Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew is back for a fifth season, and we’re lucky enough to have the opportunity to talk about the show with Dr. Drew and some of the other staff at the Pasadena Recovery Center to get an inside look at the rehabilitation process. This week, we spoke with Dr. Drew and Jenn Gimenez and Dr. John Sharp about Amy Fisher and Steven Adler‘s volatile relationship and Dwight Gooden‘s emotional reunion with his son.
We spoke first to Dr. Drew.
With Steven, how does it derail a session when he’s so vocal to someone like Amy and he verbally says things like she’s a “weak link” in the group?
Sometimes it’s helpful. It helps the group gather on behalf of that person and support them, but Steven was being abusive, and now he’s the problem. Amy’s not the problem, he is the problem. We ended up having to kick him out and threatening to kick him out, because they sign an agreement that they will not be abusive and he has to abide by that. He doesn’t know the work that Amy’s doing, he doesn’t know any of that. He’s a drug addict in withdrawal, he can’t possibly know. He doesn’t get to see the work Amy’s doing in her individual sessions.
Michael’s relationship with Amy comes off as very protective, is that something you want to see happen between patients?
No, that had to stop. Everyone needs to focus on their own stuff. Amy can take care of herself. That all gets very involved. People need to focus on their own treatment, not other people’s recovery. That’s the whole problem for Michael, he’s co-dependent on everybody and he gets into everything, you’ll see how that evolves. He just gets overly involved with everything all the time that’s, his problem, that’s his pathology.
When we spoke later to Jenn Gimenez about this week’s episode, one of the first things that I thought of was Steven grabbing Shelly during their group session when he was angry with Amy.
When Steven lashes out at Amy in group and ends up grabbing Shelly by the arm, when you see that were you thinking it could get bad like your own experience with Steven in Sober House, or was it a different situation altogether?
I think this was a different situation, even though he did grab her. I think at this point he’s really frustrated because for Steven and anyone in recovery, and I’m speaking from a recovery point here, when other personalities, places, or things come our way that are triggers, they remind us of traumas and tragedies in our lives. So with Steven, Amy is not the problem, Amy is the trigger that brings that up feelings..it’s his mother, it’s his band members, or other people that apply to him that he’s thinking about. The Steven that was with me who did that that was a different person, he had those moments. But you see when he had Shelly, he stopped. He let go quickly because he caught on to what he was doing. I was alone with Steven when our altercation happened and [in rehab] there is group setting and I think there would be a lot of people who would be willing to stop it.
You were also with Dwight Gooden as he wrote the letter to his family this week. Did you write letters like that with the whole cast?
Not all of them did that. Some of them would talk with me and they would just start crying, and they were really able to unleash that way. I knew with Dwight, what his case was and how this was really, really weighing on him. He really wanted to get better, and that was the beginning for him, so I think when he watches that, he will see it because I don’t think he was really able to see it since he was so in it.
He doesn’t read it to his son, no. But writing the letter allowed him to work more clearly and to be more present when his son is talking to him, because that’s the thing, he could disconnect when he is around his family, and even though he is hearing them, he’s feeling the way he is feeling — that guilt and shame — so he’s not able to be present with the people he has hurt because he has so much remorse. I knew this was going to allow him to connect more, with his moment to moment and to the present, and to the ability that he could be there for them.
Finally, Dr. Sharp’s thoughts on the episode…
Can you clarify the difference between denial and dissociation? Both terms have been used to describe Amy and how she copes with her problems, and I didn’t know what the difference is.
Dissociating is an automatic coping response where a person just literally distances themselves from their feelings, so much so that their feelings are beyond arm’s length away. There is a disconnect between the emotion they’re referring to and what they are feeling at the moment. It’s a way of removing yourself.
Denial is a term that’s thrown around loosely “Oh, she’s in denial,” but what denial means is that somebody is subconsciously minimizing the full extent of what they’re talking about or the consequence of what they’re talking about. It could be that you are minimally worried or minimally excited when there is so much to be worried or excited about. When Amy came in she seemed rather disconcerned with whatever her problems were, she wasn’t so sure she was an alcoholic – I’d say it was a mix of denial and uncertainty. And to help herself through some really tough moments, she would dissociate to keep her feelings at arm’s length.
What was your perspective on the scene when Dwight Gooden’s son came, since you were sitting in on that?
That was very touching when Dwight’s son came. This was an example of meeting with an important family member, which we try to do as often as is necessary. When you do that, it’s important to try to have two clinicians together with the patient and their family member, so Drew and I wanted to really see about supporting Dwight in being able to tell Dwight Jr. how he really felt. They had not had a heart to heart conversation like that in years, so we really wanted Dwight to get something major off his chest. Anyone who has struggled with addiction lives with a lot of regret and if you get the care you need there is a way to make peace with what you’re carrying around but to be able to tell someone that is a very important part of recovery.
At one point Dwight’s son talks about not wanting to be hard on his father and cause him to use more drugs.
And that shows you the bind that the family is in, you know? They don’t know what the right thing to do is. They don’t want to add to the stress or make things worse. The family usually has a front row seat for someone struggling with addiction and you wonder or are afraid if you’re influencing what’s going on. It’s actually good to see that an addict’s behavior is a personal journey, and being able to get the help you need is so empowering and it allows you to get to the point where you can make amends. Not only is that a relief for you, but for your loved ones who’ve been standing by, essentially powerless to help.