Thursday, February 28, 2008

Celebrity Rehab and my addiction to addiction stories

So Celebrity Rehab was on when I went to the gym today. I was so sucked in I barely noticed the half hour I did on the elliptical. (I love it when TV is that distracting at the gym, makes working out way easier.) That show is the only thing I can really call a guilty pleasure. (Maybe I should feel guilty that I love Rock of Love and One Life to Live and Matchbox 20 and P!nk and other clearly un-punk/uncool stuff, but I am so over elitism, have been since high school. I like what I like for the reasons that I like it and I accept that all of those weird little idiosyncrasies add up to the unique individual that is Stephanie Kuehnert. If other people can't, oh well.) But when I watch shows like Celebrity Rehab and Intervention, I *actually* feel guilty about watching them and being so fascinated by the horrible situations people are in. I feel like I’m helping to exploit someone even though I tell myself, “they signed up for this” (though while they were in what state of desperation) and “this is resulting in treatment for them.” But I keep watching because well, I'm addicted to addiction stories I guess.

Why is this the case? Well, there are personal and professional reasons.

By "professional reasons," I mean that addiction fascinates me as a storyteller. People become addicted to so many different things for so many different reasons, and some of them can shake it and some of them can’t. Each story is unique and it's important to tell them. Addiction is a product of our culture and society and I think it's important to raise awareness of the many issues surrounding the many addictions out there. This is not to say that I go out and pick an issue and write a story around it. Not at all the case. But all the characters that come to me are troubled (yes, I talk about my characters as real people who visit me, I know it's a little wacky, but like my deep-seated love for soap operas, you just have to accept it about me) and I try to hand their troubles sensitively and realistically and I do hope that other people connect with their experiences and my story is not only entertaining, but works for the greater good in some way.

Okay, enough of that tangent. Addiction is a way people run from emotions/situations they don't want to face. All of my characters do this. In IWBYJR Emily escapes into music. The book I just finished writing has a main character who cuts herself and also spirals into heroin addiction and getting to know Kara (my M.C.) was probably the most intense emotional experience I’ve had writing so far, even more so than Louisa from IWBYJR who certainly is a very pained character. One of the characters in one of my next book ideas is addicted to anger/revenge. When I read/watch/hear addiction stories, I think up a thousand different characters and different scenarios. So I guess that's why I'm so "professionally" fascinated by addiction.

And of course, they say you write what you know.... Personally, addiction stories fascinate me because there has been a lot of addiction in my life. Right now I'm thinking of two people that I have no idea whether they are dead or alive because when I walked away from them last they had serious drug problems. I've had a very close friendship and a relationship destroyed by alcoholism. (Believe me there's an alcoholic character waiting to be written. Her name is Ivy, but I've told her I'm not ready for her yet, give me a couple books.) There was a period of time in my late teens/early twenties where I verged on alcoholism myself and I spent the past ten years of my life on some sort of sleeping medication. I weaned myself off of it last month and those nights that I spent sobbing to my boyfriend, begging him to let me have my pills, beating myself up for it if I gave in and took them, I felt like I belonged in rehab. Don't delude yourself into thinking those meds are safe just because you have a prescription for them. Anyway, there will be more on that when I'm ready. A blog or more likely a proper essay. I'm receiving acupuncture treatment for my 15 year insomnia problem now, so I'm waiting to reflect on it all after I see how that pans out.

Hmm, okay, that was probably about as personal as I'm gonna get in my blogs. But back to Celebrity Rehab... So I justify watching it because I think that at least it is pointing out a major problem in our society. It definitely takes away the glamor to see Jeff Conway who I loved as Kenickie (wow, how many times has Grease been mentioned in my blog in the past two weeks) drooling in a wheelchair begging for opiates. But I still feel like the show sensationalizes it all, so I'm torn. Opinions?


Anonymous said...

I don't watch TV (it's not elitism, I just don't have it) but I bet I'd be totally into that show and I bet I'd feel terrible about it.

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Yeah, I know you would, Annika. I could imagine watching it with you back in the day. I do most of my TV watching at the gym honestly. Except Grey's Anatomy, Rock of Love, OLTL, and Degrassi the Next Generation. Hmm, actually I'm watching a lot more TV than I used to. Ah well. I could live without it. I did for a semester. But I'd miss it.