Let me start off by saying that I, the writer of this blog, am a drug addict. And I am in recovery. These are my views.
My first run in with the exploitation of the sick and suffering drug addict for viewing pleasure was given to me by none other than Dr.Phil. Dr.Phil McGraw, for those who don’t know is a portly man that originally was a consultant and appearance maker for The Oprah Show. He then went on, after Oprah must have decided what a great job he’d done, to found his own television show The Dr.Phil Show, as part of Oprah’s Harpo Production, and the O Network.
To me this was the onset of exploiting drug addicts and alcoholics and all types of other behavioral issues, not to educate or inform, or even help, but to take advantage of for ratings. And America ate it up.
Problem 1: Is that Dr.Phil gets these families on The Dr.Phil Show with their drug addled son or daughter, and hears their story of pain, heartache, and hopelessness in front of a live studio audience. No one in the audience is qualified as an addiction therapist, or even a behavioral psychologist. So they shouldn’t comment right? But comment they do. Because the show is not aimed to help the sufferer, it is there for the enjoyment of the viewers.
Problem 2: Dr.Phil will engage the family and hear their story. He tries to relate to them (although how could he?) and comforts them cozily in front of a home audience of millions. Seems intimate right? But now the plot thickens. They bring out the suffering addict. Funny thing is, Dr.Phil never hears their story. They come out greeted by “oohs” and “ahhs” by the live studio audience just like a monkey doing tricks at the circus. What is the point supposed to be? For them to get help? If they want the drug addict to get help, why do they have to patronize him or her first? I know for me, the only type of person that could truly reach me was someone like me. Someone who had been where I’d been and now changed their life and lived different. Dr.Phil is nothing like me. And I was taught never to kick your wounded which is exactly what they are doing.
Problem 3: The Dr. Phil show became popular.
Reality TV explodes all over the United States and rehab on TV takes on a life of its own. What’s worse, I haven’t found a good show yet. They are all entertaining because that is what they are meant to do. Television was not meant to help people. Dr.Drew Pinsky and his Celebrity Rehab Show on VH1 is an absolute shit show. And it’s sad because I feel that he really does understand addiction and he’s probably a very good doctor. But he should’ve known better. And now that 5 of his celebrity “patients” have died since the show he’s recently said, “To have people questioning my motives and taking aim at me because people get sick and die because they have a life-threatening disease, and I take the blame? I don’t have plans to do that again. I’m tired of taking all the heat. It’s just ridiculous.” Questioning my motives? Taking aim? Taking heat?
It’s all fun and games when ratings are up and all is well with the network. But when shit gets real and people start to die at an alarming rate after all going through the same “social experiment” then all of a sudden it’s smoke and mirrors to responsibility.
And television’s favorite peddlers of smoke and mirrors are also a favorite amongst primetime cable watchers, and that is a show known as Intervention. Smoke? Intervention has taken a healthy amount of heat for providing their intervened with money to support their habit through the filming of the show. Mirror? How about their two most prolific interventionists Candy Finnegan and Jeff Van Vonderen have both relapsed since the beginning of the show. And they never told us. And they still did interventions. Ken Seeley, best of all was arrested mid-season for attempted possession and possible distribution of methamphetamines.
Now as a drug addict, I must tell you this show is suspense leading to treatment or running away on camera. That’s it. Whatever success these addicts or alcoholics have is dependent upon what they do when they LEAVE TREATMENT. It is not the Intervention that saves them. It is not Intervention that revolutionizes their spirit and way of life. Something greater is needed. But Dr.Phil would never understand that.