Saturday, February 16, 2008

Can celebrities recover on camera? I don't think so.

I’m not a big fan of movies or television but recently many of my patients have encouraged me to watch Dr. Drew’s show, Celebrity Rehab. Recovery is a serious and personal process and I have strong objections to programs that sensationalize an individual’s life-and-death struggle. Perhaps I am just out of the loop and behind the times but I don’t understand what if any potential benefit there is in commercializing a life-threatening illness.

The episodes of Celebrity Rehab that I watched were very confusing and distressing. It is not clear what treatment if any these patients are receiving. The environment appeared almost festive and chaotic. The casual nature of the intake did not communicate the seriousness of the illness. And taping the arrival of an addict to a rehab facility for a TV show can foster their sense of grandiosity, which is counterproductive to recovery.

Hollywood’s main purpose is to create fantasy, and success as an actor or performer requires being able to convince the audience of an altered reality. But in order to recover from addiction, a patient needs to begin to face his or her reality honestly, to acquire some sense of humility and to start to let go of their denial. It must be doubly hard for an artist be real and honest when they’re constantly praised for “putting on an act”. And then on top of that they’re being asked to show their vulnerabilities for the whole world to see.

There are a number of personality traits that are usually shared by persons suffering from addiction. Self importance, dishonesty, the love of drama and chaos are just a few. It is my professional judgment that these character flaws cannot be overcome in front of a camera on national television.

Addicts, whether they’re famous or not, need to be treated with the same dignity and respect as any other sick person. The recuperation process should be kept private and confidential, and should not be exploited for profit. At some point celebrities suffering from addiction need to be encouraged to be ordinary human beings, to be themselves, instead of the carefully crafted, false image that the industry wants them to fulfill. That’s how they get better, and that's how they can slowly attain a Sober Mind.

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