The Celebrity Therapist

The Celebrity Therapist

Celebrity Rehab: Learning to Live in Compassion

 I have the privilege everyday to work with addicts and alcoholics.  Most recently I am working on Celebrity Rehab 4 with Dr. Drew on VH1.  This is my third season, and every year is uniquely different.  One thing, however, I do notice with my clients is the lack of  compassion they have for  themselves.    Often my clients, both in and out of rehab, are filled with shame; and this is what hinders them from forgiving themselves at times.



Anyone who is in recovery can look back on times in their life when others have deeply hurt them, and when they have deeply hurt others. But we cannot let those wounds fester forever, because they will cripple us. Learning to live in forgiveness and compassion are important and interrelated parts of the recovery process.


You need to begin appreciating the gifts of sobriety even if you’re still finding your way to your sober life, because embracing what is positive brings more positive change to you. But to appreciate what your life is offering you, you must first learn to forgive yourself for your mistakes and forgive others who have caused you pain. And to forgive, you must have compassion–for yourself and for others.



So you can’t have appreciation without forgiveness, and you can’t have forgiveness without compassion. But compassion is not always easy. And sometimes it runs right up against our notion of justice. How can we have compassion for those who have hurt us so deeply? How can we expect others to have compassion for us when we have hurt them? And how can we have compassion for ourselves when we have screwed up so badly?



Rabbi Jackie Tabick has an interesting take on that subject. She’s the first woman in Britain to be ordained as a rabbi, and you can watch her talk about what Judaism says about balancing compassion and justice here: She makes the point that if all we had in the world was compassion, we’d also have chaos; justice is what creates the boundaries that give us a sense of right and wrong. But a world with only justice and no compassion is a world without God. The problem is that justice is easy for us humans to dish out, but compassion is hard.



Rabbi Tabick said something in her talk that I think can make it easier for all of us to find compassion within us. She said, “This idea of compassion comes to us because we’re made in the image of God, who is, ultimately, the compassionate one. What does this compassion entail? It entails understanding the pain of the other. But even more than that, it means understanding one’s connection to the whole of creation. . . . I call that unity God. And that unity is something that connects all of creation.”



So the compassion we put out into the world comes back to us, because we are all connected. Our profound compassion for others is what leads others to forgive us. Ultimately, compassion for others is what enables us to forgive ourselves.


Sherry Gaba, LCSW, is a Psychotherapist and Life Coach specializing in addictions.  She is the author of “The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery” and Psychotherapist on Celebrity Rehab.  Sherry has a simple program of seven action steps that will transform anyone in recovery. By shifting focus from addiction (whatever the addiction is) to doable behaviors that align with sobriety, anyone can enjoy a purposeful and meaningful new life.

  • Csilla Moffat

    I agree that compassion is very important but have found that the easiest way to arrive there is through acceptance. I accept where I am RIGHT NOW and this also makes me accept everyone and everything as it is in the present. After all the present is all that we have. If we can learn to accept, to be comfortable with where we are then compassion naturally follows. There is no need for justice. Justice correlates with judging and when I judge then I cannot possibly accept.

  • Csilla Moffat

    I agree that compassion is very important but have found that the easiest way to arrive there is through acceptance. I accept where I am RIGHT NOW and this also makes me accept everyone and everything as it is in the present. After all the present is all that we have. If we can learn to accept, to be comfortable with where we are then compassion naturally follows. There is no need for justice. Justice correlates with judging and when I judge then I cannot possibly accept.

  • CYn

    Sorry to tell you that for some people, quitting cigarettes is harder than anything else. My husband has been told that if he should decide to quit smoking he needs to be put on meds. That cigarettes contain anti depressants. More than an average pill. Well before he had been told this he did try to quit, and he wasnt himself.

  • Lynell

    Strange how addiction, alcohol/drugs, and good mental health will fight with one another. After decades of on and off again overly consuming alcohol and then switching back forth with pot and at times both I sure got mighty tied of it all. I was told repeatedly I drank to much. I absolutely knew better then this one. However I entered a treatment program. Right off the bat I insisted it was not substance abuse which was my main cause of problems. Finally mental heath peoples examined me. Bingo I have bipolar. I completed the alcohol program by convincing myself I was truly an alcoholic. Soon after I came to the reality of I really had a right to drink and smoke pot and more importantly I also had a right not to consume either. Which took the most strength of character, guts, to owe up to? Realizing finally I have an absolute right not to consume either pot or booze I took on the challenge. Wow I got very proud of myself telling folks I have a right not to consume at all. It made me feel prouder then I can write here. After completing that program in April 1994, 5994 days ago and being treated for my bipolar I have never had a drink or anything to do with pot losing all desire for any of it or that kind of behavior. Trying to quit while not being treated for my then unknown mental illness was like just treading water and going no where. After I made a strong amends/atonement with those I felt had it coming and more important FORGIVEING myself a thousand fold my life went forward as I had never experienced before. It works day after day today nothing could be finer. Just for the sake of your life and all those around you in the very least just PRETEND, if you must, you really are an alcoholic puff out your chest proudly and take action ten times over what is necessary and a whole new you will emerge. No more falling on your face.

  • iphonedeveloper

    Your blog is very important specially for young people who have no knowledge about the addiction of drugs or sex they have no idea how they are wasting their time,money.Continues addiction cause them serious concern about health . Your blog is really interesting and informative thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Faith

    Thank you for the Blog very interesting seeing that right now that im a recoverying addict. I have found that Faith keeps me going. I do however posess 1 major problem and have had not found any help in trying to deal with it, Problem being is that both my husband and I are recoverying addicts but went seperate ways in our recovery efforts, his are not working as well as mine and because of this its having a major impact on our relationship..Dealing with my Sobriety is hard enough and caring for the significate other has taking its toll. I am being real strong through this and would like to know if you know of any sources out there that could help me cope? Thank You for the Blog.

  • Terry

    In response to Micki dated July 30: Believe me my friend quiting cigarettes is not as hard as kicking herion. Herion grabs your soul then does a nose dive straght to hell. I think people get the wrong idea when they hear that quiting cigarettes is compaired to kicking herion. Somehow the addiction may be as strong but i find that hard to believe. Anyone that has kicked herion(me being one)will tell you they would rather have stoped smoking anyday. Rest asured, quiting smoking is not that bad.

  • Thom Hunter

    I found your post very interesting. I interact with people whose primary addiction is an expression of sexual brokenness, whether porn, masturbation, adultery or homosexuality. It is truth delivered with compassion that begins to turn the tide. So many people have turned to addictive fixes because of a lack of personal connection and relationship.

  • C stock

    This is a wonderful opinion. The things mentioned are Great and needs to be appreciated by everyone.
    C stock

  • Gundosyeq

    Aloha!nxgt! ockgf uwxnr

  • Micki

    I have been a non-smoker for two weeks now. I smoked for 25 years and have developed Emphysema. I have made so many other attempts to quit but this time I am determined to stay smoke-free. People have told me quitting cigarettes can be as difficult as quitting heroine. I ask for prayers from other blog members and I in return am praying for all of you.
    In God’s love!!!!!

  • Joe

    Great article. I’ve been sober and straight for 25 years. Forgiveness is so hard to find while a person is in recovery. But as your life goes forward and the past is left behind forgiveness is found. Persistence, discipline, a positive attitude, and a relationship with God are a must to succeed.

  • Vic

    I just want to thank you for this article and your words have helped me a lot. I thank my friend that sent me this link, what you said has helped me to move forward with self. Thanks

  • Carolyn

    Good article. After all the damage that was done through my addiction, the hurt I cause others and myself. I could forgive others, but the hardest thing for me has been forgiving myself.
    Thank you

  • Tyler

    You write about forgiveness and you are so right. Although it can be extremely difficult, you forgive someone’s wrong and you really forgive a part of yourself in some way. Thank you for your words.

  • Sandra A Freind of Bill W

    To God be the Glory! I loved everything you had to say in this Artical.I relate to every word you said. I to work with recovering Addicts. And did I not mention? I am a RECOVERING ADDICT MYSELF. i WOULDN’T CHANGE A THING IN MY LIFE.I’m right where God would have me be.and so are you.Keep doing what your doing.

  • Mike


  • Kay Lynn

    I really enjoyed the article, “Thank You” for bringing to the light that we must first have compassion. Without the empathy for others, combined with forgiveness & a deep faith in God I would not be here today. It took me along time to love myself enough that I could “forgive” myself for the pain and destruction that I caused in my life & the lives of my children and family…not to mention all the lives that I came into contact with along my reliant journey. I praise God everyday that through his mercy I am finally “free” of my addiction to substance and alcohol.
    For the past 5 years I have been rebuilding our life; mine & my 2 handsome sons. Even during my addictive days — other addicts would come to me; for a place to stay, eat, to get cleaned-up or wash their clothes. Through my experience I have learned that I love people, I do not place judgment(s) upon them. I truly have been blessed to have experienced homelessness, rape, addiction, alcoholism, hopelessness, shame, guilt, forgiveness, empathy, compassion, the recovery process, sobriety…the list is endless. I have learned to open my mind and heart to others and “hear” what it is that they really need in the helping process.
    I have devoted my life’s work to helping others; I know that God spared my life (3) times for a defined purpose. Upon completion of my degree (and even now as a volunteer) I will spend the rest of my days giving back to others what has been given to me…love, compassion and forgiveness. There is hope for the future if we all work together as one.

  • Lisa McVay

    thank you so much for this article. I am JUST NOW in recovery from Pot, now ive done every drug, aside from shooting heroin…. and have been clean for 12 years from cocaine, crack (17 years), crank etc.. now i face the pot demon,,ive smoked since i was in high school in the 70s, which then THAT was the thing to do… then i got sick in 1990 and lost both my breasts cancer had reconstruction.,, 17 surgies later i have no breasts no nipples just me.. now while i was so sick, pot was the only thing that would give me an appetite so i thought its ok but i never stopped until 6 days ago.. so im a newbie. PLEASE PRAY FOR ME AS IT IS A BATTLE OH YES..I PRAY GOD WILL TAKE THIS ADDICTION AND THROW IT OUT OF SIGHT~~~~ THANK YOU JESUS AMEN………..

  • Your Name

    I have recently began a relationship with an addict. He comes from a long line of addicts on both sides. His family has forced him into rehabs over the past five years and has helped build more sadness and anger within him. Ever since we met I have given him some peace, some hope. I want to thank you for sharing this article it will give me more insight at helping him through this life long transformation into sobriety. A task I am willing to take on with him.
    God Bless you all

  • Melissa Odom

    One more thing. I will be 39 in about 6 weeks. My addiction lasted for nearly 20 years.

  • Melissa Odom

    I am a recovering addict. My drug of choice is crack cocaine. I started using crack when I was 17 and stopped for good April 03, 2008. I am now going into my 3rd year of college. Psychology major. I want to be an addictions counselor. I am going to use my experiences to help others. Who better to be there for the addict than someone whose already walked in those shoes….God spared me and guided me through all the dark alleys for this reason….

  • mel

    I am a recovering addict and also someone who works with addicts! We are addicts because we lost the compassion of our lives to the drug!! Replacing this takes time but the point you make about compassion and forgiving ourselves is essential!!! We are our own worst enemies and not being able to forgive ourselves or others goes counter to the 12 Steps!!!

  • Kimberly

    I loved your article. It hit home. I have been in a relationship for 26 years, the first 9 years was an unhealthy relationship, living with an addict and using myself to keep him around me. He has been clean for almost 18 years, and I have not used for 17 years. We have been thru everything and stuck it out. He has now filed for divorce. I am so hurt and feel like we have no appreciation or compassion for each other anymore, yes we have hurt and we have loved and somewhere raised 2 beautiful well adjusted kids. But where did we loose that love compassion and understanding for each other. I know we generally care and love each other but we seem to need help. Now we are living apart but are stuck. I am glad for your work and your books and this article.

  • Gail Lynn

    HAVE BEEN SOBER/CLEAN/DRUG FREE FOR 29 YEARS THIS SUMMER and as one of your writers commented, society doesn’t forgive. I have lived in this town most of my life and some people still call me “drunk” or “wild” or “crazy”. Some people even come up to me in stores and repeat my terrible little events in my younger life. I used for a short 12 year period, but during that time I wrecked my life pretty extensively. I had a young son, I wrecked a few cars, I lied, I stole, I lived wrecklessly, I crashed and burned many people, and I am still paying the price. I love being clean, but society as a whole is unforgiving. I do have a good job, but only by the grace of God. I do not yet have a “good life”. Married 2x and both husbands were active drug users. My children have used and been in and out or rehab. It follows you whether you want it to or not….but each day I pray for a new chance and redemption….

  • Douglas

    Loved your article. I have been sober for 15 years now, and so glad I made that decision. I know that walking with Jesus Christ has helped me to stay sober. Counseling and support helped, but Jesus keeps me free. I have been praying for Lindsay Lohan, because I know if she calls out to Jesus, she will get free of her addictions, and I hope she also gets a circle of people around her that are a positive influence, not enablers or users. In Christ, Douglas

  • Donna

    Dear Sherri,
    I have been through drug addiction with my kids since they were in intermediate/high school. My two sons are now 28 and 35 years young.
    I keep forgiving and helping but this time I feel it to be close to impossible as we are looking into retirement and are in fear of being ripped off again and put on a merry go round of enablement.
    One of my sons are in California and have just come out of jail about a month ago. He seems to want a relationship but the symptoms bother me. I am still in denial of his recovery and live in fear that if I do have a relationship again we will only be hurt again. Is there any place he can go to that will ease our minds? He denies being involved in drugs but then he always did-which was lies.
    My youngest son has just been arrested about 2 months ago. Yes, One came out while the other went back in. My youngest have graduated from a state drug court program and did very well for a couple of years until he fell in love again. I have stressed my anger to him as he was arrested utilizing my vehicle which the police wants to take away from me due to his use in burglary. We are not communicating. However he is communicating with my eldest son and my brother.
    Please keep my email address confidential.

  • Judy

    Hi my name is Judy and I have been clean 6 years and a few months. i started using when I was 13 and I am 49 now so that’s a lot of time abusing my body, mind, and spirit. My lifestyle was killing me just as much as the dope was. What I have found though is that life became very different when I got and stayed clean. I am a convicted felon twice over and some pretty bad misdemeanors. I find that even though I went back to school and have lived a straight and narrow life society doesn’t forgive. I have not been able to obtain work let alone even get an interview. People don’t care if I have changed. it sounds like you and George are some of the lucky ones but some people have so much wreckage its not as easy for us. So I wanted to put that out there cause I know I am not alone

  • George

    Hi Sherry…nice article…it hits home…i,’m almost 12 yrs sober….work on a locked psych unit as well as drug/alcohol detox and share my “story” with my patients all the time…had 28 yrs of abusing my body and now being clean for almost 12 am paying the price physically…God’s kept me around for a reason…to show other’s the way…would love to work with You and Dr Drew if you need anyone! God Bless. George

Previous Posts

Controlling Stress In Addiction Recovery
Stress is a six letter word that is probably one of the most damaging words in the English language when it comes to recovery from an addition. This is true for the "hard" addictions like alcohol and drugs as well as for addictions like ...

posted 3:35:47pm Jan. 27, 2015 | read full post »

Walking Through Fear: What’s the Worst Thing That Could Happen?
Sherry Gaba, LCSW, a psychotherapist and life, love, and recovery coach, is featured on Celebrity Rehab on VH1. Sherry is the author of  The Law of Sobriety, which uses the Law of Attraction to help people recover from addiction. Get your free ...

posted 3:28:09pm Oct. 31, 2014 | read full post »

Why I Created Wake Up Recovery
Four years ago when my book, "The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery" came out I knew there had to be ways to get my message out besides the book so I did speaking engagements, tele-conferences, workshops, ...

posted 3:42:28pm Sep. 17, 2014 | read full post »

When One Addiction Replaces Another: The Rob Kardashian Story
While Rob Kardashian is certainly not the household name of his two sisters Kim and Khloe, he is also not an unknown to those that watch the family reality show “Keeping Up With The Kardashians”. It wasn’t too long ago that Rob ...

posted 1:13:29pm Jul. 30, 2014 | read full post »

Signs Of Danger: When Love Turns To Addiction
Love addiction can be equated to the need to be in a relationship regardless of how potentially damaging, abusive or even potentially self-destructive it may be. Often, when people are in a relationship, maintaining the relationship becomes all ...

posted 2:55:49pm Jun. 04, 2014 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.