When Celebrity Rehab went on the air four years ago, the most formidable authority wasn't the host, Drew Pinsky, but Forrest, his longtime partner at Las Encinas Hospital's chemical-dependency clinic, whom Pinsky calls "the most talented addiction-treatment specialist" he has ever worked with. A man whose talent wasn't acquired accidentally.
"I was one of the worst drug addicts I've ever seen," Forrest says. "And by accounts from my friends and family, it's true." A new documentary, Bob and the Monster, by Keirda Bahurth, supports the claim by following the transformation Forrest began in the eighties, tracing how a fringe rock performer became a lucid but minor presence in reality TV and then a confidant of members of the pop-culture elite, who privately consider him much more than a stand-up guy. "Bob's been a mentor to me because he practices what he preaches," says Courtney Love. "He's the first one who gave up his career and didn't just pout but became a fucking hero." In this sense, he's one leader among many. "There's a certain heroism attached to recovering addicts now," says McCarthy of NYU. "It's almost like in the television program Heroes, where people all over the world discover they have these new superpowers, but they're painful and they must struggle and come to terms with them. It's almost as if addiction is a rite of passage for becoming a more fully aware person."
Not everyone, of course, lives to reach this stage of awareness. "I wish the fuck Bob had been in on Kurt's intervention," says Love, who put Forrest in touch with her 19-year-old daughter, Frances Bean Cobain. "My daughter sees the people Bob refers her to and they're always perfect," Love says. "She'd be suffering a lot more if he wasn't out there." (For her part, Love claims to be doing her own bit to help one cartoonishly recidivist substance abuser. "I've taken up Lohan because nobody else will," says Love, adding that her successor to the title of Celebrity as Circus Act is "further down the line than I was, because there was no TMZ then.")
But to Forrest, abstinence is one stop on a journey toward an extraordinary life, a process that transforms the addict from a helpless mess to a human being who is smarter, tougher, stronger, more enlightened than those around him. "What is it that turns Robert Downey from a guy who's smoking coke naked outside a crack motel into the guy on the awards show?" Forrest asks. "How does that happen?" This kind of change is now in the public consciousness, promising that even the most unredeemable fuck-up may become his own version of Iron Man.
Bill Clegg, a hotshot literary agent whose 2010 memoir, Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man, catalogued a spectacular crack-fueled fall from grace, says, "What's useful about celebrities who are flaming out in full view is that there's a way in which it is a relief to people who, like me, struggled privately … people see some of them get sober and go on to lead successful, brilliant lives." The availability, and visibility, of so many compelling role models ("I have 100 days of sobriety today!!! Life is beautiful," David Arquette tweeted recently) are key components of the recovery revolution, especially when the going gets tough.
"Recovery is a serious challenge," says Turning Point's David Vieau. "You've made very difficult changes and you've grabbed hold of your life. Anyone who makes an active struggle with addiction need not consider it a dirty secret. Rather, it's a badge of honor."
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