When it comes to celebrities getting treatment for their alcoholism, the rules are a little different. Most people seeking help for their drinking don’t have to worry about voracious paparazzi looking for a newsworthy scoop or dogged fans trying to get a picture of their idol. Celebrities need privacy like anyone else, but their deeper pockets and the circumstances of their substance abuse means they can get some very unique elements of alcoholism treatment.
Celebrity Alcoholism Rehabilitation
Treatment centers for high-profile clients are also known as “executive,” “luxury” or “private” facilities. They do not always cater exclusively to people in the media or show business (although some do), but they offer expensive amenities that are not found at state-funded or some basic private institutes. Executive rehabilitation centers also spare no expense in hiring and retaining the best substance abuse and mental health professionals, ensuring that clients still get the evidence-based treatment they need to overcome their alcoholism. Such facilities might also have marriage counselors, legal experts, and family therapists as fulltime staff members, so a client’s rehabilitation can be as comprehensive as financially possible.
To some, private alcohol rehab centers resemble world-class hotels and resorts that are tailored more for enjoyment than recovery. Bedrooms are not only private, they are lavish. Meals are not merely nutritional, they are cooked by five-star chefs; The Fix writes that breakfast at one such facility consists of fruit, oatmeal, cereal, yogurt, and eggs made to order, while dinner is made from locally grown California grilled fish or meat. Clients can make use of fully stocked gymnasiums, Olympic-sized swimming pools, yoga centers, acupuncture treatments, walks on private beaches, and business centers that allow CEOs to get work done. Some luxury centers also provide accommodations for family members, as well as onsite childcare or after school programs for older children, ensuring that clients do not have to be separated from their loved ones for the duration of treatment.
The high price tag of celebrity alcoholism rehab centers also covers amenities like stunning ocean views, daily massages, and tennis courts. These are some of the perks offered at a location like Destination Hope in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Designed with celebrities in mind, Destination Hope’s services are only for male clients, which is useful for those whose lifestyle of excess and indulgence makes it useful for there to be no temptation toward sexual impropriety. Clients at Destination Hope get their own apartment with views of a private lake, in addition to an ocean waterfront for exercise and meditation. Such luxuries may seem indulgent, but they are all designed to help with physical and mental rehabilitation in the aftermath of a drinking problem.
Some exclusive rehabilitation centers take the “exclusive” nature of their services very seriously. Prive Swiss, which has locations in California and Connecticut, only admits three clients at a time at either of their facilities. Prive Swiss gives their three clients gourmet food, exquisite bedrooms, and extensive one-on-one therapy services.
The Richest People on the Planet
The practice of luxury alcohol rehabilitation for the rich and famous is largely the brainchild of Richard Taite, a former cocaine user who, after being rehabilitated himself, turned his home in California into a treatment center that has been used by Lindsay Lohan and Ty Lawson. In an interview with Inc.com, Taite said that his facility (Cliffside Malibu) makes $20 million a year, with clients paying up to $75,000 a month for intense (and comfortable) detoxification and counseling. The spare-no-expense approach has led to Cliffside Malibu being called one of the best rehabilitation centers in the world, and Taite boasts that clients who visit his facility have a 70 percent chance of maintaining their sobriety a year after their treatment ends.
Taite admits that Cliffside Malibu wasn’t always meant to be an alcohol rehabilitation center for the rich and famous; the facility started out as a sober living home, which offered no clinical treatment. But Taite had deep pockets, and whatever his clients needed, he provided. This started with hiring specialists to offer additional behavioral services, like nutritionists and exercise coaches. He told Inc.com that word began to spread that Cliffside Malibu “became known as the place where you get whatever it is you need.” Eventually, movie stars and “some of the richest people on the planet” began seeking what Taite was offering.
Cliffside Malibu is unique in that its doors are unlocked. Clients are free to leave if they choose, but Taite warns that it won’t be an easy exit; a client who wants to leave has to talk to three therapists before they are granted permission to depart the facility. Taite, however, is convinced that the gauntlet is successful in convincing his clients to continue their treatment.
For Richard Taite, Cliffside Malibu is not just a business with a personal connection; for the first year of the center’s operation, he worked 16 hours a day, and the center grossed $6 million. In 2015, it took in $60 million from some very exclusive clientele. For a hundred inquiries coming in to Cliffside Malibu, Taite says that only two people are taken on as clients.
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Forbes magazine guesses that someone like Richard Taite – hardworking, ambitious, and all-around relentless – is the kind of person that celebrities feel comfortable going to when their drinking develops into an alcoholism problem. The luxury accommodations of Cliffside Malibu help, too. When it comes to treating high-profile clients, there is “so much power and ego involved,” and treating celebrities for their drinking can take a while. Taite explains that successful people are used to being told what they want to hear, and putting someone like that in a more traditional treatment program might be counterproductive. The trick with celebrities is “to win [their] heart over, even if you can’t win over [their] head right away.” Offering amenities like five-star meals, Ralph Lauren furniture, and massive flat-screen television sets, is a way of convincing the celebrities that their first day of rehab is not going to be the worst day of their lives.
Taite admits that the stylings of Cliffside Malibu aren’t conventional. Other therapists who toured the center were disgusted that clients are given television sets in their own bedrooms or given their smartphones back after three days. According to Taite, the perks of Cliffside Malibu are the lesser of two evils; a client who falls asleep watching something productive on TV, is further along the path of recovery than a client who falls asleep from fatigue after detox.
The idea behind Cliffside Malibu, says Taite, is that the celebrity’s existence isn’t fueled by the trauma and anxiety of the past, which becomes exacerbated by the sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll lifestyle of fame. The high visibility that comes with being an entertainer or an athlete means that even though Cliffside Malibu is unlike most other treatment centers, and even though it can cost tens of thousands of dollars a week, the privacy offered by the facility (and the understanding of the unique circumstances that come with celebrity life) make it a worthwhile investment.
Life in a Private Alcoholism Rehabilitation Center
A writer for The Fix corroborates this by saying that the rich and famous are used to a certain kind of living standard, and if they don’t get this standard, even in their alcoholism treatment, they will simply leave. The ultimate goal of places like Cliffside Malibu and other high-end rehabilitation centers is just to get the client to stay, and the perks and luxuries of such facilities are all geared toward that fact. The writer, who worked as a residential technician at a celebrity rehab center, said that even if a client was going through painful alcohol withdrawal, his job was to get their dry cleaning done, down to ensuring that “the cleaners didn’t use too much starch.”
Being a residential technician at a conventional treatment facility might mean conducting surprise checks of bedrooms to ensure no illicit alcohol stashes; at a celebrity rehab clinic, being a residential technician effectively means doing chores for the clients. There are no punishments to hand out because there are no rules to break; if a client’s bedroom is in disarray, it is the residential technician’s job to clean it up. If an actor has to meet with his agent, the technician drives them to the office and then back to treatment. If an athlete wants to go to a sports event, the technician drives them there. Residential technicians are not empowered to say “no” to clients, no matter how outrageous or counterproductive the demand.
The Malibu Model
When it comes to celebrity rehab, controversy is part of the bigger picture. In 2007, the Los Angeles Times reported of problems at Promises Malibu, “detox destination to the stars.” Garfield Logan, a former professional surfer put down $42,000 up front for treatment at the canyon-top Mediterranean-style home; five days later, he was kicked out for bad behavior, and the facility kept all the money. In four consumer-rights, breach-of-contract, and unfair-business-practice lawsuits, Promises Malibu was accused of running a scam cottage industry. This highlighted the problem of some exclusive rehab centers operating on a for-profit basis, while traditional alcoholism rehabilitation centers are typically not-for-profit. While the Betty Ford Clinic charges $23,000 a month, for example, Promises Malibu asks for double that amount.
Garfield Logan’s lawsuit regarding the no-refund policy was not the only legal action Promises faced, but the so-called “Malibu model” has proved successful and effective. Malibu’s 31-day program starts at $55,000 and can go up to $90,000 if clients want additional accommodations (like having their pets with them or a private room). David Sack, clinical psychiatrist and CEO, says that the facility’s hot tubs, sun decks, and heated pools are meant to make highly successful people feel comfortable and at home. The alternative (what he calls the “institutional type of treatment”) scares high-profile clients away. ABC News points out that the comfort and luxury of Promises Malibu are an undeniable attraction for struggling celebrities, who realize that they have a drinking problem but don’t want to lose the perks of their lifestyle while getting help.
Treating celebrities is complicated, admitted Sack. It is hard to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings when there are paparazzi tracking their every move, so luxury rehabilitation centers like Promises and Cliffside Malibu pour everything they can into onsite accommodations. This includes offering new services, such as sex addiction treatment, timed when pro golfer Tiger Woods sought treatment for his infidelity.
Despite the ostentatiousness and high price tags, celebrity rehabilitation cannot guarantee sobriety. Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen both had public relapses after they graduated from Promises Malibu, and Danny Bonaduce said that the $40,000 treatment had no effect on him.
Alcoholism affects one in three Americans, but for celebrities, it is an epidemic, according to The Fix. Treating this epidemic requires some unusual methods, and some of the most famous people in the world are willing to pay upwards of a hundred thousand dollars for their alcoholism rehabilitation.
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