Inside the ‘summer camp’ for A-list addicts
With Weinstein just checking out and Spacey checking in, Jane Mulkerrins reports on rehab for the rich and famous
Set on a 35-acre former dude ranch in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, an hour outside of Phoenix, The Meadows boasts mountain views, clear air, myriad 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 Eighties, when the Betty Ford Centre ntre in California became the go-to -to destination for celebrities battling tling the demons of drugs and drink, nk, treating the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, or, Stevie Nicks, Jerry Lee Lewis and a teenage Drew Barrymore, so, , today, the wealthy and beleaguered ed make their way to The Meadows (often via private jet to the tiny Wickenburg nburg Airport three miles away) to mend their ways and their reputation, tation, in tandem.
But unlike Betty Ford, which focuses cuses firmly on substance tance abuse, The Meadows, which ch is officially registered tered as a Psychiatric c Acute Hospital, l, treats a raft of less traditional and, d, in some cases, less ss tangible problems, ems, including not only eating disorders rs and gambling addictions, ctions, but love addiction, tion, love avoidance, and d codependency. y. Over recent years, it t has become increasingly asingly famed for its male sex addiction programme, gramme, known as Gentle tle 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 $1,200 (£910) a day – $54,000 (£41,000) 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-ofthe-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 differentcoloured 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, mixed-gender, 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 rying rocks around to symbolise the burden they’ve been holding on to for decades, or whacking chairs airs with bats to exorcise their ir feelings of rage or resentment entment towards their parents. rents.
“It sounds crazy, but once ce you understand that it is s a spiritual journey, you u start to understand why y you pick up rocks,” cks,” says Brock. “There’s here’s a lot of very spiritual ritual work, such ch as American Indian dian talking circles; cles; even just the air out there, and d the sky and the stars – it is a very ry spiritual place.” ce.”
The Meadows was s established in 1975 975 by Pat Mellody llody – a former mer Air Force navigator vigator who helped ped create drug ug and alcohol programmes ogrammes for the military during ring the Vietnam tnam War – primarily marily to treat business siness executives with th drinking problems.
“You had a lot of big personalities, rsonalities, who didn’t like e being told what to do,” says s the expert. “So a big part of the culture there is that everybody erybody is treated the same, everybody erybody has to be humble, and d it is very ordered and structured.” uctured.”
All patients are issued with a Nineties-style neties-style beeper, which issues ues decrees about when to go to the lecture hall, or to dinner. nner.
Brock gallantly reports the food d during his 45 days to have been en “better than I thought it would uld be. But most of the time, it needed eeded 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 $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 m male sexual privileg privilege protection rack racket. And it is a form of public penanc penance, like when peo people would wear shame masks o or hair shirts, and walk around so that everyone knew they had done something somethin they were ashamed of.” Jenny Moore Moore, a 41-year-old entrepreneur from Houston, Texas, has othe other concerns regardin regarding the centre’s highprofile clients, havin having struggled to find anywhere decent to stay in Wickenburg, while attendin 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 lik like the sort of place a murderer tak takes you to kill you. With all the money The Meadows has, th they should build a hotel,” she suggests. “Where are Kevin Spacey’s family going to stay when they come out for famil family sessions?”
‘The first night I was there I was stuck in this tiny room with strangers’
Rehabilitation: The Meadows can count Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein, below, among its A-list of celebrities, as well as Kate Moss, far right; Sean Brock, a high-profile chef, right, says it was like being in prison