Each week after 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.
At the very beginning of this episode, just going back to Jasmen’s story before we get into all the new drama this week, Dr. Drew had not been there to see her tell her story firsthand, so in the morning group session with him, Jasmen really looks like a new person and the way she talks about her experience is almost like watching someone else discuss it.
It’s amazing. Even though the healing process continues and takes place over time, there is real relief that comes as a result of a moment such as the one she shared. So that’s very realistic, in terms of treatment. People often think “Oh my gosh, if I get into therapy it’s going to take forever,” or “If I do talk about pain, it’s going to feel worse,” and those are common misconceptions and it’s understandable that someone might think that, but you really do see here how someone can get to a place of real relief suddenly and how the rest of the healing can really be enabled by that breakthrough.
In this group session, Drewbee had a little bit of a meltdown and walked out of group. He also keeps saying that the cameras are constantly on him and that’s what’s bothering him, and Dr. Drew basically calls BS on that and says the cameras are just another excuse for him. Knowing he’s been in and out of twelve other treatment programs, so what approach do you take with someone who has a history of unsuccessful treatment and it starting to show signs that he’s checking out of this one?
I can tell you that Drewbee is complicated and difficult to really understand, regarding what was driving his distress. He came in in a very characterized way and then he settled down and laid low, but he had low tolerance for conflict and he was easily frustrated, so one of the things he did was to stay away from or try to reduce conflict in others, or threaten to leave. As nice a guy as he is, he really has a hard time tolerating feelings and processing them, and that’s what led him to many different, often short-lived, attempts at treatment. When he was telling us he was bothered by the cameras, at first we were very concerned and we didn’t want to make him worse just by being present in a treatment center that has cameras in it, and Dr. Drew took the stance pretty quickly that that was just an excuse on his part. We had a hard time understanding what was really driving his disease. [Regarding his stints in rehab], one’s track record in rehab is often very predictive and as much as we wanted to be resoundingly successful and unlike the others, and when someone comes in and says everyone they’ve seen has disappointed them, a psychiatrist recognizes that he or she is likely to be the next one on that list. I used to immediately feel like “I’m going to be the one to make the difference that no one else has been able to make,” but that’s a rescue fantasy and we have to be realistic about that. I was predicting that unless somehow we were going to be the ones to make a difference, we were going to be the next ones on that list, and we did not want to be.
He and Eric both buddied up at the end and they both expressed a desire to leave, when two or ore people feel that way, do they feelings compound and they’re more likely to act on that?
Yes, attitude is definitely contagious. We actually know a lot about social contagion and we at Harvard are studying a lot about how people’s attitude’s affect one another and I definitely think Drewbee’s attitude was definitely something Eric was open to and was probably somewhat inspired by. Drewbee wanted easy answers, didn’t want to do too much work in determining what his part was in the difficulties he was living out, and was tempted to shut things off or just split. All of that suited Eric at times.
I spoke to Jennifer about the experience at the AA meeting with their encounter with the men who threatened them, and the aftermath was incredibly angry and emotional, everyone in the group was upset for so many different reasons. How do you deal with a group that’s got so many emotional responses going all at once?
This is a group that’s already challenged with managing their frustration and emotions. I think when people get to wit’s end they are irrational and lash out and try to find reasons to explain things and blame, and I think what you saw was a chaotic response that was the result of people being over the top. When you think about how we can help get people well, it’s founded on getting people to feel safe. We have to have our basic security and shelter and food in place before we can talk about our higher aspirations before we can deal with conflicts and things that are going on in our minds. Their basic need for safety was rocked, so they couldn’t really do much better than reacting as we saw.
Did it change their perception of the safety of the program itself and what you guys could provide them now that they realized you guys can’t protect them from everything?
It helped, actually. It helped people to recognize that it’s a shared responsibility, that all of our individual actions count and they can’t just go out and do whatever and expect that it’s always going to be okay. In a way, it was a path toward a lesson all of us have to learn in terms of taking responsibility for ourselves and being mature.
One of the great moments in the episode was Mike going to his tae kwon do lesson —
He didn’t know he was going there beforehand, it was a total surprise to him. He had told us he was very full of regret for giving that up and losing the connection with his master, and a big part of his identity was sacrificed because of his drug use. He was considering reconnecting with that and we were warming him up to the idea, but when he went out, he had no idea what was in store for him and it was really wonderful to see the joy he had in becoming himself in a way again.
We discussed last week how many people exchange a bad habit for a good habit and it felt like we were seeing him do that.
Right, it meant channeling his energy in a healthy direction, and reconnecting to something that was so important in his life and something he felt so ashamed about losing touch with, and relieving himself of a great deal of shame and regret. No wonder it was so joyous for him.