The Real World Sucks

I went to detox on Friday night. But unlike the handful of near death survivors who sat in the little community room at the city hospital with me, I got to go home. I was asked to speak and anytime anyone asks me to speak at a detox or rehab, I jump at the chance. Not only because they’re such captive audiences or because I’m a lot more hilarious to people in hospital gowns but because it is an honor. For some reason my daily drinking and rabid drug use didn’t kill me so I’ll happily show up for people who really need a laugh or little bit of hope. Too bad Joey Kovar didn’t get to live to do the same thing.

29 year-old  Joey Kovar, a cast member of MTV’s Real World: Hollywood and Celebrity Rehab, was found dead last Friday near Chicago. He was found with blood coming out of ears and nose. Drugs, of course, are suspected to be the cause of death. The real, Real World is a brutal place and checking out of it must have seemed like the only option for Joey. And that’s just how it ends for a reality star whose drug addiction and binge drinking made for great TV. No scads of celebrities Tweeting about how wonderful he was and no video montages of his finest moments. Just a big story on and lame statement from MTV,who profited from his demons and then tossed him aside.  Kovar soon becomes the answer to a trivia question and the world at large moves on to talking about bigger things like Oprah’s interview with Rihanna.

Now I’m not saying that we should have a moment of silence for Kovar or name a street after him but his death does make me stop and think about how we honor the lives of addicts. For big stars like Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston, we dance around the fact that they were drug addicts and focus on their careers instead. For z-listers like Kovar, we act like we do when anyone dies from alcoholism or addition, like it’s a shame but we saw it coming. Really what pisses me off about celebrities who die from drug addiction is the missed opportunity we have to really talk about the disease at hand. We don’t honestly say to kids or even adults, “This famous person died because of their alcoholism and drug addition. It wasn’t heart problems or drowning or because an evil doctor gave them a prescription. They died because they were addicts.” Yeah I realize things haven’t changed since I bitched about this same issue when Whitney died a few months ago.

But what I can do is not shut up and not sit back and watch any more. Having watched the Real World in the past and Real Housewives and any other bullshit show that pretends to be real, I can safely say I’m over trotting out hot messes, giving them wine and letting the cameras roll for our amusement. Being a disaster isn’t entertaining or inspiring. I’m done contributing to the culture who awards drunken idiots by giving them TV shows. This isn’t to say I don’t love my Chopped or RuPaul’s Drag Race but I’m just not interested in sacrificing dignity for entertainment anymore. And besides making a meal out of sheep’s stomach or performing in 6 inch clear heels requires some actual talent.

Anyway, it’s a shame Joey didn’t get the chance to hang out with my friends on the fourth floor detox of the county hospital. No there wasn’t any cameras or designer gift bags or journalists from Extra. There was just a group of people fighting for their lives and hoping they could change. Talk about real. We’d never tune in to watch such a thing on cable TV.

4 thoughts on “The Real World Sucks

  1. First, good for you for speaking at the detox place. Getting sober is a win, but bringing other people with you is a victory.

    Second, I agree with you about reality TV’s exploitation of damaged people. I stopped watching MTV’s the Real World in the third season (Hawaii) when they had a character who was a raging alcoholic climb behind the wheel drunk and drive. All she got was a warning from the production staff. Their excuse was that she needed “understanding”.

    This was at a time when I drank like a fish.

    I think about WC Fields, Dean Martin, and Foster Brooks; men with talent who made drinking part of their act. It’s not the same as reality TV because on some level we understand they’re putting on a show. Still today as a sober viewer I cringe.

    I watch Lindsey Lohan on her journey to an early death. I can already read the media headlines, and can recite the various E! News profile stories. She will make $2 million this year, and she hasn’t slowed her drinking or drug use at all. I am angry at her, her friends, and the vampires who allow her to self destruct. I’m not a fan, in fact I don’t like her, but she represents an opportunity lost to make progress.

  2. Thanks Marc! Speaking at rehabs and detoxs is the most fun and most rewarding thing I’ve done in sobriety. I truly love it.
    I so agree about Lindsey. Poor girl. And how gross that society has turned waiting for her death into some sort of spectator’s sport. When Amy Winehouse died I read all sorts of horrible comments (from people I know, no less) that were like “well, she had it coming” and “it’s her own fault”. Famous or not they’re still humans.And condemnation never helped anybody understand the disease of addiction. Honesty about celebrity drug addicts and alcoholics could really help or as you so brilliantly said, “an opportunity lost to make progress.” So true. As always, thanks for the great dialogue!

  3. I have really been enjoying reading Augusten Burroughs book, This is How and his philosophy on addiction and recovering from it. It’s a good read…
    And I agree completely. I do sometimes watch Intervention. I find it fascinating but I generally feel the production of that show is oriented towards helping people. I am always rooting that they see the light although I am not naive enough to believe that “seeing the light” means real, longtime recovery. I saw the light several times and kept drinking and drugging.
    Love the new blog style and frequent updates.


    • Thanks Renee!! I was wondering about that Burroughs book and you’ve inspired me to check it out. Thanks! Have you read GUTS by Kristen Johnston? Holy crap what a powerful book about addiction and it’s really, really funny. Lovely to hear from you and hope you are having a great week!

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