As he tends to do, Dr. Drew has checked in with us to deliver his take on the first episode of Celebrity Rehab 3. Below, he talks about the new cast, including Dennis Rodman’s resistance, why he wasn’t so shocked by Mackenzie Phillips’ incest revelation and why he allowed Heidi Fleiss and Tom Sizemore — former lovers with a history of domestic violence — to be in treatment together.
Is there anything that sticks out regarding how this season went overall, versus the other two?
A few things do: how sick some of the people were, both medically and psychiatrically, and the diversity of the group. It’s a diverse group in terms of some of the people being severely medically ill, like Mike Starr, when his withdrawal becomes profound. Some of them are severely medically and psychiatrically impaired like Tom Sizemore, who basically doesn’t get out of bed for two weeks. And then you’ve got folks like Mackenzie Phillips, who have long periods of sustained sobriety and understand the gig entirely: what’s required of her and what treatment’s about. You’ve got Heidi Fleiss, who’s severely ill from opiates and speed, and has a sort of criminal mindset. Dennis Rodman is completely resistant. He won’t even talk to me. It’s an extraordinarily difficult group.
Yeah, I thought Kari Ann was bad in her Sex Rehab check-in one-on-one with you…
(Laughs) That will stand as a statement that will speak for itself: “I thought Kari Ann was bad…”
It’s surprising that Dennis is allowed to do his court-appointed rehab stint on TV.
It’s treatment! That’s the point. It just happens to be on camera. There’s nothing different in the treatment.
It just seems like in the past, the courts haven’t been so understanding. Jessica Sierra was ordered to stay away from cameras to complete her court-appointed rehab.
That was a different situation. That was somebody who’d already been on Celebrity Rehab, and the judge was intolerant of that. This was, “You’ve got this thing you have to do, and you’re seeing a doctor, and that’s that.” TV or not TV, it’s treatment.
Is this the first person that’s carried out their court-appointed rehab on Celebrity Rehab?
I think Andy had some issues. I remember writing some letters for Andy. But yeah, it depends on the person. It’s so common that addicts have court stuff. It’s pretty much all of them.
Is Dennis’ resistance typical of people who enter rehab by way of court?
No! There’s nothing typical about Dennis. He’s just resistant. The court people usually want to make nice. We often have to figure out what’s sincere motivation and what’s bulls***. The usual thing is, I’ll go, “Why are you here?” And they’ll say, “I’m tired of living like this, it’s awful. You try living like this.” I’ll open the chart up and see a big document from the court and say, “How about the judge that sent you?” “Oh yeah yeah! There’s that, but that’s not why I’m here! I’m here because I want to get sober.”
Dennis is living up to his reputation of being one of a kind.
He’s so impaired. He’s so sick. I end up doing brain scans on him. It ends up getting much more involved with him. His brain scans are severely abnormal.
The thing that really stood out for me about Mindy McCready is that she comes in claiming that she’s not a drug addict.
Right, and then she goes in and has a big seizure. Explain that. Interesting. She’s another resistant one. It’s difficult to know what’s going on with her. She comes in agreeing to look at her co-dependency, so we start there. We start where they’re willing to start. We can’t start where they won’t go. It’s really hard to tease her apart, but my job isn’t to out people on television. I don’t know what part of her is motivated by TV, or what part of her is just her. I don’t know what she’s up to.
I feel like the abscess thing with Mike Starr is the most brutal thing I’ve ever seen on Celebrity Rehab, and I have a strong stomach.
You only saw the hole. You don’t see what squirted out all over the place. Those are common. I see it all the time.
Mike’s on methadone, and as someone who isn’t, I have a hard time understanding the philosophy behind treating opiate addiction with opiates.
It doesn’t make much sense, does it? It’s absolutely foolish. If somebody’s in an untreatable situation and they’re going to die if we don’t do something – they fail treatment or whatever – then methadone is lifesaving. But to give methadone to everybody? Huge mistake.
You say that methadone takes your soul away. Is it particularly draining as opiates go?
If you get enough for it to work, you’re just on the couch. You can’t do anything.
Mackenzie comes in and drops this bombshell about her dad to you before she dropped it on the world. What was it like hearing that information for the first time?
It’s not as weird as people take it. One of the things that she went around saying was that this is something that happens to a lot of people. She’s right: it’s not that uncommon. Her perception of it as something that was consensual is a little distorted, a little unusual, but the fact of a dad having sexually abused his daughter is something we see all the time.
The perception of it as a consensual relationship, I thought, was the most scandalous thing about it.
Well, you have to remember that’s a child’s perspective. It’s a distortion. How can a child consent to something like that?
Something that stuck out to me is that you tell Lisa D’amato, “Using alcohol as a drug to relax is not a normal relationship.”
Well, the way she put it was stronger, like she needs it to relax. Sure, people take a drink to unwind at the end of the day, but to need it to relax, it’s like, huh? You need it? Whenever the drug has control over someone, you gotta go, “Huh?”
Lisa is one of the most resistant as well, right?
Yeah, resistance is the name of this group. It was driving Bob Forrest crazy. He was like, “Jesus Christ, Mike might start vomiting his brains out here. He’s one of the worst drug addicts I’ve ever met, and the rest of you don’t seem to have addictions. What are you doing here? What’s the deal?” Lisa was the one particularly that made me think, “I’m not sure she should be here.” And that came from what the facts were: that she wasn’t using that much, and that she just hadn’t evolved yet to even the possibility where she could see it as a problem. Shelly and I sat her down and said, “If you don’t have addiction, we don’t want you here,” but everything told us, the world seemed to tell us that there was a problem. You can tell someone’s in denial when we have all this evidence, all these upset people around, and the patient’s saying, “I don’t understand. What are they talking about? It’s no big deal.”
Heidi Fleiss strikes me as particularly tragic. Her story about living in Death Valley amongst parrots is really, really sad.
She’s a tragic figure, I completely agree. She has two acute issues. One is a full-on withdrawal, both from opiates and speed, and she really didn’t tell me that she was on opiates. Her drug use was more extensive than I’d imagined. Secondly, her criminal mindset continued to be a problem throughout treatment. I have an affection for Heidi, I’ve known her for a long time. We would make inroads where she’d start to do better, start to make connections, but then she’d get into this way of thinking where she’d be like, “Screw it. This is B.S.” She’d also become very manipulative.
Having Tom Sizemore on with Heidi seems brilliant from a casting perspective, but nightmarish from a real-life perspective. Did it strike you as problematic to have them at the same facility, given their history, which includes domestic violence?
Yeah. It could be a problem. You don’t want to have perpetrators together, that’s for sure. I would not have put them in the same unit if they were still romantically involved in any way, and you can’t have family members in the same program. But people who have a history of romantic involvement, that’s not too uncommon. Addicts tend to travel together. And when they’re doing drugs, they do weird s***. They do bad stuff to each other. So it’s not that uncommon. It was problematic, and I had to be sure they were really OK with it. We spent a lot of time getting consent from these people, but they all felt like it wouldn’t interfere. And it really didn’t until toward the end, when it became a little bit of a problem.
And then, there’s Joey.
And then there’s Joey. I’d treated him before. Bob and I knew him. He came off The Real World into our program. They sent us right from the show into Las Encinas. Our previous experience with him is that he was a model student. We were suspicious of that — he seemed to be too good too fast. And lo and behold: he got home and started using again right away. Also, the magnitude of his addiction was worse than he ever let on. This time he was more honest. I mean, he is a garbage can. That guy can use more drugs than almost anybody I know. I’m amazed he survives what he does. He’s got a lot of issues with aggression. He was actually a challenge.
This sounds as intense as ever, if not more so.
Yes, it was! It’s probably the most intense season. Just coming off Sex Rehab, I was already so bent out of shape. What I’d been through was so intense already that it was like, “Holy Christ!” It gets even worse in Sober House. I’ve barely gotten over that. I’m not kidding.