When this post was originally published, I hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Drew. But that all changed yesterday at the Recovery Fair in Laurel Canyon. Not only did I get to meet Dr. Drew and his lovely wife, Susan, I got a chance to speak with him about my new blog Portraits of Addiction. I told him about the criticism I was receiving from a few members of Alcoholics Anonymous, who aren’t too happy with me violating their Eleventh & Twelfth Traditions–these are the ones that stress anonymity at the level of press, film, and radio.
Dr. Drew told me that when Bill Wilson, the co-founder of AA, originally wrote those traditions, he anticipated that as the program grew the need for anonymity would become less and less relevant. Dr. Drew agreed it seems silly to try and be so secret about something that is as ingrained in our culture as twelve-step programs. He also said not be deterred and keep doing what you’re doing, because “the only way we can de-stigmatize is addiction is by talking about it in a public setting.”
I can’t tell you how much I appreciate his encouragement. It means so much to hear it from someone as inspiring and compassionate as Dr. Drew Pinsky. I could tell just by speaking to him for even only a few minutes that he truly cares about helping addicts like me stay sober.
Oh and more one thing. My book, Some Are Sicker Than Others. Oh yeah, he’s reading it and he said he’s LOVING IT! So, I got that going for me.
Now, without further adieu I give you my original tribute to Dr. Drew Pinsky, except now, I can actually say I’ve met him.
(This post was originally published on andrewseaward.com)
Dr. Drew isn’t my psychiatrist or my addiction counselor. I was never on Celebrity Rehab or his new “non-celebrity” show…Rehab. I’ve never called into Loveline with a question for the panel, though I listen to it in the car on the long ride home for my acting class out in Burbank.
So, how could someone who isn’t my psychiatrist or my counselor have saved me from the throws of my addiction? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s simple really. Because he cares. He genuinely cares about helping addicts get sober.
Through his sincere compassion and tireless dedication, Dr. Drew has not only eliminated the stigma associated with addiction, he has given addicts, such as myself, hope for recovery. How has he done this? By showing, in a very public and high profile way, the devastating effects of this debilitating illness.
From the fatal prescription overdose of Alice in Chains bassist, Mike Star, in 2011 to the shocking alcohol-related drowning of Rodney King over this past summer, the patients at Dr. Drew’s famed Pasadena Recovery Center have reinforced for me a very valuable lesson: Addiction doesn’t give a damn who you are or where you come from; it doesn’t care how many records you’ve sold or how many Oscars you’ve won; if left untreated, this illness will destroy your life and everything and everyone around you. I should know. I nearly died from it.
Now, a lot of people have criticized Dr. Drew saying his show is “exploitative and manipulative of its cast members.” They say that the cameras only serve to fuel the patients’ own narcissism and self-destruction. And how can anyone recover in that type of environment?
I couldn’t disagree more. Almost anyone who walks through the doors of a recovery center does so with great humility and powerlessness over their illness. I don’t care who you are; a doctor, a lawyer, a musician, an actor. The fact that you’re checking into a rehab means you have been brought to your knees by something beyond your own power. Sure, the people on Dr. Drew’s show were once big time celebrities with lots of fame and money, but when they come through those doors, they do so with just as much hopelessness and desperation as any newbie in recovery.
And those deaths I mentioned above, although unfortunate, reflect the reality and severity of this unforgiving illness. People die from this thing, and they die painfully and horribly. In fact, according to the CDC, a total of 23,199 people died last year of alcohol-induced causes in the United States, while a total of 38,371 people died of drug-induced causes. That’s 61,570 deaths in one year alone! Or, if you prefer, 69 per day or about 7 per hour!
But these deaths are rarely ever publicized. And, if they are, it’s certainly not to the extent that the death of a high-profile celebrity, like Whitney Houston or Heath Ledger, stirs up in the media. Is this unfair? Sure, but that’s just the nature of the media. They seemed to be obsessed with celebrities and all things Hollywood. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from these stories. Although tragic, deaths like these serve a very specific purpose; they remind us of the insidiousness of addiction and the devastating effect it has on not just the afflicted, but everyone it touches.
Now, most of us “seasoned” addicts don’t need this reminder. After all, we’ve lived through it for many years and after many relapses. But, for the young people out there who are just now entering treatment, this message can become quite life-saving. Allow me to explain.
Even with all of Dr. Drew’s efforts, there is still quite a bit of shame and stigma associated with addiction. And this shame is what keeps a lot people from getting into treatment. However, by showing the public struggle of the people we hold high in our society—heroes like Rodney King, Dennis Rodman, and Jeff Conaway—young addicts are able to see that addiction is not a lack of will power, but a serious medical condition, most often manifested by a chemical imbalance in the central nervous system.
As someone who spent the better part of the last decade in and out of rehabs, ER’s, and detoxes all over the country, I know how difficult it can be to accept this concept. For many many years, I blamed myself for what I perceived to be a “weak moral fiber” which, of course, made quitting even harder. You see, I was so ashamed of myself and my inability to stop drinking that I decided the only way out was to drink myself to death alone in my apartment. Fortunately, I had some people in my corner who never gave up on me; specifically my mom and dad, Patty and Randy Seaward.
No matter how fucked up I was or how far down the spiral I had gotten, whenever I needed them, they were right there to bail me out, unconditionally. In fact, they nearly went broke sending me to the best dual-diagnosis facilities all around the country; Oasis, Foundations, Texas West Oaks…you name the rehab, I’ve probably been there. And every time I went, I promised never again to pick up the bottle. Yet, in a matter of weeks, I was right back at it, driving around drunk, puking in toilets, passing out at work, basically just destroying my brain and liver.
It wasn’t until I really started listening to the stories of other addicts in AA meetings, group therapy sessions, and even shows like Celebrity Rehab, Intervention, and Loveline, that I finally began to accept my addiction for what it truly was; a chemical imbalance. Without this acceptance, I know in my heart I would have never gotten sober. And I sure as well wouldn’t have had the opportunity to share my experiences through my writing.
This is why I say Dr. Drew saved my life. Like many of the counselors and addiction treatment professionals I met in rehab, Dr. Drew taught me a very important principle about addiction; that it’s nothing to be ashamed about. After all, it’s a medical condition, a serious, chronic illness, and as such, it needs to be treated with utmost medical care and attention. You wouldn’t considered yourself weak if you were diagnosed with cancer, would you? Then why beat yourself up for being an addict? It’s beyond your control. You couldn’t have avoided it. But what you can do is start to get treatment for it, because I promise you, a “healthy dose of willpower” will not cure it. You need a teacher, a counselor, a medical professional…someone who can guide you through the recovery process.
For anyone reading this thinking they may be an addict or might need treatment, please don’t wait. Get help today, from a licensed professional. You can’t do this on your own. Believe me, I tried many times and was unsuccessful. In fact, I nearly lost it all. So, don’t wait. Get help today.