Even in death, it seems Mindy McCready can't escape addiction. In stories about the country star's apparent suicide Sunday, her struggles with drugs and mental illness have been at the forefront. McCready took a step toward battling these demons in 2009, when she joined the cast of VH1's "Celebrity Rehab 3," working with HLN's Dr. Drew Pinsky. Bob Forrest, a former junkie himself, is a Hollywood drug counselor who helped Pinsky treat McCready on the show. Forrest spoke to HLNtv.com Tuesday about his thoughts on McCready's passing.
HLN: What do you remember most about Mindy McCready?
Bob Forrest: So many things. Mostly, that she had this kid that she loved, but she wasn’t raising. And as you see, her last three years have been this reckless relationship between her and her parents, and never quite getting the help that she needed. It’s just a mess. And just like in an ugly divorce, where nobody’s really caring about the children, that’s the sense that you get. And that’s the ultimate tragedy of this: What about those children?
HLN: What was it like to work with her as her counselor on "Celebrity Rehab"?
BF: It was a constant battle, kind of. Most addicts in treatment don’t want to hear the truth of it -- that it’s going to be hard work -- and it’s going to take years to get well. And you’ve gotta sign up for it. There’s this idea that there’s this quick fix and you just go to rehab for a month or two and go to AA and then you’re going to be fine and everything’s going to be OK.
She wanted to get back to Florida [after the show] and prove to her mom that she’s doing good and be in this new relationship. And all the while I was saying, "No, no, no, no, no. Your kid’s safe, for now, just get well yourself, just focus on yourself."
You know on an airplane, they tell you exactly how this works. You need to put the mask on yourself so you can breathe, before you start helping even your own child. And that’s the analogy she didn’t want to believe.
HLN: When was the last time you talked to her? How was she then?
BF: I was trying to get in touch with her last year when she took her son, but she didn’t answer and she didn’t respond to texts. But probably two or two and a half years ago I heard from her, and she texted me that she was doing good.
HLN: What was this like for you, as a counselor, to get this kind of news?
BF: It was shocking, really. Really shocking. I thought, oh my God, man, what are those kids going to do?
The only questions I have about this thing is, if her boyfriend just killed himself, and she just got her kid taken away from her permanently, where were the people who care about her? If she were my close acquaintance or friend, I’d think, "Oh my God, we’ve got to go hang out with her." But years and years of living in chaos does tend to alienate people. I’m not trying to find fault.
HLN: There have been a lot of headlines pointing out that Mindy is the fifth former “Celebrity Rehab” contestant to die after appearing on the show. What do you think about the implications being made with those?
BF: I watched the news, and they’re like “Did being on TV have something to do with somebody blowing their head off?” Did f---ing TV have anything to do with it? Are people so ignorant?
Addicts die. That’s what they do -- if they don’t get well. And I’m sorry, everybody needs to put (their) big-boy pants on. This is a disease that kills people -- 30,000 a year in the United States. The tragedies of Mindy or Michael Jackson or Heath Ledger or all the different musicians and artists who are in the public eye -- when they die, [the media] go for these silly storylines. They died of drug addiction and mental illness.
Blame Dr. Drew? It’s the silliest thing. Is what we do [on "Celebrity Rehab"] controversial? Yeah. I mean that’s part of the whole education of this. This is a disease that’s kept in the shadows. No one knows what goes on in a rehab center. Nobody knows that these people are human beings; that they’re sons and daughters, mothers and fathers. Nobody knows that. And we try to shed a light on them.
If you understand anything about "Celebrity Rehab," the rehab that we show is just stabilization. Then there’s a year of ongoing, tenacious vigilance that it takes to get yourself healthy and going in the right direction in life. That’s why the end of the show every time is, “Are you going to continue on, or are you going to go back where you came from?” And basically that’s a showdown -- do you want to get well, or do you want to stay sick? And that happens in every rehab center all over America every day.