IN­SIDE THE ‘SUM­MER CAMP’ FOR A-LIST AD­DICTS

With Har­vey We­in­stein just check­ing out and Kevin Spacey check­ing in, Jane Mulk­er­rins re­ports on re­hab for the rich and fa­mous

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With Har­vey We­in­stein just check­ing out and Kevin Spacey check­ing in, Jane Mulk­er­rins re­ports on re­hab for the rich and fa­mous

Set on a former dude ranch in Ari­zona’s Sono­ran Desert, an hour out­side of Phoenix, The Mead­ows boasts moun­tain views, clear air, cacti and, lat­terly, a grow­ing rep­u­ta­tion as a pre-em­i­nent re­hab fa­cil­ity for the A-list. Its alumni reg­is­ter reads like a red car­pet roll-call: Kate Moss, Naomi Camp­bell, Elle Macpher­son, Donatella Ver­sace, John Gal­liano, the late Whit­ney Hous­ton, Selena Gomez and Ron­nie Wood. Har­vey We­in­stein re­port­edly checked in last month; Kevin Spacey is said to be there now.

Just as in the 80s, when the Betty Ford Cen­tre in Cal­i­for­nia be­came the go-to des­ti­na­tion for celebri­ties bat­tling the demons of drugs and drink, treat­ing the likes of El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor, Ste­vie Nicks, Jerry Lee Lewis and a teenage Drew Barrymore, so, to­day, the wealthy and be­lea­guered make their way to The Mead­ows (of­ten via pri­vate jet to the tiny Wick­en­burg Air­port, 5km away) to mend their ways and their rep­u­ta­tion, in tan­dem.

But un­like Betty Ford, which fo­cuses firmly on sub­stance abuse, The Mead­ows, of­fi­cially reg­is­tered as a Psy­chi­atric Acute Hospi­tal, treats a raft of less tra­di­tional and, in some cases, less tan­gi­ble prob­lems, in­clud­ing not only eat­ing dis­or­ders and gam­bling ad­dic­tions, but love ad­dic­tion, love avoid­ance, and co-de­pen­dency. Over re­cent years, it has be­come in­creas­ingly famed for its male sex ad­dic­tion pro­gramme, known as Gen­tle Path, which Tiger Woods is re­ported to have taken in 2010.

What­ever the trou­ble, treat­ment does not come cheap: in­pa­tient pro­grammes at The Mead­ows last a com­pul­sory 45 days (though We­in­stein, it is re­ported, left af­ter only a week) and cost US$1200 ($1760) a day — US$54,000 in to­tal. It can, there­fore, come as a sur­prise, on check-in, to find one­self in a shared room, ba­sic to the point of spar­tan. Though there is an out­door pool, a gym and hik­ing trails, it’s there that the re­sem­blance to a five-star hol­i­day re­sort ends.

“The first night I was there, I was stuck in this tiny lit­tle room with two com­plete strangers, and one side-of-the-road, petrol-sta­tion-stan­dard bath­room,” re­calls Sean Brock, a high-pro­file US chef with sev­eral award-win­ning restau­rants in­clud­ing Husk in Charleston, South Carolina. “I’d just come back from two weeks in Tokyo, stay­ing in one of the nicest ho­tels any­where, so that was quite a shock,” he says. “I was lis­ten­ing to my room-mates detox­ing, and think­ing, ‘Woah, this is not the lux­ury re­sort I was ex­pect­ing’.”

Brock, 39, checked into The Mead­ows in Jan­uary to seek help for al­co­holism, worka­holism, anger and de­pres­sion. He’d looked into the cen­tre af­ter read­ing an in­ter­view a few months be­fore, in which former pa­tient Michael Phelps, who sought treat­ment for al­co­hol abuse, ex­tolled its virtues. “But it took an in­ter­ven­tion, a group of my clos­est friends say­ing, ‘the plane is wait­ing’, to ac­tu­ally get me there.”

Once in­stalled, he quickly saw the ben­e­fits of the no-frills ethos. “It hum­bles you, it makes you vul­ner­a­ble, it puts you in a dif­fer­ent mind­set. You re­alise you’re not there to re­lax. When you wake up in the morn­ing and have to wait in a line to use the bath­room, you think: this is what jail would be like,” he says, gravely.

Com­pound­ing the sense of in­car­cer­a­tion, Brock’s shoelaces and belt had been re­moved on ar­rival (“they gave them back to me even­tu­ally, but my trousers were fall­ing down for days,” he re­calls) and he had agreed to abide by the strict no-tech pol­icy; phones, lap­tops and iPads as well as news­pa­pers are all banned at The Mead­ows (a re­lief for cer­tain pa­tients, no doubt). Drugs and al­co­hol are banned, nat­u­rally, but so is caf­feine and sugar. A dress code is firmly en­forced, with no shorts or vest tops. This is not, how­ever, to main­tain a smart aes­thetic in the din­ing room.

“In places that treat sex ad­dic­tion, peo­ple are more eas­ily trig­gered,” ex­plains an anony­mous former ex­ec­u­tive in the re­hab cen­tre in­dus­try, who is fa­mil­iar with prac­tices at The Mead­ows. “They want to min­imise trig­gers, and are try­ing to de­sex­u­alise the en­vi­ron­ment as far as pos­si­ble.”

Out­door smok­ing pits are seg­re­gated by gen­der, but The Mead­ows isn’t po-faced about its high-pro­file pa­tients’ del­i­cate prob­lems; a sign in the com­mu­nal tele­vi­sion room warns clients they can only ob­jec­tify a mem­ber of the op­po­site sex for three sec­onds.

Pa­tients are iden­ti­fied by dif­fer­ent-coloured name tags ac­cord­ing to their spe­cific ad­dic­tion, but the ther­a­peu­tic timetable is sim­i­lar for all. Ev­ery day in­volves two ses­sions of group ther­apy, up to two hours at a time, in a small, mixed­gen­der, mixed-is­sue group, of around six peo­ple. Then there’s med­i­ta­tion, yoga, mindfulness, tai chi, even equine ther­apy, plus daily one-on-one trauma ther­apy.

“There is an in­ten­sive fo­cus on trauma, and the idea is that ev­ery­one can find some fo­cus in child­hood to grab on to, to craft a nar­ra­tive around,” says the ex­pert. And while con­tact with the out­side world is lim­ited, fam­ily mem­bers are en­cour­aged to fly in to take part in a week of fam­ily ther­apy ses­sions.

Clients are urged to also unlock their trauma in cre­ative ways, by car­ry­ing rocks around to sym­bol­ise the bur­den they’ve been hold­ing on to for decades, or whack­ing chairs with bats to ex­or­cise their feel­ings of rage or re­sent­ment to­wards their par­ents.

“It sounds crazy, but once you un­der­stand that it is a spir­i­tual jour­ney, you start to un­der­stand why you pick up rocks,” says Brock. “There’s a lot of very spir­i­tual work, such as Amer­i­can In­dian talk­ing cir­cles; even just the air out there, and the sky and the stars — it is a very spir­i­tual place.”

The Mead­ows was es­tab­lished in 1975 by Pat Mel­lody — a former Air Force nav­i­ga­tor who helped cre­ate drug and al­co­hol pro­grammes for the mil­i­tary dur­ing the Viet­nam War — pri­mar­ily

A big part of the cul­ture there is that ev­ery­body is treated the same, ev­ery­body has to be hum­ble, and it is very or­dered and struc­tured.

to treat busi­ness ex­ec­u­tives with drink­ing prob­lems.

“You had a lot of big per­son­al­i­ties, who didn’t like be­ing told what to do,” says the ex­pert. “So a big part of the cul­ture there is that ev­ery­body is treated the same, ev­ery­body has to be hum­ble, and it is very or­dered and struc­tured.”

All pa­tients are is­sued with a 90s-style beeper, which is­sues de­crees about when to go to the lec­ture hall, or to din­ner.

Brock gal­lantly re­ports the food dur­ing his 45 days to have been “bet­ter than I thought it would be. But most of the time, it needed a lit­tle some­thing, so I would for­age around the prop­erty and find wild herbs, raid the pantry for condi­ments, then make sauces and go around sauc­ing ev­ery­one’s plates.”

For those for whom the US$54,000 price tag is out of reach, The Mead­ows of­fers out­pa­tient treat­ments, with week-long cour­ses cost­ing $6,000 (not in­clud­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion) in­clud­ing heal­ing heartache and heal­ing in­ti­mate trea­son (for part­ners of sex ad­dicts).

Not ev­ery­one is con­vinced of its ef­fi­cacy, how­ever, dub­bing the cen­tre “sex ad­dic­tion sum­mer camp” for those who can af­ford to pay for ab­so­lu­tion.

“It is of­ten a way for wealthy men of priv­i­lege to avoid tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for their sex­ual mis­be­haviours,” be­lieves David Ley, a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist in Al­bu­querque, New Mex­ico, and au­thor of The Myth of Sex Ad­dic­tion. “Sex ad­dic­tion treat­ment is a male sex­ual priv­i­lege pro­tec­tion racket. And it is a form of pub­lic penance, like when peo­ple would wear shame masks or hair shirts, and walk around so that ev­ery­one knew they had done some­thing they were ashamed of.”

Jenny Moore, a 41-year-old en­tre­pre­neur from Hous­ton, Texas, has other con­cerns re­gard­ing the cen­tre’s high-pro­file clients, hav­ing strug­gled to find any­where de­cent to stay in Wick­en­burg, while at­tend­ing The Mead­ows “Sur­vivors I” course, for part­ners and chil­dren of ad­dicts, as an out­pa­tient in 2014.

“The best place I could find was a Best Western, and that was like the sort of place a mur­derer takes you to kill you. With all the money The Mead­ows has, they should build a ho­tel,” she sug­gests. “Where are Kevin Spacey’s fam­ily go­ing to stay when they come out for fam­ily ses­sions?”

It is of­ten a way for wealthy men of priv­i­lege to avoid tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for their sex­ual mis­be­haviours. David Ley

wife, and his former Har­vey We­in­stein Ge­orgina Chap­man.

at an af­ter(left) and Seth Num­rich Ac­tors Kevin Spacey Savoy Ho­tel, 2013. show party at Lon­don’s

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