Florida couple talking coffee enemas on TLC's My Strange Addiction now question their new fame
It's not often you hear someone who has admitted an addiction to coffee enemas on national television worry about looking like a freak to the world.
But that's exactly the fear Trina Elliott confessed during an interview about her appearance tonight on TLC’s attention-getting series My Strange Addiction.
Producers from the show came to St. Petersburg last year, documenting Trina and her husband Mike Elliott’s habit of giving themselves coffee enemas multiple times in a day; the show says Trina administers them to herself up to four times daily, claiming the couple declines to travel or leave their home to indulge the habit.
Early press coverage of their episode, which kicks off the show’s fourth season at 10 tonight, has landed everywhere from ABC News to Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper, the New York Daily News, the Huffington Post and the syndicated show Dr. Oz, where the couple appeared with other subjects from the show.
But the couple, who now live in Orlando, said they agreed to do the program mostly to try explaining how the enemas have offered Trina relief from constant problems with constipation and kidney stones in ways prescription drugs do not.
They don’t deny indulging the habit or that Trina, in particular, is devoted to taking at least one coffee enema daily (Mike Elliott says he hasn’t indulged the practice regularly for a while.).
Still, the pair worries about how producers crafted the episode -- pairing their story with the tale of a woman addicted to eating her cat’s hair and grooming her pet with her tongue – making it tough to see any larger message in their story.
“We’re not celebrities; we don’t get paid to be on TV,” noted Trina Elliott, 37, who said TLC did not pay them for participation in the show. “I don’t feel bad about telling the world I did this. I just hope the show doesn’t make us look like freaks.”
Their story follows a pattern regular viewers will recognize; they show off their addiction, friends and family try to talk them out of it, a doctor consults with the and they continue the behavior.
One thing both Mike and Trina Elliott insist: they never allowed producers to film them actually taking enemas, instead wearing clothes and re-enacting the procedure while covered by towels. The footage, as presented on the show, might lead viewers to think they were actually watching it happen.
“I think my exact words were, ‘Go f--- yourself,’” said Mike Elliott, 44, a freelance web designer and computer consultant, describing his response when producers from the show asked to film them actually doing the deed.
“I don’t mind talking about it, but I don’t do it in front of people,” said Trina Elliott, who uploaded a video to YouTube in 2010 talking about her difficulty in deciding to begin using the enemas to treat her health issues.
Wendy Douglas, the senior director of production at TLC, was not present at the production but said she was told the crew filmed the couple actually receiving enemas and re-enacting the procedure, using a mix of footage.
“We approach the series where we go out and shoot documentary-style, fly-on-the-wall, to capture the situation,” she said, downplaying the couple's contention that producers pressed them to refer to their experience in certain ways and contrived scenes. “In the story, you really do see this is something they support…We don’t take a position that it’s right or wrong.”
But the doctor who is shown consulting with the couple on possible health effects of their habit, Tampa physician Dr. Alan Weintraub, said he didn’t examine the Elliotts, but instead offered some thoughts based on a short interview.
Weintraub, who said the couple may have downplayed how much coffee they might be using, noted the biggest physical impact from coffee enemas is the more direct absorption of caffeine into the bloodstream. Though he said producers wanted him to be more critical, the doctor noted most people would experience the same effects from drinking a similar amount of coffee orally, though the effect would come in a rush -- which might make them feel better without offering much therapeutic value.
The Elliotts are no strangers to TV. Visitors to Trina Elliott’s YouTube page can click on a playlist with clips from the couple’s appearance on Anderson Cooper’s daytime show last year, where they were among several couples who talked about arguing in a relationship.
Now, Trina Elliot worries that doing the show “is the biggest mistake I’ve ever made” and Mike Elliott is preparing for his friends to tease him mercilessly.
“It is a show called My Strange Addiction…the whole point is to show people abusing themselves with some bizarre behavior,” said Mike Elliott. “I sorta knew what I was getting into…(but) it ended up being more publicized than I expected.”