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 Jenn Gimenez and Dr. John Sharp about Sean Young and Jessica Kiper‘s re-entry into the real world, and the tragic death of Mike Starr.
This week we learned a lot about Sean Young’s backstory and how she and her husband both have drinking problems.
Sean’s situation is a really good example of a complex family system. In other words, we could see that as Sean was at home more, that her drinking increased, and part of that was that she was probably around and increasingly dissatisfied with where her career had brought her. The more free time she had, the easier it was for her to kind of drink a glass of wine when preparing dinner, and continue drinking throughout the night with no regrets that she drank too much, so she was looking at this and she was trying to decide how much of this she had to own up to, and how much of this was a addictive problem, she was really trying to come to terms with that.
But the interesting point is that rather than focus on that, she was looking at the same set of issues as they played out with her husband, and how they played out with him. Was he drinking too much, did one beer become four, or what would happen as the night went on? So we did want to help her by bringing him in to address this, but we didn’t want to only focus on him, because we understood that this was also an expression of her own kind of questions regarding herself.
With regard to Sean but also Jessica, I can only imagine that it’s hard to let them go back in to the real world knowing that they are a little bit volatile and could be in a tempting position to use again.
The really important question you asked was how do we deal with people going back to situations that we knew were problems before, and situations that we knew where we feel that these problems are gonna continue and probably re-occur. I mean, Drew has got tremendous experience in running a substance abuse unit for so long, and I have tremendous experience in this with psychiatric care and dual diagnosis, but the way our country is run is people have the right to make those choices, even if their judgment isn’t what you would consider 100%, it’s important to be mindful that unless someone has the intentions of harming themselves or somebody right now, or if they are completely disabled, it’s called “gravely disabled,” unable to provide themselves with clothing and shelter, unless someone is living out that criteria they are able to live out their life and that’s both the awful truth and the freedom that we enjoy.
How hard is that for you to know that somebody might undo what they have just done, because of that freedom?
Well, it’s really hard. I think as professionals you have to get used to the rough and tumble of the work you do and try not to take things personally. I still struggle with that, I’m still temped to take it personally if someone doesn’t take my advice, a lot of time doctors do feel like they know better, what somebody should or shouldn’t do. And the sad truth we see every day in terms of chemical dependency is that people have to learn the hard way. We hope that for example being on Celebrity Rehab for that amount of time that people have the opportunity to gain some perspective on their own life. In fact I told Jessica, just keep going with my meds and not yours, and keep going with this for another month or two or three, so you can gain some perspective on your life and see what I’m talking about and then maybe you can decide for yourself in a way that is more fair. I don’t think you can see it now with any kind of break or sobriety, and time. I don’t think you can see it now, you don’t have perspective at all. So we were hoping that with by the end of the length of time people were with us, that they gained enough perspective and we saw that with Jessica that she needed more. Was it wrong to send them back to their lives..No! Did we have any choices, you know we had limited choices, could we insist that she go to treatment? No.
This is the episode where everyone learns of the death of Mike Starr, and I’m wondering what kind of reactions you expected and what kind of fears you had for a group that is already pretty sensitive, when they learn that someone who was in their same position has an overdose.
It’s the kind of worst case scenario that everybody is surprised to hear about, even though everybody knows what to expect. Most people who have had a career in substance abuse, whether it’s using or being on the treatment side, have experienced the tragedy of loss of life. I wasn’t on the show before this year so I didn’t have a personal connection with Mike Starr, but I was upset to learn of that tragic loss. I was able to look out with fresh eyes on to this scene, where many people the staff and certainly Steven Adler had known him, and what I saw was genuine caring, they were genuinely affected, and it’s exactly the kind of emotional reaction you would find when someone suffers the loss of a love one. I was frankly glad to see that kind of pain in the staff who did know him. These were people who really care. No one took a “Oh, well” attitude, it was “Oh my god! What a tragedy,” so that’s a meaningful event which can make a difference in other people lives.
When I spoke to Jennifer Gimenez, she was clearly one of the staff-members who was greatly affected by Starr’s death and got emotional recalling the good times they shared during his recovery. She shared a photo, posted below, as a tribute to Starr.
You came from Sober House, so obviously you’d be a supporter of sober living facilities, what did you think about Jessica’s decision to opt out of that, are you a little worried that she is too blase about her recovery?
Yes, I am worried that she is blase about it, I see that that is more the disease than it is her, Jessica was doing very well while she was in treatment, and while she was in treatment we saw her uncovering a lot about herself, and discovering a lot about herself and seeing the healing process, so watching that and then saying “Oh, I’m gonna go on my own” is really scary because you don’t know how to live when you first leave treatment, or when you newly get sober or when you leave a sober living, it’s so new that it’s a very vulnerable place for her and it’s a very rough place.
The scene with Jeremy cleaning out his house was crazy. Life at rehab is like a quarantine, so had he not cleaned out his house, he would have gone from zero exposure to drugs to all that temptation.
I personally call it going back to the scene of the crime. When I went back to my house after treatment and went back to my house it’s like, you just start finding things. You don’t think to clean out your house before you leave, you’re just so IN your disease, so you go back and those 30 days or two weeks in detox doesn’t outweigh all those years of using and it’s a dangerous situation. Jeremy could have said nothing. But you can see his willingness to recover just by speaking up and doing that. For him to go do that with Bob was so inspiring. I’ve stayed close to Jeremy and I know he’s been doing so well.
Can you talk about how emotional that process was of telling Steven and the other cast about the death of Mike Starr?
Steven and Mike were very similar, they were level ten addicts, I am too. When that happened I actually got the call and I called Dr. Drew and he and I were like “Oh my God, oh my God.” It gets me teary-eyed just talking about this.
That’s what hits home in the episode, it’s very sad to watch and it makes the recovery for these patients very real.
We get really invested in these people. I had a really hard relationship with Mike and it was sometimes explosive, but I was scared for him. I wanted him to the follow the rules of recovery and when the show ended, he ended up getting arrested and going in to treatment and the one gift about this whole thing is that in 2010 he was sober and he was happy, we went to meetings together, and you see this wonderful person and his someone I am honored to have known. I saw him a few weeks before he relapsed and I told him I was scared for him and he went back to that old behavior and anger and then when you get the call the he’s dead, it’s so scary. And on the show, I knew I had to keep it together for everybody. And I wanted to make sure Steven was okay with this and keeping it together too. And he was. You just never know who’s next. We’re all at arm’s length away from our next drink. It’s just that today we choose not to. But it’s scary and it’s hard to work on yourself when you’re mourning the loss of a family member, of one of your own.