This Sunday’s episode of Rehab With Dr. Drew marks the first time we, the public, will see Dr. Drew working with patients of the non-celebrity variety, and not only that, they are some of the toughest cases the show has ever seen. And yet, he tells us, non-celebrities who are in the deepest, most dangerous throes of addiction are his bread and butter and the people he works with most often. I spoke to Dr. Drew this week to discuss the new series and the first episode to find out who his new patients are and how they compare to the celebrities we’ve watched him work with in the past.
First of all, I was wondering if the new cast on the show is comprised of people who were fans of Celebrity Rehab?
It’s clear the people we’ve gotten knew the show well and wanted treatment by our team. No doubt about that. But the amazing thing is that in spite of how sick as they were, as far into their addiction as they were, they were able to still motivate and get through this process and get treatment. To us that’s a miracle that we ended up with these eight people.
You’ve said yourself that this group is the sickest you’ve ever seen, was the level of anyone’s addiction shocking to you? In that case of Michael, for instance, forty bags of heroin a day is a shocking number.
No, nothing shocks me, but I was very excited to see and meet them because, you’ll see on the show, I say to Shelly a couple times “We can really help these people.” These are the kind of addicts that we do best with that Shelly, Sasha, Bob, and I, this is what we specialize in, it’s the most severe addicts.
Is that because of their choice to seek help from you?
No, no, no it’s just that we specialize in the most severe, complicated drug addicts. That’s what Bob and Shelly and I have always prided ourselves in, to be able to handle anything. This is sort of our standard, you know back in the world we were in the hospital –– for 20 years we were in a hospital program together and those were the kinds of people we could really help. Not many people can help them quite as well as we can, we really do a great job with these kinds of patients.
What’s the emotional impact on you, working with a group like this?
Well that’s the hard part; we’re six months out nearly and I’m getting very co-dependent on this group. I had to tell them last week that have to back off a little bit, because I’m starting to become like a co-dependent mama. I’m obsessing about them all the time, I’m convinced they’re going to die, I’m working harder than they are on their recovery, and that’s not good. So yeah, you can sucked in pretty good like I am now.
Does that typically happen with like with previous casts or patients that you’ve worked with?
Umm, no because the other ones kind of got out. The slopes weren’t as far down in their addiction for the most part. Some of them were, like Tom Sizemore was, but he knew what he needed to do and went out and did it. For the most part, this is these people’s first time brush with real recovery and were having to rebuild their lives from scratch. This is the part that I wish we documented with that, people forget when you really have bad addiction you have to leave your relationships, your living environment, your job, your sense of yourself, everything’s gotta be checked at the door, and you have to rebuild from zero. There ain’t never gonna be a pill that’s going to correct that. We’re into that process now with them and it’s hard. I mean Erica called me midnight when my plane arrived last night, you know 12:30. It’s late, but there’s Erica needing help, and I helped her.
So let’s talk about some of the patients we met on tonight’s episode. One of the saddest scenes for me was Eric’s mother and aunt who had to watch him shoot up in the parking lot and were crying, knowing he had to do it.
That to me was shocking, because they shouldn’t be shocked. He’s a dope addict, that’s what he has to do. They made it about them. It had nothing to do with them. Eric’s a drug addict, Eric had to do drugs. They’re like “How could you?” How could he? How could he not? That to me was kind of disturbing.
The level of access that you guys had to these people was really incredible, the cameras were right there for some really hard moments.
Drug addicts do drugs, very simple.
A lot of parents and families were featured on the show as well, how involved are the families in the process?
It’s been mixed. I mean they’ve all been involved for the most part, which has been great, but their level of commitment to their own recovery has been mixed. They have to go to out, and they have to get sponsors, they have to do a lot of work themselves, and some of them are and some of them aren’t.
So one of the more obvious questions I have is how the group compares to your celebrity patients, since celebs are used to cameras and the public eye and these guys most likely are not.
No, they’re sick and they just want to get well. You’d be amazed how quickly you forget about the cameras. Now they’re reacting a little bit, that this is something that I did not, I’ve not had experience with, so they’re having quite a bit of anxiety about seeing themselves on TV and how people are going to perceive them and think about them. So we’re having a good deal of energies supporting them right now.
Do you think that any of them wanted to be on the show to become some kind of reality personality?
I think some of them did, but I think that was all of their disease, and addiction, and who knows what. I think mostly they wanted the treatment. And now that they’re well into it, the reality aspect is fading away, I hope.
What was the big difference between this show and working with celebrities?
The only difference that I’ve seen so far –– well, two differences. One, was what I was telling you, that the celebrities weren’t worried about being on TV. They knew what that meant, they didn’t watch, they didn’t pay attention. These people seemed concerned about that. And then there was the fact that the celebrities, it’s interesting now in retrospect, the celebrities are very resourceful. I mean they’re very clever. They had more, had more resources, had more ways of finding a way to make a living. This group, for the most part, needs to start from zero. They need to start washing dishes, start busing tables, just getting themselves dressed or getting to a meeting.
So let’s discuss a couple of other patients that we’ve met on the show, what was your first impression of Erika?
Erika is great. Erika when we first get her, she was quite suicidal, she was very depressed and it gave me pause a few times, that she might have to be transferred to a psychiatric hospital, but she really pulled it together. Deanna is way up in a criminal mind —
What do you mean by that?
I don’t deal with criminal mindsets very well, it’s not something I’m really equipped to deal with very well, so I questioned it. I think I even told her at one point either she drop that, or I’m not going to be able to deal with her. A criminal mind is a different mind from a drug addict. They’ve been institutionalized and they’ve been in a criminal world, they think that everything is BS, nothing has value, everything is a manipulation, everything is a scam, it’s a horrible way to view the world, you don’t trust anyone. And the very first process of getting into recovery is trusting people and following directions.
Ashleigh’s situation was another one that shocked me with the amount that she drinks.
Ashleigh was straight-up dying of end-stage alcoholism. She has a fabulous, supportive sister and family and she’s a great woman, but boy was she sick. She gets sort of encephalopathy from the accumulation of the medication we gave her which happens often when the liver doesn’t metabolize the medicines we need to give her to prevent seizures and severe withdrawal symptoms, so we had to switch her meds and she was still having complications…it was a very challenging withdrawal. But she’s doing amazing.
And then there’s Michael.
Michael was a great kid, amazing personality, college, you would not pick him out of a lineup as a drug addict, that’s for sure. But he is the kind of kid, and we made this clear to him, that you are the kind of kid that your parent comes to wake you up for breakfast and you don’t wake up. You die in your bedroom, this is what happens unless you get out of there, get in a program, get away from your family and into sober living, or else you die. They’re kind of hearing that now.