balls and +!_~_%~(!`^^((^~& strapped up somewhere. what a joke

  24. dawn says:

    james throat,did he have the operation?

  25. nolvadex comprimidos says:

    Third time lucky

  26. 3829431 says:

    What a lovely day for a 3829431! SCK was here