Alcoholics Anonymous used to be the great equalizer: Rich or poor, famous or unknown, everyone was an addict, and everyone sat on the same hard chairs, in the same church basement, drinking the same bad coffee. My mom used to tell me about all the politicians and other muckety-mucks in her Washington-area AA meetings (never naming names, of course, but just mentioning that this or that famous person was there, as if to prove she was in good company). And that was a good thing, especially for celebrities and other narcissists, who needed the humbling.
Then along came fancy rehab centers (yes, there’s always been Betty Ford, but usually after rehab, those people went straight to AA), Celebrity Rehab with Doctor Drew, and now–sober coaches–a sort of first-class airplane ticket to sobriety.
Maybe I’m out of the loop, but I learned about sober coaches for the first time, recently, when I happened to be reading about Brooke Mueller & Charlie Sheen’s early-morning knife fight (yes, I admit, I was kind of fascinated). Since both celebs apparently have a history of alcoholism and addiction, they had their Sober coaches on hand that morning. So what is a sober coach? Basically, it’s a person you pay to help you stay sober, after you leave rehab. Apparently, if you don’t feel like going to AA and hanging around those icky basements, the one-person AA meeting will come to you. How’s that working for you, Charlie Sheen?
For $40-$100 per hour, companies like Sober Champion will appoint someone to be your “sober escort” (to take you from point A to point B, such as on an airplane) or your “sober coach” (your companion for a finite number of hours). If you’re willing to shell out up to $1800 a day, you too can have a “sober companion,” who will go through all your stuff to make sure you’re not hiding booze or drugs, and basically follow you around, coaching you, praying with you, and helping you find ingenious alternatives to boozing (i.e. meditating, taking a bath, exercising). Sorry, but sober coaches are not generally covered by insurance, so you’ll have to shell out all the dough yourself. The maximum suggested time for the 24/7 sober coach is 90 days. Celebrities like Drew Barrymore, Owen Wilson, Robert Downey, Jr., Lindsay Lohan and Mary-Kate Olsen have used sober coaches.
Frankly, not that I’m his mother or anything, but what Charlie Sheen needs is a bad cup of coffee and a basement full of regular people calling him on his shit, not a suck-up sober handler who charges him $650-1800 day. Ditto Lindsay Lohan et al. The cure for narcissism is a dose of reality. One of the most helpful cures for addiction is to find a community of people who can bolster and support you, and who you in turn can bolster and support. Sober coaches offer a community of one–a one-sided arrangement.
I’m sure there are cases where sober coaches have saved peoples’ lives, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. They have testimonials out the wazoo from grateful celebs, I’m sure. But still…
What I don’t get is that AA has always offered sober coaches–for free! They’re called “sponsors,” and they are AA veterans with years of sobriety under their belts. If it’s hard for celebrities to attend public meetings, couldn’t they have celebrity AA meetings or something? And get this–one of the sober coaching companies is called “Hired Power.” A sellout G-d. How ironic.