I have a confession: I am addicted to addiction-reality shows like Intervention and Celebrity Rehab. I watch them for more than voyeurism. I scrutinize every addict's behavior and judge their revelations. I take comfort in the fallout, whether the addict has a revelation about their abuse or continue living in selfish denial.
But here's the thing. I am the child of an addict. I can't know the feeling of addiction, but I know its consequences all too well -- the hurt of being left behind, of being not chosen, of watching someone constantly burn down our family until there seemed nothing left to rise from the ashes. And because I know only the toxic rain of addiction, watching one particular show has become a form of therapy because it showcases addicts trying to live without their crutches.
That show is Sober House, and this particular cast hits so close to home for me. I watch Heidi Fleiss rail against Tom Sizemore for beating her years ago in a drug-induced fury and I see my mother, still so angry with my father for his abuse -- both emotional and physical. I watch Tom cry in an alley and explode on Mike Starr and I see my father, screaming about having had his limit this past Christmas when my mom's constant, white-hot bitterness and my sister's refusal to tolerate his antics pushed him to his boiling point.
I watch Jennie Ketcham move silently but swiftly away from Tom's boiling rage to tuck herself under Seth Binzer's arm and I see my sisters and I, always on edge, always scurrying to find safe cover. I see Dennis Rodman kick back with his cigar and self-righteousness watching it all unfold as though he is above it all and I see the person I became after so many years of living on that high wire.
Something inside of me will always forgive and feel sorry for Tom. His emotions swing like a pendulum from one extreme to the other and I want to comfort him, stroke his brow, and convince him he can beat the stranglehold of addiction. Heidi stands on the balcony and smiles like a gleeful, hungry vulture preparing to rip the meat and sinew from Tom's carcass, and I want to scream at her that she is a hateful, bitter person.
That cuts to the heart of me. I should feel triumphant for her. I should be disgusted with his inability to control himself. I should see his anger explode and think, "If you're this angry now, how angry were you when you hit her?" But my heart doesn't go to that place. I don't know what this says about me, but as I watch, I start to unpack decades worth of feelings. I touch each one tenderly and try to give it the space it deserves. I examine them and wonder how to incorporate them into my life in a healthy way.
I doubt the show's producers created it for those of us out there still reeling from addiction's destructive power. I know it's about ratings and z-list celebrities hoping for a comeback. But for today, and every day that I sit down with it, Sober House is my therapist and ally. We work together to understand what my inner child still struggles with. And I'm only slightly embarrassed about it.