Clearwater family's struggle with addiction and co-dependency shown in new Dr. Drew rehab series
When I first met Jeff Arthur, I already knew who he was.
Arthur, 61, is a well-known area musician and jingle writer who has assembled thousands of spots for clients such as Wendy's, Blockbuster Video and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (he wrote their 1979 fight song, Hey, Hey, Tampa Bay). Well regarded in his field and earning a great living at his art, he seemed to have a great life on a string.
But when we finally got together at his spacious, comfortable home in Feather Sound, Arthur had a more troubling story to tell.
His 25-year-old son Andrew Arthur -- a talented musician in his own right, known as "Drewbee" to friends and fans -- was a longtime addict who had turned life at the family home into a horrific experience in recent years.
In 2009, he fell into a four-day coma after taking sleeping pills and choking on food. Later, he totaled two cars -- one belonging to Jeff and one used by his wife Jane -- within days of each other, unable to stop using a variety of substances despite many thousands of dollars spent on treatment.
In desperation earlier this year, Jane wrote a letter to celebrity addiction specialist Dr. Drew Pinsky, unaware that he was planning to organize a version of his well-known celebrity rehab series without the celebrities -- focusing on average people caught in serious addiction.
It took months, but Drewbee joined Pinsky's show, leaving the Arthurs feeling like they had gotten a final lifeline which could save their son's life.
But in recent weeks, the show has focused more on Drewbee's relationship with his parents and the notion that Jeff Arthur's co-dependency -- his relentless drive to try and take care of his son, even when that may enable his addictions -- could be one of his biggest problems.
This is ground the Arthur family should know well -- Jeff struggled with his own addiction to cocaine, which he kicked when Jane threatened to kick him out of their home when Drewbee was very young. But Jeff Arthur has still struggled with co-dependency issues.
One of the show’s most powerful moments came a few weeks ago, when on screen counselor Bob Forrest turned to Drewbee and another patient, declaring that their upbringing in a stable home with parents trapped in a desperate cycle of co-dependency, would likely kill them faster than fellow addicts from poor homes with stories of parental abandonment, sexual abuse and worse.
“Your parents are smothering you with a pillow; just before you’re about to die, they let it up and go ‘I love you so much,’” said Forrest, a former rock singer and fedora-wearing expert who once shared stages and drug habits with the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
The group had just heard a story about how another addict in the program was struggling with flashbacks to a gang rape which occurred while she was selling drugs to support her habit. But Forrest insisted co-dependency was more dangerous.
“It’s a different side of the coin,” said Forrest, looking at Drewbee. “And I find it more destructive than almost anything else to the children, except physical and sexual abuse.”
Indeed, Drewbee seemed to be among the patients doing well on the show until his parents Jeff and Jane, joined by his older sister Lindsey, visited as part of a family weekend encouraging addicts to reconnect with loved ones.
As cameras rolled, Drewbee became more withdrawn, telling Pinsky and other staff at Pasadena Recovery Center that he wasn’t going to transition into the three months of sober living at a halfway house recommended by the program, causing his mother to nearly collapse in tears, moaning “my son’s going to die.”
After spending time with Jeff and Jane Arthur, I wrote a story about their family's time on the show for Sunday's Floridian section. The season finale airs at 8 p.m. Sunday, following an episode where Drewbee was committed to a hospital for irrationally insisting on leaving the recovery center.
For his part, Jeff Arthur insists he doesn't mind if the episodes make him look bad or if the family is exploited a bit by reality TV cameras, if Drewbee stays sober in the end.
“When you see your son in that coma, logic and education go out the window,” he said, acknowledging that his own addiction should have taught tough lessons about the dangers of co-dependency. “But the show gave me a finish line…I knew he was safe. I knew he wasn’t out somewhere scoring (drugs).”
Below, check out some clips from Pinsky's show and a video Drewbee made about his addiction before he went into the program.