Gemma Lacey

This Must Be the Place: Rehab for the 1 percent

Gemma Lacey
This Must Be the Place: Rehab for the 1 percent

Do you ever get home from a long day at work, kick off your shoes, and think “Damn, I’m tired!"? If so, welcome to issue number one in the First World Problems Club. Unless of course you’re a celebrity or billionaire, in which case you go one extra and upgrade straight to "exhausted," a malaise somehow so much more fashionable and complex than mere tiredness; and let’s be real, also often a euphemism for “I’ve spent the last few weeks doing too much blow and now I feel terrible.”

This is one instance where being tired feels like a nice issue to have. A few early nights or a weekend away, and you’re back on track. Not so for "exhaustion," which generally requires much more extensive and expensive remedies. Luckily, if you’re rich, there’s a solution for this, and it's called rehab. If you need to some time to recoup or sweat out a nasty addiction, it makes sense to do it somewhere with a splash pool, sauna, and swedish masseuse on call, right?

Now, to set one thing straight:  I’m not here to hate on anyone with a genuine addiction, or saying that if you have the means to detox comfortably you should suffer. But the reality is, there’s a level of enabling at these facilities that facilitates more than genuine recovery. You only have to look at some of the most high profile crime stories of this year to find a common thread:  Harvey Weinstein, the villain of #MeToo in rehab for sex addiction; Anna Delvey, con artist extraordinaire, arrested outside the ultra luxe Passages rehab center in Malibu.

Viewed from this angle, rehab seems to act as a shield for celebrities from the vitriol of the modern world, but also from the consequences of their actions. We live in times where online shaming can act as modern version of the stocks, serving up humiliation on a national or even global scale. This is a new avenue we need to learn to police whilst finding ways for people to be held accountable, and subject them to trial or discussion in a fair manner. However, I’m skeptical that the short-term solace found in a gated compound is the solution to any of this. After all, there’s a certain amount of ownership of our problems and mistakes that helps us grow; and if we escape these, how do any of us really make any progress?

Not to mention that rehab is big business. The Meadows in Arizona, where Weinstein was treated, runs $58,000 for a 45-day program, whilst Passages in Malibu begins at $80,000 for a month's treatment. When sickness is this lucrative, you have to wonder if it’s conducive to good business to genuinely help people heal and progress. And it seems things are booming, with demand for these facilities at an all-time high. Recent articles have accused Passages of licensing violations, using false addresses to get around permits and to allow them to house even more patients. Neighbors have spoken of discovering naked and disoriented patients wandering the area too, which while probably a rare occurrence, is still enough to cause them concern. If we have empathy for the patients too, then I would hope that paying that much money would mean they were supervised and cared for. Isn’t that the point of checking in somewhere instead of locking down the mansion gates and putting Postmates on speed dial? The cushioning of daily therapy, acupuncture, and luxurious facilities seem to offer little more respite than just a more comfortable experience. For women too, rehab is notoriously fraught, with many finding they are manipulated during a vulnerable time for sex and comfort by other patients; and in facilities which feel more like holiday resorts than hospitals, this kind of behaviour is rife.

Then there’s the Yelp reviews. Considering that most of us would turn our noses up at a brunch spot with less than four stars, why pay through the nose for a rehab center that clocks in at just three and a half stars? Yes, Passages, I’m talking about you. The Meadows fares even worse at a mere two and a half stars, making me question if the 1% would do better to call their travel agents, as even the most exclusive all-inclusive resorts rarely run more than $1000 a night.

Ultimately, fancy rehab seems little more than a vacation from yourself with a high price tag and a low rating, leaving me to wonder if the joke’s really on those who think that throwing money at their problems is the way to fix them. One of the most notable addicts in fiction- Alison Poole in Jay McInerney’s 'Story of my Life' - says of her existence, she’d “love to think that ninety percent of it was just dreaming,” which in a sad but possibly sweet way is the notion these people are paying to keep alive too.