The Celebrity Therapist

One of the clients I had the privilege to work with on season 4
of Celebrity Rehab is actor Eric
Roberts. Eric has been acting since he was 5, and has a reputation for taking
on edgy roles and playing them fearlessly. He’s been in many movies, including The Dark Knight, had a recurring role on
the TV series Heroes, and was
nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor in 1985 for his performance in Runaway Train.

            Eric was in a
very serious car crash in 1981 that left him in a coma for three days and
changed his face forever. He became a heavy cocaine user, adding it to the
marijuana he said he has smoked all his adult life. He was arrested for
possession and eventually kicked the cocaine habit, but ended up struggling
with prescription medications. Plus, he never gave up the marijuana.

            I read an
interview that Eric did recently with ET Online in which he said, “I’ve been a
pothead all my adult life.” And on Celebrity
he said, “Anything bad or negative that ever happened in my career or
in my personal life had to do with the abuse of drugs, completely.” (You can
see it in the season trailer here:

            So why did he
keep smoking marijuana? In the interview with ET he said, “I liked it, it makes
me nice, and I’m basically by nature a curmudgeon, so smoking pot makes you
very pleasant.” And that’s not an exaggeration, because Eric has been arrested
for spousal abuse and for trying to assault a police officer. He has rage
issues when he’s not smoking marijuana.

            Rage is an
interesting emotion–one we sometimes characterize as primitive. And that’s not
far off the mark. Rage stems from our very primitive “fight or fight” response;
in the very olden days, if our life was in danger, a physiological response
would kick in and we would be able to either run away really fast or else try
to fight our way out of the problem.

            All kinds of
physiological responses once enabled us to deal with the type of extreme
physical danger humans used to face routinely. The problem is that these
extreme physiological responses still kick when we face stresses that are not
really threats, and some people just don’t know how to deal with them. So they
act on them, often violently. But while violence may have been the perfect
response for fighting off a bear, it’s not appropriate for when you get angry
at your spouse or a police officer or anyone else who has done something to
tick you off.

            Eric’s answer
was to control his rage with marijuana–which does, indeed, dull some
physiological responses. That’s an answer, but it’s not a solution. The
solution is to learn to put into context the things that make us angry, so that
small events do not spark large reactions. When we can do that, we don’t need
any substance to dull our perception or our reaction. We can feel fully, but
also think fully and see the small stuff for what it really is.


Sherry Gaba, LCSW, is a Psychotherapist and Life Coach on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew on VH1 and the author of The Law of Sobriety. She is a frequent contributor to anthologies, blogs, newsletters, and is a sought after speaker. She has appeared on Jane Velez-Mitchell, Hollywood Confidential, Inside Edition, E!News, CNN Prime News, San Diego Living, San Diego Fox, and KTLA. Contact Sherry at or go to her blog at to learn more about Sherry’s private practice, psychotherapy, life coaching (by telephone all over the world), teleseminars, webinars, audios, and meditation CD’s.

With the tabloids and news announcing the filing of divorce by Eva Longoria from her husband Tony Parker, I couldn’t help but think of the deep pain she must be going thru.  After finding out that he has been allegedly been having an affair with one of their mutual friends must have been excruciating for her.  We can only hope she will be able to walk through the pain without avoiding it so that she can eventually get to the other side of her despair.

We humans are so afraid of pain–physical pain and emotional
pain–that we’ll do almost anything to avoid it. We’ll even choose something
safe and familiar that we don’t like, rather than taking a risk on something we
really want. We do that because risky ventures might fail, and failure causes
us pain.

            Our fear of
pain is what leads us to addiction. We can’t bear the pain of our current
situation or the memories of a painful past, so we numb ourselves in an effort
not to feel it.

            The irony here
is that our efforts to avoid pain just cause us more pain–and make true
happiness impossible. We don’t take the risk, so we never get what we want. We
don’t face the difficult past, so we are never free of that pain. We don’t sort
out the painful present, so we never make things right. And the pain just goes
on and on.

            We can’t be
numb 100 percent of the time. And in sobriety, we can’t be numb at all. So we
need to learn how to experience our pain–truly feel it–and just sit with it.

            How can we do
this? The first step is to see it for what it is. We are so afraid of pain that
we build it up in our minds: “This pain will be the biggest, worst, most
intolerable pain ever and I will not be able to bear it, which is why I must do
anything to avoid it.” Do you see how our fear of experiencing pain makes it
seem worse than it really is?

            Rather than
worry about how bad it’s going to feel, just
feel it.
Feel it without adding on the extra burden of fear. Notice the
pain with interest and curiosity. Just tolerate it for a bit. Notice how it
makes you feel. Know that eventually it will pass.

            When you learn
to detach from your pain without fear or desperation–rather than fighting it,
ignoring it or trying to numb it away–you’ll see that, after all, it is only a
thought. And thoughts exist in our minds. They are not part of our lives.
There’s no need to fear them.

of the clients on Celebrity Rehab 4
Rachel Uchitel, who had a very successful career in the
hospitality industry before she ended up on the front page of a lot of
newspapers because she had an affair with Tiger Woods.

            That affair was
actually the second time she was on the front page. The first time, her fiancée
was killed in the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center in New
York. She appeared on the front page of the New
York Post
holding a picture of him, and the photo was republished

            That tragedy
was not the only loss in Rachel’s life, and she has struggled with a lot of
sadness. When she came to Celebrity Rehab
she had some substance dependency, but her real addiction was to love.

            Does that sound
strange? How could love be an addiction? But it can be.

            A love
addiction can have a sexual component, but really it’s about romance and
relationships. The addict can’t do without them, can’t be without a partner.
There’s a terrible need for control and predictability in their life, a fear of
what will happen if they don’t have someone. The self-esteem of a love addict
is tied up in how other people see them–perhaps they’ll seem like a “loser” if
they don’t have a very attractive partner.

            Love addicts
often misjudge the depth of the relationship they’re in, and mistake drama for
closeness. Their perception of what’s going on is really a kind of fantasy love
affair–the kind of fantasy you might have if you imagined meeting your favorite
movie star and he or she fell in love with you. That’s a nice dream, but you
know it’s not real. But love addicts have fantasies like that about their
relationships, and think they are real. Some very new studies have shown that
when a love addict talks about their relationship, the same areas of the brain
are stimulated as when a person gets high.

            Like other
kinds of addiction, the love addiction is something that fills up an empty
place inside. Or rather–some people try
fill up the empty place inside with fantasy relationships. But it never
works. Nothing can fill up that terrible emptiness. The only way to deal with
it is to face it head on, to know your truth, and to see yourself and others
with profound compassion. I know it’s not easy. But when you do, the positive energy
comes pouring in and that gaping hole fills itself. 

             Sherry Gaba, LCSW, is a Psychotherapist and Life Coach and author of The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery for all addictions whether it is a  love and sex addiction, co-dependency, gambling addiction, shopping addiction, food addiction, an internet addiction or a drug or alcohol addiction. .  She is also the Life Coach featured on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew on VH1.  She has a private practice, see clients in her office and by phone all over the world.  Contact Sherry about her upcoming teleseminars, webinars,  and speaking engagements at

I was helping someone today move out of her apartment and
could not believe how much clothes she accumulated.  I wondered if it was because shopping filled
an empty void for her as she trudged through a bad relationship.  I started to wonder when does one cross the
line into a shopping addiction? 

I discovered that one in 12 people in the United States
struggle with what is known as oniomania or what the more common term,  “shopaholic.”

Some of the symptoms you might look for if you think you
have this disorder include:

Suffering from another addiction in the past
such as substance abuse, gambling, sex or love addiction, food, or
co-dependency and crossing over to becoming a shopaholic.

Maxing out credit cards and not paying normal bills
and expenses.

Have several jobs to pay off the debts.

Having a closet full of clothes that has never
been worn.

As you may know, sometimes a shopaholic or any addict has to
reach rock bottom before they seek help. 
You can find a 12 step meetings for compulsive shopping, seek a
psychotherapist, or see a life coach who specializes in recovery.  My book The Law of Sobriety covers all addictions;
no matter what they are; even compulsive shopping.

The first thing you do is to admit and acknowledge you have
a problem.

Always shop with others.

Join a 12 step group.

Talk thru the purchase and see if you will feel
guilt or remorse after you buy it.

Learn how to be comfortable in your dis-comfort.

Learn to breathe and live in the moment.

Prevent a relapse by staying away from malls,
internet shopping, or catalogs.


I often see individuals cross in to other addictions time
after time.  There is help out there so
seek it out if you believe your shopping has crossed the line into addiction.  Often the void can be filled with a higher power
and understanding of what is going on beneath the layers of the addiction.  What trauma are you avoiding?  What void are you trying to fill up with
shopping?  The answers are there if you
just listen and seek assistance to help you get through your pain.