Posts Tagged Alcoholics Anonymous

“Celebrity Rehab” – Check in and You May “Check Out”

Several years back my family was watching Celebrity Rehab and I actually sat down for ten minutes to see what it was all about. Jeff Conaway (of whom I was a fan from his “Taxi” days) was on at that time along with other celebrities who I knew much less about. However, after only watching a few minutes of these famous people getting in each other’s faces in front of god knows how many millions of viewers I remarked to my wife very simply that any clean and sober AA member would have laughed at the absurdity of this show. Today I stand by that remark.

Alcoholics Anonymous defines alcoholism as an “illness.” AA categorically denies that alcoholism is a character defect. Now just because AA makes these statements does that mean they are irrefutable. Maybe not, but AA’s record in steering uncounted of millions of people onto a road of clean and sober is far more impressive than the record of Celebrity Rehab, which has maybe ushered hundreds of high profile clients through its doors. Hundreds, not millions.

AA prides itself on keeping members’ identities anonymous, thus its name. Is the system foolproof? Hell no. However whatever flaws may exist in its noble purpose of protecting its members anonymity, it is a far better guardian of peoples’ privacy than a television show that flaunts the identities of its suffering celebrities as if being addicted to alcohol, drugs, gambling, or love (as Mindy McCready checked in for) is cause for celebration.

How one may ask do I know about AA? I have never been a member myself but I know of people who have. Notice I am not mentioning any names. The reader wouldn’t know them anyway. They are not famous. My whole point is though that some personal problems that people are suffering are just best kept out of the limelight, whether the sufferer is famous or not. Also, as a one time member of Nicotine Anonymous another 12 step program I am quite familiar with the 12 step premise and respect greatly the idea of privacy.

Celebrity Rehab is part of the tidal wave of reality television shows that have taken the entertainment world by storm and completely changed the viewing habits of millions of people worldwide. I don’t hate all reality shows. I always found myself fond of “Undercover Boss”, “The Amazing Race” “Supernanny” and the lesser known but entertaining “Pawn Stars.”

However, Celebrity Rehab is snake oil at best, and maybe a lethal injection on the flip side. The danger I believe lies in what was mentioned above. The AA program attacks alcohol addiction as an illness. One of the basic and most important tenets of AA teaching is that the addict who is sincere about recovering must turn to their “higher power”, be that God, a “Supreme Being”, or an elevated consciousness. Human intervention alone (As good intentioned as it may be) cannot cure an addict hell bent on self destruction. It takes a radical shift in attitude on the addict’s part that AA believes is largely tied to the individual’s spirituality.

When a person signs on for Celebrity Rehab he or she is setting themselves up for possible relapse. They are inviting a complete public dissection of their private lives. They are openly admitting to a huge audience of people that they are an addict. Not everyone who watches the show is going to be non-judgemental or perceive the celebrity as a victim of his own illness. Therein is the problem. In this day of social media, mean spirited people will often take to Twitter or other online forums and skewer the celebrity. If that celebrity isn’t thick skinned it will have a disastrous effect. Although it wasn’t connected to Celebrity Rehab perhaps no other example serves to reveal the pitfalls of going public with an addiction as the case of Dana Plato. In May, 1999, one day after she was barraged with insulting callers to the Howard Stern Show on which she appeared touting her new sobriety the actress was dead, of an apparent overdose.

It should also be noted that one of the first and most important steps that AA teaches its members is that in order to achieve sobriety you must first admit to being powerless over your addiction. Extremely wealthy and popular celebrities are not generally inclined to admit they are powerless. Yet that’s the admission that is at the core of being cured. AA teaches its members to check their egos at the door. By paying celebrity addicts big money to appear on the show Celebrity Rehab is still fueling the addict’s ego, rather than questioning it.

AA and other 12 step programs such as narcotics anonymous and nicotine anonymous offer their members a fellowship. I believe Celebrity Rehab offers their participants a sinking ship.


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License to Kill?

Excuse My Logic, but isn’t there something quite hypocritical, contradictory, farcical and almost bipolar about pharmacies such as the ones pictured below? Isn’t a pharmacy a place you turn to when you need help to feel well?  Or maybe I’m missing something.  Perhaps alcohol and cigarettes are actually good for your health.

Pharmacies such as these that peddle alcohol and the wider spectrum of pharmacies that hawk cigarettes are just contributing to society’s ills.  Alcoholics Anonymous defines alcoholism not as a character defect but as a “sickness.”  Therefore pharmacies selling alcohol are in some cases making people sicker.  Alcohol seriously affects the liver, pancreas and other organs.  Cigarette smoking too is a kind of sickness.  It is an insidious addiction.  For example, I have heard people who were cross addicted to cocaine and nicotine declare that cocaine was easier to quit than cigarettes.  Doesn’t that sort of tell you what a serious addiction cigarettes are?  Yet almost all the chain pharmacies sell cigarettes.

Getting back to alcohol, it is a known fact that most prescription medications come with a warning label telling the patient not to mix them with alcohol.  So what do some of these pharmacies do?  Not only do they have the gall to sell alcohol but in many cases the alcohol is displayed prominently right near the cash register making the temptation to buy it all the greater.

Perhaps a few analogies are in order.  I equate a pharmacy that sells coffin nails and booze to a person who sells you a house and candidly tells you about the leaky basement but deliberately neglects to tell you about the termite problem.  Or a romantic partner who confesses to having cheated on you but conveniently fails to let you know they have contracted an STD.

Doesn’t it occur to the people who run pharmacies that sell alcohol that some people just might mix booze with pills?  Or don’t they care?  Famed guitarist Jimi Hendrix died from mixing sleeping pills with alcohol.  Comedian/Actor Freddie Prinze shot himself to death after mixing methaqualone with alcohol.  More recently put perhaps not recent enough to be relevant to the pharmacy business types, Brynn Hartman murdered her famous husband comedian Phil Hartman and then shot herself after mixing cocaine, Zoloft (a prescription drug) and alcohol.

I can tell you my own personal experience as a reckless youth who thought it might be interesting to pour the contents of several dexatrim tablets (diet pills) into a glass of scotch and then down it (I beg any and all readers not to do this). It was as the sixties counterculture people called it a “horror show.” My speech became slurred like a stroke victim and my eyes were practically bugging out of my head with some sort of psychotic reaction.

This also leads me to another question in this day in age where the seemingly impossible becomes possible every day.  Are we far off from a time where alcohol and cigarettes, by mere fact that they are sold in these stores, are going to be covered by Medicare and Medicaid?  What a bonanza that would be for the already well-heeled pharmacies.

Pharmacies that sell alcohol and tobacco need to step up and ask themselves whether they are just in it for the almighty buck or to help better peoples’ lives.  To quote a college buddy of mine “Drugs may bring you joy. But they may destroy.” I think this saying holds equally true for the purveyors.

Copyright 2009; Greg S.

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