Dr. John Sharp Talks Rehab With Dr. Drew Episode 8: The Family System

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Dr. John Sharp Rehab With Dr. Drew

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.

It was clear that a lot of people were affected by Ashleigh’s seizure this week and how serious it was, but I wanted to discuss Drewbee because it seems like of all the patients, he was actually unaffected and started to turn on the treatment process, he seemed very numb to everything from that point on.

Numb to everything, her situation, the reality of his situation, absolutely. Ashleigh’s seizure was really, really scary for everybody, it’s something you know could happen in recovery, but nonetheless, addicts don’t often give it its proper regard until they actually see it, and there’s really nothing scarier than seeing a seizure. After she received treatment and was cared for and was brought back to the facility, she wasn’t even as affected as everyone else who had to actually see what she was going through. That became a focal point for the group in recognizing the seriousness and the risks involved with their substance use and abuse. The exception to that was probably Drewbee. He was showing us that he was not in touch with how severe this really is, and we began to realize how he may not really even be grounded in reality. He was so busy shrugging things off and giving quick, glib answers, that it was hard to really understand how the world looks from his point of view and this kind of cavalier attitude was covering over a lot of confusion and distress. I don’t think he understood the gravity of the situation.

Even after he heard about how codependent his father was on him and how much the disease affected his father, Drewbee still seemed unfazed or unwilling to hear that. You’d think that doing something for your loved ones is the reason some patients are willing to go the extra mile.

I know. A lot of caring was going on in that family but also a lot of codependency and enabling too. A lot of unhealthy patterns were being reinforced. When you’re looking at an unhealthy family system like that, people really lose their perspective of how unhealthy this is. Drewbee was able to casually disregard what was, to anybody else, a dreadful consequence of the behavior he was used to. He just wanted to split, he didn’t want any part of it, he just wasn’t concerned, he just thought people were bothering him. It’s a vivid example of one of the most short-sighted approaches we’ve ever seen. And because he had a history of repeated head injury, we really needed to look at the psychiatric sequellae, the results of his brain injury, and make sure that he was capable of being as rational as we would expect someone to be able to be.

The idea of being overloved vs. being neglected came up in the group session and those who were overloved, like Drewbee and Michael, were the ones who were enabled by their parents.

Yeah, it’s true, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. A comparison in our group would be between Drewbee and Michael, and, say, Erika. Erika is anxious because she’s been forced to be on her own, take care of herself, become self-reliant, and she actually is good at counting on herself now and being very clear about where she stands in terms of her life. But those were traits that were born out of necessity, so she has a different problem, where she’s worried too much. And what Bob was saying was that that’s better than not worrying enough and having other people worry about you so much that you don’t really even develop the capacity to take care of yourself.

Ashleigh reluctantly revealed the story about watching her sister Holly get molested when they were children, and it makes sense to me that this trauma helped lead her to her addiction. But when she spoke to her sister about it, her sister seems to have brushed this memory aside, it didn’t seem as traumatic to her.

Holly had put it aside and compartmentalized it, but she wasn’t free of the trauma herself, a lot of her care-taking of Ashleigh had to do with that, feeling a responsibility to her sister, and a lot of this was displaced anxiety as a result of the abuse she went through. She didn’t carry it near the surface though, so I think she was caught off-guard when Ashleigh brought it up and it stirred up a lot in her, leading her to be able to talk with Ashleigh and with us about it and ask us for a referral to deal with it on her own.