How much harder must it be, when reality and alcoholism blend together, and sometimes a lot of people actually are talking about you. A very famous person sitting in an AA meeting has a somewhat different experience of anonymity and the 12 Step environment than the rest of us -- especially when there are literally photographers outside, waiting to take a picture as they leave -- I've seen it first hand.
My heart goes out to the many foolish and damaged personalities who must play out their addiction and recovery before the cameras, and in the cruel kangaroo court of the internet.
I think secretly many of us believe that, should we be given some of the material success and acclaim that these public train wrecks have received (and often earned, we should probably remember), we might do a bit better.
Perhaps so. I think in my own case, if, as a young alcoholic I was surrounded by people who always told me yes, and I was made to feel extra important, and given license to spend without restraint, I would have become first a monster, then a joke, and finally a statistic.
(In fact I have often thought, sitting in meetings and hearing people share, that I am very grateful I got sober before everyone had a phone with a camera in it, and with the touch of a few buttons my pathetic, revolting blackout behavior could be uploaded for the world to see, making me an overnight global YouTube punchline.)
The press reports, with varying degrees of slant, when someone famous "goes to rehab."
Rehab is not Alcoholics Anonymous. (Nor is it any other 12 Step Program.)
Rehab is to varying degrees a hospital setting, where salaried individuals work to help addicts get initially clean from "what ails 'em." I'm grateful for the rehab industry -- the book "Alcoholics Anonymous" (AA's Big Book) suggests (to paraphrase lightly) that "we favor hospitalization for the man who is jittery and befogged."
(And please, can I someday be in a hospital with the words "Jittery and Befogged" written across my chart?)
What rehab does is medically supervise a detox, and begin to begin to help lay a foundation in some ongoing after-care -- whether that model is 12 Step based or not. Generally most folks agree, a stay in a rehab with no follow up is not a good way to go.
(I once knew a gentleman who sent his wife to rehab for 30 days. When the Mrs. showed up at the front door on day 31 she was drunk, having started right in again on the flight home. Atta girl! He called the rehab and demanded his money back. You can imagine how that went, but I always admired his spunk. It served him well later, when drunk she fell down the basement stairs and struck her head so hard it resulted in ... a sad ending to her story.)
Rehab is not AA.
But tonight, with news of three different people I know who have relapsed in the past day or so, I welcome anything -- anything -- that can help people get and stay sober.
And as for the famous and infamous, I imagine some of them are using rehab as a dodge -- the cynical assume so. But I've seen enough people come to AA on a court card and though judgmental and insincere at the outset, discovered something that they identified with and that eventually, actually helped them. Hopefully for anyone "performing" their rehab for an audience at large (and I am genuinely not inferring anything about anyone here), clearly somewhere along the way they got off track, and though their original motives may be mixed, perhaps they too will discover something in recovery which helps them.
For those of us already in the lifeboat, the challenge becomes not buying into the cynical interpretation of this -- but to be ready to offer anyone who comes to AA our open minds, hands and hearts, without judgment or agenda.
Even if you didn't much care for their last performance.