So Gavin Newsom, cute hunkastoopidactions San Francisco mayor that he is, is the latest to "enter rehab" for his alcohol abuse. He joins -- just in recent days -- Lindsay Lohan and Isaiah Washington. We saw Mel Gibson, supermodel Kate Moss, and Robin Williams there last year, along with Congressman Mark Foley (eeuuuwww). And a bunch of others.
It seems to be the "in" thing to do these days. Get drunk in public? Have an affair with your best friend's wife? Verbally abuse a colleague or an ethnic group -- or make passes at youngsters? Go to a party without underwear on and throw up all over everybody? Aha! Go to rehab and all will be forgiven!
Admittedly California is reallllly big on rehab/12 step programs. There's a 12-step program here for just about anything you can think of, and nearly everyone I know has either been in a program or has a friend or family member who has/is. That's quite unlike places I've lived previously, where 12 step programs are attended quietly and very anonymously by folks who want help.
30 days in a rehab program does not a reformed (insert your favorite addiction) make, regardless of the enthusiastic, penitent proclamations most of these celebs make after their stint.
It takes years. YEARS. And it's hard work. Any person who is involved in a 12-step program and honestly making an effort to change will tell you that it isn't just a matter of stopping whatever addiction you have. It's changing your whole attitude, your friends, your hangouts, your habits, and especially your thinking. That is, of course, if you're going to succeed in learning to live one day at a time.
Hundreds of thousands of men and women have dragged themselves to 12-step programs because they were at the very bottom of their lives, or near enough to scare them, and just could not live that way any longer.
They don't do it because it's the quick way to seek forgiveness and get back in good graces with their fans or their families or the media, or their political party. Indeed, some of them are never forgiven by those they've hurt. They do it because they hurt too much inside NOT to do it.
The casual, apologetic "going into rehab" does an enormous disservice to those who struggle so painfully with their addictions. It trivializes the process through which true change occurs as some 30-day wonder treatment that will make everything allllll better.
You celebrate each milestone in rehab: 24 hours. One week. A month. Six months. A year. And every anniversary after that. Sometimes they relapse, and go back to start all over again. Sometimes they relapse and never come back, sinking back into the muck from which they came. I celebrate each 24 hours with those who struggle through the process, one day, one minute at a time. You rock!
But I'm really tired of the celebrity quick-fix rehabbers. They'll keep going back, you can be sure, but it won't be because they've been working the 12-step program and sincerely, painfully, trying to change their lives. They'll be back because they never intended to truly work on their issues in the first place.
*I know there are a very few celebrities who have indeed achieved the "recovering" status through their persistent and hard work. They seldom make a big public display of it, either.
I'm also reading Eleven Minutes by Paulo Caelho.