You're a high-profile young celebrity who has just completed your second stint in rehab in six months. You're psyched to get out and get on with your sober life. So what's the first thing you do when you get sprung?
Go to a nightclub and party alongside a bunch of wasted weekend revelers in Las Vegas, right?
Not a good look, according to addiction specialist Dr. Drew Pinsky, co-host of the syndicated show "Loveline."
"My expectation was that we were going to see more recovery because she extended her stay appropriately and seemed to be following the advice of professionals," said Pinsky of Lindsay Lohan's Saturday trip to a Sin City nightclub (see "Lindsay Lohan Leaves Rehab After 45 Days, Celebrates In Vegas"). "The problem is that early in treatment, you don't have this active craving, and you think you can walk into an environment and be around the old triggers and not have it result in using, which is a common mistake."
The biggest potential pitfall for Lohan, Pinsky said, is not explicitly following the advice of her treatment team, which, he strongly suspected, did not include going to a club so soon after ending her 45-day stint.
Like Britney Spears, who has been hitting the clubs hard since her release from rehab several months ago (see "Britney Back In Rehab Yet Again"), Lohan wasted little time in getting back into the mix. But her spokesperson, Leslie Sloane Zelnick, said her client's presence at the Pure nightclub less than 24 hours after checking out of the Promises rehab facility was just an innocent night out with friends. "She went to surprise her assistant, Jenny, for her birthday — she had her sober companion with her, and she was with sober friends," Zelnick said.
Debra Jay, author of "No More Letting Go: The Spirituality of Taking Action Against Alcoholism and Drug Addiction" and a frequent guest on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," said going out clubbing so soon is "never recommended." What it shows, Jay said, is that whether you're a celebrity or not, if you are going from rehab to a bar and hanging around people who are drinking or doing drugs, you're underestimating what the problem is.
"They're probably thinking, 'Oh, I have this beat,' but in recovery, they don't fix you — they teach you what it will take to stay sober," Jay said. "You look at any individual relapse, and a professional can tell you what led up to that. Relapse is not the first drink, it's what led up to it. No matter who you are, any treatment center will tell you that you cannot lead the same lifestyle you led before."
As an example of the dangers facing Lohan, Jay pointed to a famous Alcoholics Anonymous quote about how if you hang around a barbershop long enough, you'll eventually get a haircut. But because celebrities often want to be seen or worry about fading from the public's memory, some find themselves back in their old haunts, which can be a risky prospect.
The fact that Lohan has voluntarily agreed to wear an alcohol-monitoring bracelet on her ankle ("It's not court-ordered, it's a pain in the ass, it's heavy and it's not fashionable — and we all know Lindsay is extremely fashionable," Zelnick said) enforces the point that the 21-year-old actress is committed to staying clean, according to her rep. "She doesn't have to drink when she goes to clubs — she can hang out with friends, and she loves to dance," Zelnick said. "Lindsay's only ever been honest about making mistakes. And we're all hoping for the best and that everyone backs off her a bit."
Pinsky said Lohan's actions prior to her release do indicate that she's serious about sobriety, which is a good sign. He added that going to a club with friends for a sober night of dancing is not a horrible thing, but he cautioned that she needs to be very careful.
"It's hard for a young person to give up the partying," he said. "If I were advising her, I'd say, 'You are now in relapse, and the clock is ticking on when you put something into your mouth or body. Please surrender and do what people tell you to do, not what you want to do.' "