The gentleman on the other end of the telephone line has seen the best and worst of humanity and has soared and stumbled, struggled and survived. He emerged from the throes of addiction to claim a new identity; Rehab Bob.
According to his website, “Bob Forrest lived a drug-fueled life in the L.A. indie rock scene of the ’80s and ’90s as the frontman for Thelonious Monster. He was known as one of the worst junkies in Hollywood at the time. But after 24 stints in rehab, he finally got sober in 1996. Since then he has dedicated his life to becoming a drug counselor who specializes in reaching the unreachable. He’s helped addicts from all walks of life, often employing methods that are very much at odds with the “traditional rehab approach.”
Now living a 180-degree different life, he is the father of a daughter named Sydney, 1, with his partner as well as two sons, Elvis, 7, and Elijah, 30 from a previous relationship.
After entering recovery, Forrest began the work of giving back in 1999. He was a fundraiser in non-profit drug treatment program and was asked to take over responsibility for running it. He laughed when sharing, that “The last thing a musician wants to do at 38 years old is go back to school, but I did it,” earning a Certification in Chemical Dependency Counseling.
He explains how the field has changed dramatically. “Back then then, there were 20 or 30 rehabs in Southern California. Now there are around 1000.”
There are so many in need of treatment, as he says, that there is a “new mutation hybrid of addiction. So many are taking opiates. A Super Bowl commercial advertises constipation meds for people who are on opiates.”
He offers a startling statistic, “20% of the population in America have a substance use disorder.”
Forrest began working with Dr. Drew Pinsky at a 40 at bed hospital and loved it. This association turned into a stint on his show called Celebrity Rehab. This controversial reality series ran for six seasons until a few of those profiled died from overdose.
He has an unshakeable belief that clients need to attend the right program designed to meet their unique needs. “A 19- year- old addict in Ohio shouldn’t go to a rehab in Malibu. Not specialized in treating him. You can’t format into a cookie cutter. SEO, and Google click is not the way to best serve patients. Ask the right questions. Never talk to a phone bank. Ask if they are a brick and mortar rehab center themselves or if they will sell your lead to a rehab center. When a parent is scared that their kid is on drugs, they will do what they need to do. They will mortgage their house.”
As it hits close to home for him still, he shares, “My 30-year-old son in recovery. What was critical was that I wasn’t listening to him. My son kept saying it was different. Everybody is on drugs. The football captain, cheerleaders, student council president. Not just rock and roll kids, absent father kids. When American parents find out that their kid is on heroin, it shouldn’t be a surprise.”
Forrest believes we need to “hold kids accountable. They think there is no hope. 24/7 they have been told that the world sucks. Nothing good is happening and nothing good will happen. Most parents have Lunesta and Xanax in the medicine cabinet. We take Valium in this country like it’s Vitamin C. Kids think Xanax and pot is a safe combo. We are living in this world because of Big Pharma. Hold them accountable too.”
“I went to 24 treatment centers over a period of years because I had money. My first experience was the best; Hazelden 1988. I was 27 years old; the youngest person in my unit. Fast forward 30 years, 27 would be one of the oldest. The face of addiction has morphed and changed and gotten younger. I was this rock and roll musician and every word out of my mouth was ‘f*ck’ and I wore green dreadlocks. The peers held me to a high standard and accountable. I wanted to leave after four days, since I am an atheist. I wasn’t familiar with 12 Step. I was packing my bag and my roommate came in. I didn’t intend to use, I just wanted to go to rehab with less of a religious solution. He asked what I was talking about. “Steps of AA? Dude, I have the same problem with it.” That bond was the most powerful thing that helps people. Me too, the most powerful words in recovery. Inclusiveness. I relapsed, and he didn’t, and we are still in touch. It was the most magical thing.”
What does it take for someone in the music industry in which drugs and alcohol are easily accessible to maintain sobriety?
“My friends who are musicians knew each other before. We bonded over drug use and love of certain bands. We all ended up either sober or dead. They keep me in my place, pick me up when I am down. I was under attack when folks died on Celebrity Rehab. I lost my job. There was a mob mentality that came after me. It felt like being in a hurricane. I was in shock. Two of my oldest friends came over. One was adamantly opposed to Celebrity Rehab. They carried me through that time. Those guys and men’s group kept me right sized. If you are surrounded by yes people, you have no tethering to reality. One alcoholic helping another. I had a tour sober, didn’t want some guy you are paying to babysit me. I traveled with someone sober separately. I didn’t need to ride in the tour bus, with Red Hot Chili Peppers for a year. We became closest friends and had great conversations. I was asked to be sober companion for a member of Lynyrd Skynyrd. I was turned down because I was not big enough. He passed away which was really sad. You have to figure out your way with it. I helped a hip hop guy, who worked in an environment in which everyone smokes MJ 24/7. It’s like a party the whole time. I say, you are there to do your job and get out of there. Each musician who wants to remain sober must figure out how to navigate it. It’s like working in a bar, do your job or hang out and drink. The Big Book (of AA) says you can go anywhere and do anything if your intentions are right. What are my intentions? Be committed to your sobriety and be smart about it.”
Is one ever fully recovered or always in the recovery process?
“I have been spared a hopeless state of mind and body and now it is my responsibility to help others be spared. In that process, I don’t have to think about it. No semantics about who is recovered and who isn’t.
“Balance and boundaries are important. I used to be the person who chased down people to remain in treatment. I am going to go about my life and they will either call or not. Take care of yourself first. Think of the oxygen mask metaphor. Understand it, unless I am healthy, there is no way I can take care of anyone.”
The six questions to ask:
- How long has the facility been in operation?
- How many licensed professionals work full-time at the facility?
- What do they specialize in?
- What is the family program like?
- What kind of follow up, after-care programs are offered?
- What is the average length of stay?
Rehab Bob reinforces that “Treatment needs not to get in the way of recovery. I am left of center, but know where the center is.”