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The “Lohan” Phenomenon

Do Celebs in Rehab Devalue the Recovery Process?

On a personal level, I enjoy reading about most things in pop culture (except for that blonde heiress – haven’t people had enough of her life’s minutiae?). But professionally, as a chemical dependency counselor, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to hear the “celebs in rehab” refrain.

One of the very apt phrases in Alcoholics Anonymous culture is, “don’t take someone else’s inventory.” In other words, don’t judge or keep score of another person’s recovery progress. I will try to respect that by not taking the inventories of those little redheaded and bald girls whose “recovery” seem to be always at the forefront of the news lately. But because of nearly twenty years experience as a drug and alcohol treatment specialist, I have some very serious concerns about this phenomenon of celebrities in rehab.

My first concern is the perception the public must have of substance abuse treatment and recovery based on what they see portrayed in the media: the popping in and out of rehab facilities, the “day passes” for shopping and other behaviors that give a false impression of the seriousness of the process. This diminishes and devalues the real efforts of people who have made the decision to deal with their addictions in treatment! I see how hard people work in treatment to make positive changes in their lives. Working a recovery program - choosing sobriety after years of addiction is the hardest choice some of these people have to make. Patients not only have to give up their addictions, but must learn to live a new, sober lifestyle. This often requires a readjustment in their relationships with family, friends, work and leisure activities. Imagine having to change nearly every aspect of your life!

Another concern I have is the effect these “recovering” celebrities have on young people. As a mental health therapist, I often work with adolescents. One concept that is very foreign to most of them is consequences. Their brains haven’t fully developed to include the process of understanding cause and effect. Treatment and recovery from addiction focuses very heavily on the consequences people have experienced – loss of friends, family members work, financial status, belief systems, etc. My fear is that young girls especially see these cute girl celebs partying, being arrested and there doesn’t appear to be any real consequences. They still make movies and have concerts, buy nice clothes and cars. Rehab facilities are shown to be places with 600-thread count sheets and massages. How bad can that be?

One of the best learning experiences I had in graduate school was taking a seminar that was held at a local rehab facility. This was a 3-day “diversion” program for people arrested for DUIs and other alcohol/drug-related charges. In lieu of jail, they are often sentenced to these diversion programs. In this course, the students spent the weekend as “patients” or participants in the program. The following weekend, they returned as “counselors.” This was not a luxurious setting. Hair dryers were confiscated. The rooms looked and felt more like jail cells. My most vivid memory was during an outside break in our “treatment,” cars drove by yelling, “Drunks!” out their car windows. It was both a humiliating and humbling experience. But it was the best way to learn what being in treatment felt like! The realities of substance abuse treatment programs and the facilities that house them are somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.

My last concern and maybe the greatest is this: the basic tenet of Alcoholics Anonymous
is anonymity. How can a person receive treatment and work a recovery program in anonymity when photographers are lurking, waiting to take pictures of celebrity patients? I often wonder how other “regular” people in these programs respond to that unwanted attention. Pictures of celebs coming and going to AA meetings are common. That violates a sacred tradition/principle of AA. Patients dealing with addiction and psychiatric issues deserve privacy. In fact, in the U.S., it is a federal law that the privacy of drug and alcohol patients must be protected.

I must emphasize several things. First, I’m sure most celebrities who enter rehab and recovery don't flaunt or make light of their experience. Many are very serious and private about it. Secondly, I believe that many of the so-called “luxury” treatment centers do good, serious work. Thirdly, not all treatment facilities are based on 12-step programs or Alcoholics Anonymous. Treatment in conjunction with AA is just my experience as a professional.

So please don’t believe the portrayal of drug/alcohol treatment and recovery that the media perpetuates. Do some research, go to an open AA meeting and get a broader perspective.

Nancy K LaFever


  1. god is preditory on children::::

    So many runaway children, 15 year old girls who landed on the streets of Hollywood and elsewhere, ended up prostituting themselves.
    This is a topic that nicely illustrates how god is preditory on children, for not only did they popularize the notion of casual sex back in the 60s they instructed Artificial Intelligence to desensitized young women. Now we have people prostituting themselves through college and even choosing to turn tricks in high school.
    I suspect it ocurrs far more frequently then they will admit:::I suggest parents inquire about the status of their female children.
    Sadly, far too often these parents too are corrupted, and they think their daughters are earning by corrupting these young men.
    god is preditory on children.

    Star Wars 1970s
    Star Wars 1990s.
    Sugary breakfast cereals
    Free sex 1960s, which continued until the intentional AIDS scare.
    Preditory cartoons.

    George Lucas's legacy is preditory on male children (grafitti).
    Actually Lucas is an outstanding candidate to own a professional baseball team because of this. It's no secret that baseball is wicked, but because of the pedistal the gods placed him on with the Star Wars movies they wanted his public perception to remain pure, likely too keep him available for use in the future.

    I wasn't going anyways because they they were going to use me for this special project but many many others would have gotten out by 1980.
    That was the goal of Star Wars.
    And they're all brain-less clones, shells.
    Clone hosts.
    They're all god, preying on the disfavored children.

  2. I recently read an article about a an LA paparazzi firm that has a team of 7 photographers who are permanently assigned to follow around the shaved-head pop singer literally 24/7. They also pay big bucks to anyone who will throw them a tip about her doings, so there is almost no way she can do anything anonymously. I suspect that for her and other Hollywood stars "rehab" is often the only way to get out of the public eye for a few days.

    Of course the other use of "rehab" for Hollywood types is to improve their image after saying something offensive or doing something really stupid (see, for example Michael Richards after his n-word gaffe). You put all that together, and, at least here in SoCal, rehab is starting to be seen as an easy way to fix an "oopsy," rather than a serious treatment for substance abuse. Maybe we need a different term?

  3. Peggy:

    Thanks so much for your comments. I totally agree with your "oopsy" premise.

    And you make a good point about celebs being unable to maintain any level of privacy in their lives.


  4. Anonymity. Now there is a concept!


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