After 18 years of working with addicts at Las Encinas, Drew was way too familiar with the complexities of treatment required to get people to stop using drugs and alcohol: part science, part Freud, part mysticism. All completely unfilmable. Or so he imagined.
Beyond that, his treatment is rooted in the 12-step system of Alcoholics Anonymous, and AA clearly states that anonymity is the foundation of successful sobriety. Drug recovery is a quiet subculture, with its own private language, its own mores. Not exactly compatible with live cameras and a cast of paid stars (albeit, as it turns out, stars with relatively low wattage).
"It wasn't until we were two weeks into the preproduction of the show when I said to myself, 'Oh Christ, we're really going to do this,'" he recalls.
What had turned him around was the growing constellation of tabloid headlines chronicling the tragic dramas and spectacular flame-outs of stars like Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and Amy Winehouse as they went in and out of treatment. The underlying assumption: Why can't these privileged people get a grip? One day his lead counselor at Las Encinas said, "I'm sick of rehab being disparaged in the press," and it occurred to Drew then that perhaps the show could be a way to educate the public on just how deeply entrenched addiction is—a stubborn condition with no easy cure even for the rich and celebrated. Here was a chance to demonstrate the immense effort and commitment it takes to recover, a process that he'd dedicated his professional life to. Who knows, maybe someone would see it and understand at last that they needed treatment.
All of a sudden what had been just another Hollywood proposal became for him an unexpected blessing, an opportunity for growth. In drug recovery language, that's called a "God shot."
Casting was another matter. VH1 producers sent out a wide call among agents and managers asking for any clients who had drug problems they'd be willing to face on camera in exchange for a salary (the network won't disclose how much) and free treatment at the Pasadena Recovery Center—no small thing, considering the average cost of an in-patient program there runs about $7,500 a month (double that and more for the kind of tony facilities frequented by the Britney-Lindsay set).
Besides Jessica, those answering the call were actors Brigitte Nielsen and Daniel Baldwin; Jeff Conaway, best known for his role as Kenickie in Grease and for playing Bobby on the comedy series Taxi; porn star Mary Carey, who once ran for governor of California; musician Seth "Shifty" Binzer, lead singer of the rock group Crazy Town; Jaimee Foxworth, onetime child star on the sitcom Family Matters who has also worked in porn under the name Crave; pro wrestler Joanie "Chyna" Laurer; and Ultimate Fighting competitor Ricco Rodriguez. When they all gathered for the 21-day stint, "it was very emotional and nerve-racking," says Jaimee, who since the age of 16 has faced life with a blunt (marijuana cigarette) in hand. "Our rehab wasn't the one where they have the spas and you get massages—no. We had rehab: This is how you're going to walk through addiction; it's serious. It was like, you're stuck here. Either you are going to leave, or stay and recover and try to help everybody here."
In the lingo, that would be "placing principles before personalities."
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