The media, of course, adore a truly debauched backstory. How much more street cred does, say, Robert Downey Jr. have because of his many headlong plunges into the abyss? Rehab; relapse; jail time; rehab; relapse . . . recovery—dude saw the other side and had the fortitude to make it back to dry land. His personal Iron Man narrative surely echoes the classic rock-and-roll crash-burn-comeback arc, but now just about any D-level celebrity can get in on the action, thanks to shows like Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.

"There's a big wave of people that embrace recovery," says Brian, 31, an alcoholic who took his first steps toward sobriety 18 months ago in his native San Francisco. "I don't want to say it's, like, chic, but it's become popularized." While Brian (who asked that his last name be withheld) has problems with some addiction-rehab story lines on reality TV, he credits A&E's serious-minded Intervention with "making people—borderline people—aware that, 'Oh, maybe I do sort of have some control issues.'" For his part, many in his circle had no idea he might have a problem. "I thought you were just a partyer," a friend told him.

Not long ago, my friend David Carr, a columnist for the New York Times, told me that when his addiction-redemption memoir, The Night of the Gun, hit best-seller lists, he began attracting a strange set of groupies. "The vast majority of the audience experiences these as cautionary tales, but certain people find them alluring," he said. "People would come up and say, 'Tell me the really gross parts that you left out.' I would just say, 'For cryin' out loud, look at what's in there—isn't that enough?!' People assign all sorts of mysticism and glamour to my story, which I don't really understand."

Some of those people, of course, have never, figuratively speaking, been to Vegas, and they have no plans or desire to go there—they just desperately want to be leaving Las Vegas. I ask you: Is that sober behavior?

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