Before making a televised public apology for all of his indiscriminate extramarital debauchery on February 19, and following months of public perturbation, Tiger Woods was discharged from inpatient services at the Pine Grove treatment center in Hattiesburg, Mississippi where he had been treated for an alleged sex addiction. The word “addiction” seems to be tossed around rather loosely these days, and the knowledge of dependency has become a pervasive force in our country. The former image of what it means to be an addict—with teeth rotten from dehydration and physical features transmogrified from years of abuse—has shifted into a more culturally acceptable light.
We are now seeing a wider variety of addicts. For those who can’t stop eating there is Overeaters Anonymous. For compulsive shoppers there is Debtors Anonymous. For those like Tiger Woods, who seem to enjoy sex too much and with alarming alacrity, there is sex rehab. Yes, there seems to be no place like rehab and no philosophy like 12-step.
It is not news that for celebrities rehab has become a status symbol of sorts. But in recent years rehab has also become the preferred method of apology exchange for stars who can never seem to find their way home.
And regardless of how ridiculous something like sex addiction may seem, the public bully pulpit goes along with it anyway because compliance with some sort of treatment program is the last reasonable act of contrition made on the part of any wayward celebrity. Rehab is the final shot at forgiveness for even the foulest faux pas, it is the deciding juncture, it is, in a sense, the beginning as well as the end.
The VH1 reality show Celebrity Rehab features a full cast of semi-relevant celebrities who are down-and-out, and who have been eighty-sixed from the straight world. The patients are counseled by Dr. Drew Pinsky, who covers television’s mental health field while Dr. Phil handles therapy and Oprah’s newly appointed Dr. Oz assumes physical health. Some of the show’s participants are ordered by the court system to get their act together, to clean up and move on, while others have voluntarily committed themselves not only to a residential facility in Pasadena, but to an order of ten episodes of total discord for VH1’s reality audience.
Throughout the show, we see famous musicians and actors struggle to wash themselves of one of the most pernicious antagonists of human life—addiction, as well as its consequent insanity. The masses of people who comprise television’s viewer population watch intently as people like Tom Sizemore and Mackenzie Phillips and Mike Starr vie desperately and relentlessly, although sometimes intermittently, to fall back into the public’s good graces. This effort is not without reward. Upon completing a 28-day inpatient program, facilities release these celebrities back into society, where all is forgiven.
So if you are Mackenzie Phillips concealing contraband in your underwear while making your way through LAX, if you’re Steven Tyler falling off stage at a concert and threatening to leave Aerosmith, or if you’re Tiger Woods sending lascivious text messages to, and hooking up with, various women while married to Elin Nordegren, rehab remains the only way to say you’re sorry.