Rehab 101 ... or Oops! They did it again
IN RESPONSE to suggestions I do a "Dear Alky" type column to answer questions from readers, I've decided to share some of my e-mails. Their names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.
From Britney Shearhead: You know, I just can't make up my mind! Do I really need rehab, or am I just an attention whore?
Sometimes we answer our own questions. Seriously, write yourself a letter.
The simple act of spelling out the problem in a letter or e-mail often reveals the solution. If you think you have a problem, chances are you do need professional help.
If "The Late Late Show" with Craig Ferguson is past your bedtime, you might
have missed his funny and intelligent monologue on why he wasn't going to
make Britney Spears rehab jokes. I have to admit, he made me reconsider
doing this column. But he also shows that humor is an important part of
recovery. Listen to his story about how drinking saved his life when he was
feeling suicidal, and you'll understand what it means to be a "grateful"
On the Web: Go to www.YouTube.com and type in "Ferguson Speaks From the Heart" for the video clip, which runs about 12 minutes. It's worth watching.
But rehab isn't a place where you drop in for a few days and come out a completely changed person. It's part of a lifelong process. What you get out of it is entirely up to you.
Note to BS: Counselors frown on rehab romances because relapses can be triggered by new relationships that go sour. Besides, do you really need another K-Fed in your life?
From Lindsay's Mom: How often should I call or text message my daughter to check on her progress in rehab? Also, are day trips to go shopping considered good therapy? When I'm feeling blue, buying new shoes always lifts my spirits!
Follow the guidelines set by the staff and limit your contact to the times specified. The idea is to remove outside distractions, like annoying ringtones, so they can focus on why they are there. Rehab programs usually include counseling for family members to educate them about the nature of addictions and what recovery entails.
Contrary to popular belief, most treatment centers aren't fancy spas where the rich and famous go to "dry out" while they lounge by the pool. By and large, they have rigid schedules that include medical check-ups, individual counseling by psychologists or psychiatrists, group sessions, physical exercise, meditation and daily 12-step meetings. There isn't much time for lounging around, let alone "day trips" to go shopping.
From the Rev. Isaiah Swinger: Although I believe any sex outside of marriage is a sin, I must admit to having lust in my soul. Lots and lots of lust. Especially for young men. Can rehab cure me of my evil desires, or at least redirect them to women only?
First off, rehab does not "cure" anything. It's the start of treatment for a disease that never goes away completely. That's why I call myself a recovering alcoholic, and not a "recovered" or "reformed" alcoholic.
Even after 18 years of sobriety, I'm still one drink away from being right back where I was. Relapses are common. Although there is no "magic pill" just yet, scientists are developing drugs that could control cravings in the addict's brain.
That said, I'm not sure every phobia or illicit desire can be treated like an addiction. Gay rehab? I don't get that.
Makes you wonder though. If people can go into rehab for being homophobic or to "convert" their sexual orientation, what's next? Rehab for racists?
From Mel Richards: Hey, so I had too much to drink and shot my mouth off about Jews and blacks. But I'm not racist! Should I fess up to being an alcoholic and go public about my rehab?
Sigh. Remember the good old days when stars hired people to keep their personal problems out of the press? Nowadays, rehab is a celebrity rite of passage, and public confessions are routine.
Maybe that isn't such a bad thing. Before I was ready to admit I needed help, I read articles about famous actors and musicians who were in recovery. It gave me hope to know there was life after sobriety.
Unfortunately, some of those role models -- take Nick Nolte, for example -- would later demonstrate why AA does not want personal endorsements.
Anonymity has its virtues. On the other hand, by sharing their personal stories, high-profile figures such as Betty Ford have inspired many to take responsibility for managing their disease.
From Rush Blowhard: It's outrageous that spoiled celebs and immoral politicians duck into rehab after committing crimes! They should be thrown in jail -- er, unless they have a medical condition that requires heavy doses of legal prescription drugs.
Yeah, Rush, I agree they give real addicts a bad name, blaming their crimes and mistakes on drinking or drugs ... wait a minute. Come to think of it, that's what I did, too. So I must recuse myself from judging others.
Hardly anyone voluntarily goes into rehab. Most of us only did it because we were given ultimatums from loved ones or employers. Or we went because lawyers told us the court would look favorably on it. In reality, the motives of ordinary people aren't much different from celebs.
But don't assume anyone is getting off easy by checking into rehab. I've been in those rooms and I can tell you, facing the truth about yourself can be more punishing than any jail sentence handed down by a judge.
Last, and perhaps most important, let's not forget about the life-saving work being done in rehab. The counselors and staff in treatment centers here, and across the country, are true heroes in my book. If it wasn't for them, I probably wouldn't be around today. And that's no joke.
Rich Figel is a screenwriter and recovering alcoholic who lives in Kailua. You can e-mail him real questions or comments at email@example.com