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The Rush to Rehab; Stop Rehab Abuse!

By Simma Lieberman

The Mayor of San Francisco announces that he'll enter rehab and counseling for alcohol after it's revealed that he had an affair with the wife of his campaign manager. Isaiah Washington is undergoing counseling for his use of a homophobic slur. Michael Richards is in counseling for yelling racist epithets. Mel Gibson enters rehab for alcoholism after making anti-Semitic remarks when stopped by police for driving while intoxicated. Senator Mark Foley enters rehab for alcohol after it was revealed that he had sent sexually suggestive e-mails to teenagers. Reverend Haggard enters rehab when confronted with having a sexual relationship with a male prostitute.

The list goes on and on and on.

Then there are the Lindsey Lohans and Nicole Ritchies who enter rehab for drugs, alcohol or whatever, become "experts" on addiction recovery, tell everyone how their lives have changed, yet within a short amount of time are seen partying, driving under the influence, and acting out.

We read the newspapers, listen to the radio and go online wondering, who is next in the line-up for rehab? Who will come out a few weeks later, write their memoirs, go on the speaking circuit, and tell us to live our lives?

There could be a gold mine in running rehab centers for celebrities that don't want to take responsibility for their actions and for counselors who specialize in famous people who make racist, homophobic, or any other hate-filled remarks. There's probably also money to be made by graphic artists who create diplomas for graduates of rehab and counseling who are declared cured of alcoholism, drug addiction, racism, homophobia, and homosexuality.

Rehab is getting a bad name and soon there will be no room for the average alcoholic or drug addict who works hard to stay clean and sober, takes responsibility for their actions, and knows that there is still work to do after the first 30 days.

I've been clean and sober for over 22 years and I've put a lot of work into transforming my life. One of the first things I learned in AA was that alcoholism and drug addiction are not excuses for injuring yourself or others. Part of my recovery was making a list of people who I had harmed, making amends to them personally and accepting the consequences of my past actions. I didn't make an announcement to the world and I still don't think I have all the answers, but I do know a thing or two about rehab.

I realize, for example, that my amends and apologies have to mean something and indicate a change in actions and thought processes. I also know that "apologies by proxy" when celebrities make inappropriate remarks then apologize to well-known people from the group targeted by the remarks just don't cut it. There seems to be no end to well-known people who make racist remarks about African American people and then call Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson seeking absolution, as if they have the power or time to forgive and make such comments ok.

Entering treatment for addiction means you get treatment for your addiction. Any other changes you make are up to you. That also means that a racist alcoholic, who gets treated for alcoholism, can still be a sober racist, anti-Semite, homophobe, or engage in inappropriate behavior.

As a diversity and inclusion strategy consultant, I speak to individuals and organizations throughout the world. I hear racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic remarks from all kinds of people. At the same time, I'm with people who work hard to understand others who are different than themselves, who learn to break through incorrect assumptions and stereotypes, and appreciate the opportunity to interact with others in meaningful dialogue.

Rehab is not the cure for all the -isms or for hate. The cure is education, self-examination and the willingness to get to know people from diverse backgrounds as human beings and understand their lives and experiences.

P.S. The cycle continues: Ms. USA was on Larry King talking about her new self and giving advice after several weeks of rehab.

Simma Lieberman is a consultant, speaker and author. She works with organizations to create environments where people can do their best work. Contact Simma at (510)-527-0700 to discuss how she can help you and the people in your organization break the stress cycle and develop a more balanced life. Visit her website and subscribe for free monthly newsletter.

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