Are we still so naive that we assume television is actually like real life? Do people still believe shows like Celebrity Rehab, Intervention and Extreme Makeover, Home Edition have anything to do with reality? Is there really a Rembrandt hidden in that abandoned storage locker? Unfortunately the recent suicide of Celebrity Rehab star Mindy McCready has served to illustrate the problem with glib culture and our fascination with star-studded solutions to important issues.
The sad part of the story, that few seem to be talking about, is the unbelievable fact that some of the pseudo washed up stars undoubtedly believed that by going to a reality show to deal with chronic addiction issues they would receive quality help with their problems. Apparently they have been living in Glitterland for so long they think that it is possible to be authentic with cameras rolling and an audience. Imagine the shock on the faces of the winners of Extreme Makeover when they find out their taxes have gone up ten-fold and they can’t afford to pay the utilities on their new million dollar mansion. Reality’s a bitch. Cracked.com has an excellent expose on the reality behind the reality shows here.
Going to rehab, or treatment, or whatever you wish to label it, is a daunting enough thought without a television audience critiquing and criticizing. The work necessary to deal with and overcome a serious addiction takes years, not twelve episodes. Believing that a televised intervention or an hour with Dr. Drew will make any substantive difference is ridiculous. In the real world there is not a limo to take you to a treatment center after the family reduces you to tears and shows you the golden path to success. I have been involved with dozens, even hundreds, of family meetings with addicts and things simply do not go the way they do on television. There is much more yelling and far less contrition. Even if you could get a commitment for treatment there is often a six-week to two-month waiting list to get in. Even Detox can take a few weeks. Welcome to the real world. Adding in the cameras and the lights and the looming audience is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. How can anyone hope to heal with the cameras running? This does not even take into account the skewed life experiences of media celebrities who have little or no experience with real life and are ill-equipped to handle even the most mundane hardships.
So why are we surprised then that five people, at last count, have died following a stint on Celebrity Rehab? Mindy McCready serves as a sad reminder that many of us are tempted to take short cuts and are not realistic about the true cost of dealing with our mental health. Real therapy is gut-wrenching and should not be on display for the general audience. I feel bad for Mindy and others who have been sold a lie, dressed up as a photo-op. Wholeness comes from confronting our demons, usually one at a time, and wrestling them into submission. There are no shortcuts to wholeness.
Maybe it was Dr. Drew himself who gave us the last, best word on the subject – “Mental health issues can be life threatening and need to be treated with the same intensity and resources as any other dangerous potentially life threatening medical condition. Treatment is effective. If someone you know is suffering please be sure he or she gets help and maintains treatment.”