Jennifer Gimenez is a familiar face to a lot of viewers. The actress appeared in films like Blow and Vanilla Sky before receiving treatment from Dr. Drew Pinsky and ultimately working for him on both seasons of Sober House as the house manager. As an actress and former addict, she gained an especially useful perspective on recovery, which is why she’s a perfect addition to this season of Celebrity Rehab. We spoke to Jenn about her transition from Sober House to the Pasadena Recovery Center, and she gave us a candid, honest, and often funny outlook on what we can expect on this season of Celebrity Rehab.
Jennifer Gimenez: I came from Sober House which you know, I definitely went through it. In the sober house it was me against eight of them twenty-four hours a day. And what was interesting from my perspective was a) I was now in a treatment facility and in a closed environment with these people and b) that I was on a team. Unlike Sober House, it was kind of like me always with them and Dr. Drew and all the other counselors, but still it was a night and day difference. There are a lot of trauma survivors—you know a lot of these people are very traumatized with their life.
Do you think that the trauma is a bigger factor in their addiction, or is it more the choice of being in an entertainment field where things are flowing freely and they have access to whatever vices they have? Or does one thing feed off of another?
I think it would be both. Being in the entertainment field and being exposed to it is the next level. You know, it’s like the next thing that happens. But before that happens, these people have a gene that we inherit of alcoholism or drug addiction. Like some of these people were not necessarily celebrities to begin with, like Amy Fisher wasn’t in the entertainment world—I don’t think she was seeking that, as opposed to someone like Sean Young or Bai Ling or Jeremy Jackson… Michael Lohan kind of got thrown into it because of his father… his drug addiction started before his notoriety. We’re always looking for a fix, these people are always looking for a fix. You know, you get the drugs or alcohol and they want more and then they want more and then they are in the spotlight and then it’s shopping, then it’s gambling. All these aspects come in—it’s like more, more, more.
Do you think that your personal experience as someone who is in recovery and also an actor means you can relate a bit better to them on that level as well as the addiction level?
Yeah, you know it brings a lot to the table actually. A lot of times these people in the entertainment world are like “If you love me, then I love me,” and with the drugs and the alcohol, you want more and more because you think you’re getting validated because of outside stuff and it really has nothing to do with it. And that’s something you get to search for and uncover and discover and discard and find out, like I thought what I did was who I was and that’s not what it is in real life. I have really experienced what these people have—from having it all to losing it all. At the end of the day, we are suffering from a spiritual malady and having to fix that first.
Can you define what your role is and how it differs from everyone else we see on the show?
Well, they call me a residential tech. What I do is after Shelly leaves her shift, Will and I come over and we take over her shift, which is different than Drew’s role or a doctor’s role because we run the until from 4 o’clock until the wee hours of the morning. We make sure people get their meds and make sure everything on the floor is running okay. Him and I come in pretty much as a team so that we are doing different things—giving them things to do, making sure craziness isn’t happening—I’m running the unit pretty much. It’s definitely different than my role on Sober House too because I do groups now at PRC.
How is this group different than the group you worked with on Sober House?
This group is, like I don’t spend 24 hours with them—which is sort of a great relief for me [laughs], I get to go home. I got to kind of decompress everyday. This group has an interesting dynamic going on. They weren’t abusive with me. I think it’s different because they don’t have free reign to leave the house, as opposed to Sober House where they come and go. They also know that I’m part of team and I qualify as being there. You gotta earn their respect, but they also knew they needed me to give them their meds, take care of them, make sure everything was okay. You definitely see with this group, you see them acting out. You have to check them. And I also think because I’ve been working in recovery that I know how to deal with them differently this time around. I have more of a professional outlook on the whole situation.
A lot of these people have been really exposed to the media, especially recently so you could see the celebrity “isms” for press coming out and there were moments where the co-dependency would come, and then they would go on their own way. And again, these people, we are taking the drugs and alcohol away from them and they’re like wanting to explode and they are so uncomfortable in their own skin. So there was a lot of turning against each other and you see that. The viewers get to see that whole experience. It’s interesting watching that—they didn’t want to deal with themselves so they get into each others business.
Do the people in the house have pre-judgments about the people they are going to be working with?
Each person coming in had no idea about who was coming in. As each person was walking in they were like “Oh my God, scary.” So no there were no preconceived notions/ I think they were really sort of frightened…But I got really close to the cast — they felt like I was their mommy, for some reason I keep playing that role, and they would express everything to me. Every one of them shared every secret with me and what was going on with them, so I know everything that was going on with them.
That’s so great, thank you so much Jenn for sharing with us, it’s been great to talk to you.
Are you kidding me? I love this, thank you.