Sunday, September 28, 2008

Heather Locklear Arrested for DUI: Understanding Addiction

I was sorry to get the Twitter post earlier this afternoon that the beautiful Heather Locklear, was arrested in Hollywood for Driving Under the Influence of a Narcotic. Earlier this year (June 2008) Heather checked herself into the Sierra Tucson Rehab facility. I was sad because we are watching the unraveling of a person who is well liked, beautiful, as well as a mother of a youngster. I am also worried because I am afraid that people in the courthouses where I work may believe that the rehab, Sierra Tucson was less than a good place for patients to find recovery. I should say here, that I have over the last 15 years sent many of my clients to Sierra Tucson to find recovery from all kinds of addictions. I and the courts have been very pleased with the results.

Addicted people, especially those that understand they are addicted, do not lack control. Neither is falling off "the wagon" an indication that the rehabilitation they underwent failed. First, the problem with most addicts is that they have too much control. They need to control everything. As the world spins out of control, they become more and more unable to to control the pain and the anxiety that is in their world, and they use the anchor of the pill or the drink to help them deal with the fact that they are not in control of others and of events.
Put another way, a "dry" control freak is an alcoholic waiting to happen.

If you think about anxiety and stress as a kink in a hose lying on the ground, what happens is when the "water" (the issues in everyday life) get stuck in the kink the hose builds up pressure and when it finally blows the kink out, it is out of control. The way that "out of control" usually exhibits itself is by anger. The drug then is used to calm the alcoholic down and bring his behavior back into the fold so that he or she will be able to "control" everything again shortly.

When the alcoholic begins to understand that she has only control over herself and her behavior and reaction to things, she begins recovery. It sounds easier than it is. This is especially true for people who find themselves in Locklear's position. She is still required to be beautiful, she is pushing 50 her "best years" work wise behind her and she is going through not one but 2 major betrayals. One her divorce from Richie Sambora, and the other that her "best friend" Denise Richards took up with him. While Locklear has a new relationship, her dealing with the effects of the betrayals and other slights and resentments in her life determine her ability to recover. What I find heroic about her is that she signed herself in before she had a incident (such as the one she faces now)that forced the move. She went to Rehab, because she acknowledged she needed it.

In signing herself into Sierra, Locklear did not finish her journey into recovery, rather, she was beginning it. Sierra is a wonderful place. I have sent many clients there to find recovery and I have visited there to see how it all works. I will say that there are few more beautiful places than this ranch at the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains in southern Arizona. If one has to be in a rehabilitation facility, this is THE ONE. In addition to beautiful double rooms,called Casitas (they are not big, nor plush, but they are quiet and comfortable), The rehab has a hospital with about 8 beds to help those with Psych issues that have to be medicated,or detoxed, but it is not really a psychiatric hospital.

Sierra has a beautiful trail that winds it's way about a half mile into the desert where you can see snakes and coyotes as well as find one's soul. I have watched people take a walk into the desert and come back a changed person. They call this trail the Serenity trail.

Sierra is an "experiential" psych center, It is not just one big group therapy session. Everything is part of the work there; be it old fashion cognitive behavioral therapy, or some type of "fun" activity, it is all meant to open the patient up and make them vulnerable so that they may begin to find the tools to recover. Be it time in the gym, or the pool, or riding and caring for a horse in the equine therapy program, everything in this place is meant to help patients find a balance in all aspects of their lives. In addition, it is meant to help you confront the fears and the issues that is in your life. There is a program to not only help the patient, but to address the other people in the patients life. Family week is a very interesting time where family and friends of the patient can confront the patient and bring all the issues that are not talked about out into the open, in front of others in the group, in a safe way and in a safe place.

Sierra, is a magical place, but it is the continued work that goes on after one leaves the facility that is important. Unfortunately, Publicists, Managers, Agents, and others, may not be supportive of the program. Taking time for meetings and support groups and calling a fellow friend of Bill, or attending alumni meetings all take away time from making money. Further, humility is a key ingredient in recovery. One has to constantly remember that they are not able to finesse this disease. You cannot bat your eyes at it, you can't charm it away. This concept of humility is not in the repritoire of most actresses. Without support from the people, she surrounds herself with, and without a commitment to keeping humble herself, the rehabilitation was sure to relapse.

Often those of us that work with addicts say that relapse is part of recovery. Imagine being told that you can never have something that has always been used by you to reduce your pain and that is readily available to you. Imagine having a headache everyday and not being allowed to use aspirin or acetaminophen. The Addict is going to experiment the moment the pain becomes too great. She is going to see if she can CONTROL (there is that word again) the usage. Assuming that the issues that caused resentments were addressed in the rehab, it doesn't mean that they do not return. If they went unaddressed then they are sure to rear their ugly heads.

Working with someone who is trying to overcome an addiction is not an easy thing. It is frustrating and it can be heartbreaking work. I strongly suggest, that before one condemns a person who has tried to recover and failed, they walk a day in that person's shoes. As a society, we need to see addiction for what it truly is, an illness that often can be put into remission but not one that can be cured. This is not meant to excuse the behaviors of one who is addicted and fails to live within the law, rather it is to explain the work that one must do to beat back an addiction, and the support that individual needs to continue in recovery. It is also an attempt to help the public understand that if steps are taken to regain recovery, we should work with those steps, as the relapse is not an abnormal event in the course of this disease. I do not know if Heather Locklear is guilty of DUI, but I know that given her attempt to find a cure, she should receive our support and not our condemnation.

I wish her well.
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