David Letterman, therapist. Lindsay Lohan, client

David Letterman would have made a decent therapist. When he interviewed Lindsay Lohan last night, he was pleasant but relentless. He had a mission. He lead the elephant right into the room and sat it down on her lap. He didn’t allow her smart remarks to distract from the real questions that someone should be asking her:
Do you think you have an addiction problem? What do you expect from the court-ordered rehab you will soon enter? What is your attitude about all this?

The underlying inquiry: Do you get that this addiction and whatever additional problems accompany it is dangerous to your future, maybe your life?

His questions and her answers allow the rest of us to make our own assessment: Does this formerly adorable child star have a chance? Will she be able to get to a more authentic level than the wise-cracking public persona she brought to Letterman? Will she let the counselors in? Does she have the capacity and willingness to observe herself and see clearly the forces that have overtaken her?

A couple of moments in the interview suggest optimism. In another therapist-worthy moment for Dave, he praised her for having the backbone to appear despite his history of joking about her. She teared up, as she did when he continued to express hope and concern for her, indicating that he had touched a soft spot. Also on the plus o her credit, she didn’t stalk off the stage.

As an addiction counselor, I am more optimistic than most. Experience has taught me that just when you are tempted to give up on someone, they can turn around and give themselves the greatest gift – they enter recovery and stay there. It doesn’t matter if they have heard all the words five times before, or if they have sat through daily meetings for months and then relapsed. It doesn’t matter what they did last time. In some combination of grace, trust, support and understanding, recovery becomes possible this time.

In my training, I was told of a study in New York City where some optimist took an SRO hotel filled with addicts and alcoholics on disability and started AA meetings in the basement. Who would attend those? Who of those people could recover? Certainly it was too late. Not for some of them, about 20 % of them, the story goes. I never looked up that study or verified those results. I didn’t need to because I saw the evidence for myself often enough.

Does it matter that there is someone’s foot in Lindsay’s back forcing her into rehab? Doesn’t she have to want treatment first for it to work? Waiting for someone in an addictive pattern to wake up and ask for help can be a very long wait, one that the addicted person may not survive. How you get into rehab has nothing to do with how you come out.

I don’t know how Lindsay feels this morning about her conversation with Letterman last night. Maybe a little relieved that finally someone spoke the truth to her. I hope it opened a crack in her protective shell that can be further pried open once she gets to treatment, to let a healthy and clear-thinking version of herself free. It is more than possible – I’ve seen it.

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