Each week on Rehab With Dr. Drew, we’ll be talking to some of the staff on hand at the Pasadena Recovery Center to find out everything that happened in front of and behind the camera with this season’s group of patients. This week we spoke to Dr. John Sharp, who appeared last season on Celebrity Rehab and was this season’s Associate Medical Director, Psychiatrist on Call, and Director of Aftercare for the program. Dr. Sharp worked closely with the patients to make sure they remained stable and successful throughout the recovery process.
This week on the show, you were featured quite a bit because first you’re shown counseling Heather who is having a hard time dealing with Jasmen’s aggression and she tells you that were she not in treatment, her first instinct in dealing with Jasmen probably would be to have a drink.
We are at a point where the patients are completing their detox and they’re exposed to their own frustrations and anxieties without their substance of choice to alleviate their distress. They’re having a hard time dealing with what they’re feeling, and what we see with Jasmen is the expression of that not only as it was playing out for her, but as it was playing out for everybody. The lesson of that being that in a group, people take on different roles, so the person most vulnerable to say, acting out will act out extra. Not only on behalf of themselves but on the part of everybody else. The person most vulnerable to feeling depressed will feel down because they’re carrying an extra amount of depression for everybody else. Groups behave in this way where members get pushed beyond how they may normally be feeling because they’re carrying some feelings for the rest of the group. And I think Jasmen was clearly carrying her own distress but the distress that everybody else was feeling. It’s not that everyone was scared of that or didn’t know how to relate, it’s just that she was the one putting it on display.
So we had to help her manage her feelings and we also had to help each of the individuals, not only in their reaction to her but their own feelings of potentially getting out of control. What I was trying to tell Heather was that it wasn’t just about how frightening this is for her, but how frightening she finds facing sobriety and the stresses in life, not just with what happened with Jasmen in that moment, but more generally.
Jasmen dropped a bomb on everyone when she revealed in group that she had a miscarriage and ultimately got rid of the baby. Did you have any prior knowledge of that story and how did you react when you heard that? And how do you continue a group session with something like that hanging in the air?
That was a real bombshell for sure, and none of us actually had any idea that that was about to come out. She did, in retrospect, let us know she was a private person and that she was carrying around some things she hadn’t talked about before, and with the benefit of hindsight we can understand how she was setting us up to appreciate what she ultimately came forth with. When you first hear someone say that they’ve been through a lot, you don’t know what they’re referring to, it’s a generic truth like “Yeah, I’ve been through a lot too.” So when she became suddenly overwhelmed with the feeling that she needed to let that out and tell people the thing that was making her sick with upset and worry and driving a lot of her substance use, she left the group and ran to her room. The decision I had to make was whether to go immediately to her side or to stay with the group and help them deal with the fact that someone was so upset for reasons we did not yet understand. Jennifer went and tried to get Jasmen to come back so that she could let us know what it was that was making her so terribly distressed, and she did. It was absolutely a surprise, and it was difficult to handle. It was an unplanned therapeutic breakthrough that allowed her to feel closer and more understood and relieved of the burden of a terrible secret.
Was there a sigh of relief among the rest of the group to know that this was the root of her aggression and irritation and she was finally getting it out?
There was a sigh of relief and a transformation of energy that people had in response to her from upset and some degree of intolerance to compassion and a much greater willingness to put up with her displayed emotions. I think it was transformative. It went from fearful to loving.
How were your private sessions with her after this reveal, did it help significantly with her recovery to have this out there?
Absolutely. We followed up in individual sessions extensively and one of the helpful outcomes was Jasmen being able to understand that she was felling helpless at that time and didn’t have the ability to handle the situation differently than she did, so she was able to gain some perspective which allowed her to feel differently about what happened. You have to review a critical incident from a healthy, present perspective, and she was able to do some good work on that.
Jasmen had already been an alcoholic, but can you tell me how significant this event in her life was to making her problem worse?
She was already drinking but she started to drink more and more and actually fell into an entirely different pattern of drinking and it was something that became a much bigger problem, a much different problem, really, than it had been before. That’s how it goes for all of us, not just addicts, but we all have different ways of coping with stress and when we’re under more stress, we rely on our coping methods to a greater extent. So if what you’re doing is already unhealthy and all of a sudden you’re under much more stress and start doing that to a greater extent, all of a sudden you can be creating a real problem for yourself.
It’s big enough to tell a group of eight or nice people about this trauma you’ve gone through, but have you spoken to Jasmen about how she’s going to feel revealing her secret to the viewing audience?
We talked in general about the TV show airing and all that she’d shared and Jasmen had the healthiest reaction of all, I would say. She told me she was looking forward to seeing that, and I said that it could be stressful and she’s got to make sure she had the right support around her and it wouldn’t have to be overwhelming, and she just really said “No, I’m not concerned about that, it will be great to see how damaged I was before and to appreciate how far I’ve come.” It was really moving. The way she said it, with such confidence that she’s in a much better place now was tremendous.