The Celebrity Therapist

The Celebrity Therapist


Celebrity Addiction: What are the Differences?

posted by sherrygaba

I finally have had a moment to breathe after a week and a half working on Celebrity Rehab 4 to blog.  I always find each year on Celebrity Rehab uniquely different.  This year what has struck me most is realizing how painful it is for celebrities to be under the microscope for the media to exploit.  I suppose my even writing this blog is some sort of exploitation, but my intention is to point out the difficulties it is for celebrities, especially addicts and alcoholics, to be under the constant glare of the media.  Yes, some have charmed and manipulated the media to meet their own needs, but for those suffering with the disease of addiction, it is a matter of life and death for most of them.

What celebrities need when they go to rehab is to be treated like anyone else.  The disease of alcoholism touches every socio-economic, age, ethnicity, religion, occupation, and gender. It is an equal-opportunity problem.   It doesn’t matter if you are a celebrity or not.  One difference, however, between celebrities and the public getting sober is celebrities have numerous “yes” people around them that are afraid they might lose their access to the celebrity if they don’t do what they are asked.  Isn’t Michael Jackson a perfect example of this?  Or how about Brittany Spears? And most recently Lindsay Lohan?  It may sound like heaven to be surrounded by a bunch of yes people, but in the end, all it adds up to is a free availability of drugs and a host of people enabling the addict.  Often their staff does not deal with the celebrity in a way that is conducive to him/her getting sober

 It is very difficult for anyone, celebrity or not, to be put into treatment without all the luxuries of the outside world.   What they don’t need are people from the outside enabling them or paparazzi hounding them by putting out media blurbs that are false.  This undermines the recovery process and can be actually very harmful and hurtful for celebrity addicts trying to get clean and sober. The public is fascinated when celebrities are down and out.  Isn’t the last month of listening to Mel Gibson’s tirade an example of that?  Once in a while we hear how a celebrity has turned their life around.  However, those who successfully stay off drugs and alcohol often slip below the radar, while those who continue to use drugs and create dramas stay in the public eye.

Recovering addicts, whether of a celebrity status or not, need the support of their friends, family, and community.  They fight the same demons that anyone else does in fighting the disease and its temptations.  They are under incredible stresses just like you and me.  In fact, a study reported in Current Research in Social Psychology stated celebrities is twice as likely as non-celebrities to have alcohol-related problems. The study reported that certain personality types are linked between star status and addiction.   The study noted that celebrities tend to have “strong neurotic and extroverted tendencies”, while although beneficial for their careers, can make them highly co-dependent on what others think of them, resulting in mood swings often triggering compulsive behavior.  Also, as they become more famous, they become more self-conscious and less confident which can also lead to substance abuse.  In addition, celebrities are expected to be the life of the party having to be “on” all the time around people who really are more invested in their appearances then their well-being.

Working on Celebrity Rehab this year has brought to me a new found compassion and understanding of how difficult it is to be a celebrity and have an addiction.  They continually have to defend what the media has portrayed them to be in sound bites that are often closer to fiction than fact; and at the same time, combat the destructive nature of their disease.  Some of you may be thinking, “I don’t feel bad for them, they have everything: money and fame.”  Think again, because I am here to tell you, as the 12 step program teaches us “Don’t ever compare your insides to someone else’s outsides.”  The grass is not always greener on the other side.   

Sherry Gaba, LCSW, is a Psychotherapist and Life Coach and author of “The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery.”  The success of her private practice and coaching program made her the go-to expert for Dr. Drew Pinsky on VH1’s Celebrity Rehab 2 and 3 and its spinoff, Sober House, and has continued as the Life Coach on Celebrity Rehab 4.  Sherry’s expertise has been quoted in Cosmopolitan, New York Daily News, Los Angeles Times Blog, E! Online, Elle Online, The Huffington Post, and she has appeared on Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell, Hollywood Confidential, Inside Edition, E! News, Dr. Drew Live, Fox News in San Diego, and KTLA-TV in Los Angeles. Sherry is a frequent contributor to anthologies, blogs, and newsletters, is a sought-after speaker, and lives with her family in Southern California where she maintains an active private practice. Visit Sherry at www.sgabatherapy.com.



  • zooromeo

    @frgough
    completely agreed – I was once a chronic binge drinker and went onto believe the disease garbage for years in AA.
    Well, I got effective treatment for my anxiety/OCD and now am able to drink moderately – so much for being “chronic, progressive, incurable, and fatal”
    If youre addicted, you can change but you have to want to – problem for most people is they dont WANT TO CHANGE so they dont – it aint rocket science and if you tell people they have a disease – they have all the excuses ion the world !

  • http://na.org Amanda

    Aah, the disease concept. The definition, according to the world of recovery, is that addiction is: chronic, progressive, incurable, and fatal. It’s associated with more of the obsessive-compulsive mental diseases.
    Addiction is a disease that doesn’t just affect one aspect of the addict’s lives (i.e. physical); it affects MANY aspects: physical (withdrawal, weight loss, weight gain, becoming diabetic, other physical ailments related to drug use), mental (obsession and compulsion to use), and spiritual (self-centeredness).
    This is one insidious disease that is about the only one that people will deny they have it to continue on their destructive path. If you were told you had cancer, would you deny you had it? Maybe for a while out of astonishment, but most of us would search out treatment methods. The addict can be “analyzed, counseled, reasoned with, prayed over, threatened, beaten, or locked up, but they will not stop until they want to stop” (Basic Text, pg. 65).
    Addiction takes on many forms: food, gambling, spending, sex, video games… even those who are recovering from drug addiction have a tendency to cross-addict.
    I agree, it was hard to understand addiction as a disease. I saw it as a moral deficiency. Granted, that’s what it appeared to be from the outside, but if you knew the hell I felt inside, you’d think twice before saying much about the disease.
    I have to say, celebs have it both easy and difficult to find recovery. On one hand you have all the spotlight and EVERYONE will know if you screw up, and on the other hand, you have tons of “yes men” that will get you anything you need.
    In rural Minnesota, where jobs are scarce and addiction is on the rampage, having the ability to go in and out of treatment at will is a LUXURY – a PRIVILEGE!
    However, “the sooner we face our problems within our society, IN EVERYDAY LIVING, just that much sooner do we become acceptable, responsible, and productive members of that society…”

  • frgough

    Cry me a river. Celebrities are that way by choice. No one forced them to seek after the limelight.
    An alcoholism is not a disease. It’s a drug addiction.
    And it is not an equal-opportunity enslaver. If you don’t drink, you’ll never get addicted.
    Addicts are not victims. Addicts are suffering the result of stupid mistakes. We help them get back up on their feet, and part of that is not letting them blame something or someone else for their personal screw ups.

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