As much as Celebrity Rehab gets headlines for the crazy behavior of its participants (cough cough Jeff Conaway), there are quite a few genuine, heartbreaking cases of people trying to work through addiction on each season. One of the stories that I found particularly touching was that of Mike Starr. The former bassist for Alice in Chains, Starr had done drugs alongside friend and bandmate Layne Staley and admitted on the show that he may have been the last person to have seen Staley alive (Staley died of a heroin overdose in 2002). In one of the few genuinely touching moments of that season of Celebrity Rehab, Staley’s mother Nancy came on the show and told Mike that she forgave him and urged him to turn his life around. When Starr appeared on the alumni day for the following season of Celebrity Rehab, he looked so radically different that I didn’t recognize him – he seemed so much healthier.
Sadly, Starr’s sobriety didn’t last. He was arrested last month for drug possession and was found dead yesterday in a house in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was 44. I don’t blame Celebrity Rehab for Starr’s death – he was one of the few people on the show who seemed committed to the process of recovery, but ultimately he couldn’t let go. When Celebrity Rehab is able to take a break from letting famous drug addicts enable themselves on TV and get paid for it, we see glimpses of what real addiction is like, and of how much it hurts not just the addicts but the people who love them. Starr’s story was tragic, and we can only hope that it helps someone else break their addiction or get help.