Dr. John Sharp Talks Rehab With Dr. Drew Episode 9: Family Weekend

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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.

This was family weekend on the show, but Heather and Erika didn’t have any family there to support them, how did they hold up?

They were prepared. Erika knew that her mom was going to stay out of her televised treatment. We did talk to her mom about whether she would be interested in meeting with us separately outside of that, and in the end she did agree to a meeting at the beginning of after-care. So Erika understood where she was at with her mom, and she got extra care from us in terms of keeping her company to make sure she felt supported. And Heather didn’t expect her family to come either. She was more independent and a little older and used to being on her own, so for her it wasn’t really a conflict, it was the reality she was used to. We made up for that with the level of support we treaters gave them. The treaters are, in a way, like a surrogate family, you have your professional relationships and professional boundaries, but you have caring and an awareness of someone else’s needs and you’re willing to step in to do whatever additional support they need to make them feel better. We’re not parents, but we try to do a good job of meeting the emotional needs of Erika and Heather.

One person I was really impressed with this week was Drewbee’s sister Lindsey. Unlike his parents, who we’ve seen as his enablers and who are very emotional, she was very clear-headed and realistic and was really trying to make sense of her brother’s situation.

It’s really kind of amazing that she so vividly reminds us how different children in the same family can find such different ways of responding to family circumstances. We were so grateful for Lindsey’s presence, too. Drewbee was, predictably, having a hard time with family day and was over-stimulated but everything going on, in a nutshell, and as we knew to expect, he was prone to retreat into himself or wander off, so we had to get him to remain interested and involved. Meanwhile, there was Lindsey, forthright and determined and ready to roll up her sleeves and explain to us how it’s been and where she’s at.

I thought she of all people might finally be able to get through to him, although it still seemed like a challenge for her.

He did take it in a little more, but it wasn’t so easy to see. In large part, the reason he even came to family day at all had to do with her presence, I think knowing she was going to be there to talk to and maintain an alliance with him was very important. She realized in their family that she needed to put herself first in order to have a healthy life, and she was really trying to be a model for Drewbee in that respect, so we were grateful for all that she brought to us.

Deanna definitely made some progress with her mom who she had described as cold-hearted in the way she reacted to Deanna’s lifestyle and her rape. Her mom admitted that she was just using this sort of tough love to get a point across to Deanna, it was a coping mechanism, not because she actually believes Deanna deserved to be raped or deserved whatever she got.

I think Deanna did realize it was just her mother being exasperated and not really having a better way to express herself. I don’t know if it was tough love so much as an expression of her frustration and inability to influence Deanna or change her for the better. When we first heard Deanna talk about her mother’s remarks in that way, it was harsh and you really would cringe to think of a parent having that reaction, and that’s not a measure of her as a person, it’s a measure of what she’s been through as a matter of dealing with and loving an addict. We did see Deanna working on this in treatment and she’s definitely benefiting from the therapeutic part of rehab, not just the detox part, and she had a more accepting stance toward her mom by the end.

Has their relationship changed or gotten better since treatment?

Yes, it’s gotten a lot better in terms of the judgmental nature we had seen on both their parts, and Deanna is grateful that her mom is able to provide a primary caretaking role for her son, the tension now has to do with that, whether or not Deanna can make enough progress to maybe take over that role and when her mom will agree to the right time for that. These are understandable, normal tensions. There’s not as much long-standing resentment that stems from the past.

The whole story with Jasmen brought out my own judgmental side this week, because she learns her dad, who’s a recovering alcoholic, drank a bottle of vodka, which was purchased by Jasmen’s husband. My first thought is how can a man whose wife is an alcoholic not know how destructive that would be?

Jasmen’s father really tried to do a good job of getting himself back in the good graces of his daughter and we left off with him on good terms. To then find out that he was drunk and incoherent at the hotel in the context of the family visit was horrifying, and then to find out Curtis bought him the vodka was, at first, almost unbelievable. And then we realized that this is a clear example of how difficult it is to really recognize the severity of a problem when you’re living with it. Curtis is a very practical guy, he understands the reality of life and Jasmen’s responsibility to herself in recovery, and yet, there he was trying to make the time a little nicer with his father in law. He had no idea he would down it all in one fell swoop right away. This is the denial that comes along with the illness of addiction. We see it in the addicts themselves, but we also see it in the loved ones, not thinking things through and saying “It will probably be fine.” It’s very common.

Is that denial the same reason he wanted her to come home instead of spend the time in aftercare?

Exactly, but he’s a quick study, he’s not going to make the same mistake again that he made with his father-in-law. It made us start wondering if maybe he’s been minimizing Jasmen’s difficulties, and maybe he was enabling them, and we did suspect there was some of that, so we tried to get him to convince her it would be okay to stay in aftercare. When he left, he was telling her he supported her continued treatment. That was an opportunity we created out of what had happened there over the weekend.

Jasmen always maintained herself though that she could get through recovery on her own, she was convinced she had the willpower to stay straight.

She did, and she really insisted she could do it on her own and we did our best to disabuse her of that notion, she needed to rely on others and the twelve-step community. When she left, it was a compromise, she didn’t stay as long as we wanted her to stay, but she has been able to rely on herself more than one might expect. She ha a therapist and she goes to meetings, but she’s being more responsible than typically you’d expect someone to be, she was actually right about it.

Also on the show this week, Ashleigh and her sister Holly ended up revealing to their mother that Holly had been molested and Ashleigh witnessed it. How devastating is that for a parent to hear, especially so far removed from when it happened?

It’s always harder to process something the further out you get because it just seems that much more remote, it’s hard to reconstruct the circumstances. On the other hand you also have much more emotional distance and over time you can certainly look at it with a more rational eye. She was struggling to come to terms with this terrible circumstance that she certainly knew nothing about and she was trying to make sense of what this means. It’s possible to resolve some of the bewilderment but it’s impossible to know what would have happened if she had known about this before. Would that knowledge have made a difference? These are all questions that are impossible to answer. The main thing is that there not be a secret around this trauma anymore.