Saturday, June 22, 2013

If I was Lindsey Lohan I'd Be Dead

From what I can see, when a wealthy person, trust fund kid or celebrity needs to clean up, they ask around to find out the best luxury rehab, not necessarily the most effective.  I'm all for luxury and getting sober comfortably, sure why not, but I have to say I was floored when I visited a few of these  facilities.

Gorgeous ^ ^ ^  That room is $2000.00 a night.  Here is my room at the The Bacara I recently went to for a little R&R.  $450.00, and check out that view.

Now of course, massages, gourmet meals, horse-back riding, boat rides, all of that was extra. The therapy however was free. I love to hang around at the bar and talk to people. I don't drink, usually they do, so there is a combination of stranger intimacy plus broken down inhibitions on their part.

There is something about talking to strangers that I find highly therapeutic. This works on planes too.  We discuss our lives, histories, marriages, children and by the time we are done with our cranberry drinks, I'm often ready for a swim.

Okay, that's Estelle Warren. But she was there, and there's another connection. Tons of celebs at The Bacara.  Josh Duhamel and Fergie, Heidi Montag is constantly there, Katey Perry, Britney Spears, Beck, Carrot Top.  It seems whenever I go, a gaggle of actors are there but I never know who they. Later, during my therapy session at the bar someone tells me.

Barfly: Did you see Courtney Cox? She's at the pool with Jennifer Aniston.
Me: Is Ryan Gosling here?
Barfly: No. Why?
Me: Then I don't really care.

I got married here long before it was even a place, so whatever. The paint was still drying, the plumbing wasn't completely done and the lights were not yet installed properly thus the concussion.

I digress.

Thankfully lots of celebs stay sober, or maybe they had had enough and really wherever they went would not have mattered. Because we also see plenty of high profile people that stay in $58,000 a month rehabs that don't stay sober. There is a cycle with addicts, the Kelly Osbornes, Kim Richards  Brooke Mueller, Brittany Spears, Tara Reids, Lindsey Lohans, one of the Olson sisters, list too long.

But for the sake of getting to a point, I'll use Lindsey because she's presently in rehab.  I googled to find out she's staying at The Cliffside, a place in Malibu that did not make the super luxury list, not sure why. It has all of the lux stuff and offers everything from private chefs to Red Bulls. I found this article which actually made me sad and I hope it isn't true but who knows.  She looks great actually and I'm rooting for her.

Demi Lovato put it best: "Being a celebrity is dangerous. Nobody says no."

And in this day and age, not even rehab. They will cater to whatever need you may have because they need the clientele. I do believe most of them are genuine in their efforts to help, and like all businesses some are just predatory, trolling around for celebrities to stick in their facilities, free of charge, in order to get press.

Many of them are owned by people who toiled in real estate, telemarketing, bill collecting, and simply saw a great business model. I want to believe this is the exception, so I will.

Troll: Lindsey, stay with us free of charge. I have a limo waiting outside.
Lindsey: Well, I need to take Adderall.
Troll: No problem. Whatever you need. We're like the Four Seasons but with some therapy and drugs.

Then he flashes his hand and escorts her to the car.

Okay, all of that aside, lets go back. I had my run- in with substances when I arrived in LA post college. I had been coming here during college, meeting all sorts of industry types and being 19 I wanted to act older and be cool like them. Much of that involved doing tons of cocaine on movie sets.

By 21, I was washed up, done, burned out. Thankfully I graduated from college first, so my GPA record was in tact. Coke was trendy. And it seemed to blow from rooftops like collected soot. Expensive soot.

But I didn't have the resources celebs or trust fund kids have, otherwise, I would have done so much cocaine I would've died. So really it was my lack of status that saved my life.

I took a bus with a paper bag of clothes to a rehab. One of the first in Los Angeles.  They pulled me in, made me feel welcome, gave me a room with a cot and served me a bowl of cold soup.

We got up at 6am, had meetings all day long, and I never felt safer in my life. This rehab was immersed in the 12-steps, and I needed all of them. I have no idea of the "god" that removed my desire to drink because I'm not religious, but I will say I never again had any interest in drinking or drugs.  Then again, after I "graduated" I clung to AA meetings like a hipster and their fedora.

There were no drugs, no horses to pet, no pools to swim in. And there were also a lot of celebrities, but no one cared. Nary a paparazzi. Most of these people are still sober.

But I worry for addicts today. Many rehabs now have this thing called MAT or medically assisted treatment. Since I take many girls to these high end rehabs, and not so high end, here is what that means. Lots and lots of drugs.

Though many of these facilities say they tailor the drugs to the need of the client, it just isn't true.

I was at one of the ritzy ones in Malibu, that looks like Cher's mansion, so lovely it even has it's own page on Houzz.

My friend was out of "detox"  in two days which seemed absurd given she was shooting heroin every hour. But they had her so many drugs, she was essentially in a coma. She went there because the intake dude told her this:

"The initial detox takes two or three days and with our tailor made medications it will be painless. Like a common cold at best."

Really!?!?! Here is one of their pictures of an anonymous kid that just went through detox after seven years smoking crack.

"Silly me. After three days, I'm good." ^ ^ ^

My friend thought he was seriously cute so went straight away. In my experience, someone coming off anything after two days might look more like this.

On my visit, we decided to see what the pills were, so she kept them in her mouth, and we looked them up since they allow computers.  Her list of pills were identical to everyone elses because we did a quick poll, with the exception of a few "pure" alcoholics who were also allowed benzos to take the edge off.

And that stuff you take on ships for sea sickness.
Also some drug that pumped up the anti-depressant effectiveness.

Looking up the pills and what they were was exhausting,  but basically a handful of anti-seizure medications with anti-depressants and mild stuff for pain. There was a ton of other fill pills thrown in here and there, but the above is a kind of basic dope wheel. AND you take these pills (all of them) 3X a day. The whole lining up at the nurses window things. The idea behind all this; to be sure patient doesn't have a seizure and die while in facility. Get patient off pills before leaving. Give patient proper medication to take after they leave.

I suppose it would be interesting to see if there is a higher recovery rate now with all the fancy rehabs, or if things have stayed the same.

I'm pretty old school and believe that without a support system, it's not possible to maintain sobriety whatever the situation. How can you?

Sure you talked about you mom or dad or underlying whatever. But those things don't go away once you check out.

I still talk about my childhood all these years later. I write entire books.  Nothing magical happens when you "graduate."

So I continue working with young girls because they trust me and I can't bear the idea they are being misled in anyway.  They stop taking the rehab pills after a few days, grind it out and try to find a support group so they can then start the actual work. And in my opinion, nothing works better than one addict talking to another. That with a professional therapist who understands addiction go a long way. But first you have to be willing.

Otherwise, just go to the Four Seasons. I'm taking care of a young girl right now who is too afraid to commit to sobriety, wants to get off drugs, so she holed up at the Four Seasons. I sit with her, we swim, talk and you never know. She might come to a meeting. Meanwhile, she's been clean for nearly a week.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Paris Jackson Caught in a Deadly Web

I wrote a piece a while back on parental substance abuse, and the fallout this has on their kids.  Given the great number of celebrities that headline the news about their struggles with addiction, there is rarely a mention of the ensuing damage this has on their children.

While growing up with an alcoholic or addict can be devastating, parentification is almost always going to be part of their dynamic. This phenomenon has two things in common: parenting and addiction. Pretty simple but incredibly complicated.

Like substance abuse, parentification is an equal opportunity destroyer. It matters not if you are famous, rich, middle class or homeless.

I've always had this inexplicable deep caring for young girls, wanting to help them, guide them, mentor them. Perhaps because I myself grew up with an alcoholic mother and somehow survived, and thrived. I emancipated myself at 15. Much of that story I wrote in my first book, A Halfway Decent Girl.

Then I had to wear the mask of "perfection" so people would leave me alone. A perfect GPA, excelling at sports, hanging out with older people to appear sophisticated and killing myself physically to have the perfect body. But, sadly, you still hate yourself.

So I recognize these girls immediately. I read that Paris tried to emancipate herself as well. We can only hope she succeeds, and fast.

From Paris Jackson to Lindsey Lohan to Amanda Bynes to Bobbi Brown to Kelly Osbourne, what I see is pain. They are all in tremendous pain and a lot of confusion.

And unfortunately when someone is in pain, they try to hide behind a disguise of anger, fake perfection, silliness or some kind of masked behavior in an effort to keep people away.

But truthfully they feel very alone.  And in today's world of technology, a secret window to the outside world, many of them are met with cyber bullying. We see it over and over.

The problem is it's very difficult to keep up the pretense. In my own experience, the anxiety and depression was so great by the time I got to college, the school psychiatrist gave me "calming" pills, but then I needed cocaine to perk me back up so I could run a marathon. Which lead to addiction, which lead to recovery, which lead to finally trusting someone enough to talk about my feelings and my past.  My own addiction cycle lasted two years, in many ways I was incredibly lucky. And remain grateful.

I want to help all of these girls, and when I see Paris Jackson, so completely lovely but thinks otherwise, it's clear she too is a victim of parentification. She's adorable, in many ways a typical teenaged girl but one that also believes she is ugly without make-up, calls herself weird and crazy and cuts gashes into her skin.

If that were not enough, she is being dragged through a horrific trial as a Plaintiff! full of mud slinging and further ugly rumors about her father, a man she clearly adores.

This entire Michael Jackson lawsuit to me is a pathetic debacle based on greed and nonsense, and no one is considering the consequences that rests on his children's heads.

I have not been following this trial, nor will I, but I can see it's all about money. Nothing will bring Michael back and he has left an incredible legacy. Leave it alone.

Did the Jackson family actual believe AEG was made up of kindly folks who only had Michael's best interests at heart? Truly beyond my comprehension given they know how this business works very well. The whole thing is preposterous.

Further troubling is their 24-hour lock on Paris and the two boys. Let them go already.

It seemed for the first time in their lives they all attempted some semblance of normalcy through school and friends, as much as that is actually possible. Paris was home schooled her entire life. How could she have been even remotely prepared for a private school swarming with "mean" girls who had their own opinion of the Jackson clan? How could you navigate that? No one gave her tools. Clearly she was trying to reach out in the make-up video. "Act normal." That is what kids of alcoholics try to do.

I suspect now she will be on some kind of lockdown. Any progress she made, possibly lost. This girl can't make a move without bodyguards, cameras, and around the clock surveillance.

My hope for her is she continues to develop more of a relationship with Debbie Rowe, if only because it gets her out of the Jackson compound and around a woman who can possibly help her divine the actual truth.

I can tell Paris is a strong girl. On the plus side of kids with addicted parents, narcissistic parents and celebrity parents, they often develop incredible coping skills, keen perception, great empathy, strong intuition, the ability to arbitrate situations like a pro and are highly creative. She will see the truth. She will get out of this circus one day, hopefully soon, and build her own life.

A few signs of parentification:

Giving others more value than they're worth
Underestimating their own intelligence
Shame, guilt, anxiety, depression
Taking on the role of caretakers
Feelings of disconnection to their real self
Fear they cannot meet their own expectations

Now having young daughters of my own, even despite my best  efforts as a sober, loving parent, society still works against you. Girls, through the media, are told over and over they will never measure up, they should not speak up, their best is not good enough. Not to mention the bullying that is now the norm at schools. It's a daily battle to stop this wave of negativity that is directed toward them.

When you add to that a parent, who despite their best efforts, can't even parent themselves, the child simply has no compass, no inner security and a weak sense of self. Often they are doomed. The troubles further compounded when every single member of the family wanted guardianship.

Are they trying to be the Weird Sisters of Macbeth?  ^^^^^^^^

Is it any wonder the Jackson kids, particularly Paris, just wanted to know what it might feel like to be average?  To find out whom exactly might be genuinely looking out for her?

The only upside to constant news coverage of troubled celebrity kids is the potential awareness this can have on other parents. Sure, these people are not like us, but kids are kids.

Parents have to be diligent in keeping the lines of communication open, have the ability to recognize when their child is in trouble and have a strong foundation that began the day the child was born.

My heart goes out to all of those suffering. As a parent, I believe it is all of our responsibilities to be aware of all kids, and not turn the other way when you see problems. Many times kids can't talk to their parents or guardians. It doesn't mean they can't talk to you.

Both Alateen and Alanon are great places for support and are available everywhere: