Janice Dickinson: Model of Sobriety

By McCarton Ackerman 02/22/12

The self-proclaimed world’s first supermodel, sober for the first time in years, is out to show other aspiring models how to follow in her footsteps.

Janice Dickinson: A Sober (Role) Model? Photo via

Janice Dickinson—the former model and made-for-reality-TV-reality-TV-star—has never been shy about her predilection for the pills. Now sober for 19 months, Dickinson credits her time on Celebrity Rehab in July 2010 with helping to kick her addictions. And she’s now planning to pay it forward with the show she’s currently shooting, Sober Model House. The premise of the show, which is in the process of being sold to a network, involves Dickinson moving models that need to get sober into a London residence and giving them the tools necessary to get and stay clean. In the course of our interview, she cried, asked to reschedule the interview before continuing to talk after a short pause, and, on this bright Monday morning, asked if it was Tuesday. In other words, in sobriety Janice is, thank God, still Janice.

The last time we saw you on TV was the update show on your season of Celebrity Rehab. Where are you now with your sobriety?

I’ve been sober for 19 months. Since the show, I’ve been averaging about one AA meeting per day and have a sponsor named Camille. I’ve been meeting with Shelly [Sprague, the resident tech on Celebrity Rehab] a couple of times each week, so we’ve been able to have heart-to-hearts and do some inventory work. I’ve also allowed God, as I see him, into my heart and have been grasping the meaning of the [program’s] prayers.

"I got sober on Celebrity Rehab because there was something in Dr. Drew's voice that led me to believe that I could be fixed." 

Was it Celebrity Rehab that convinced you get to sober, or was it being at a place in your life where you were ready?

Dr. Drew is a remarkable man in his own right. I got sober on Celebrity Rehab because there was something in his voice that led me to believe that I could be fixed. But it wasn’t really a TV show that got me sober. I was 56 years old and just done. I was spiritually bankrupt and really needed help. I was going back and forth to Europe a lot for work so to manage the time change and still sleep, I was taking, and eventually becoming addicted to, Ambien, Ativan and Xanax. I had stopped going to AA meetings for eight years and had been in and out of the program since 1982. I just had this inability to say no. There was a part of me that couldn’t shut off and it made me feel empty. I had lost conscious contact with the God of my understanding.

What was the moment during your treatment when things clicked for you?

What really got through to me was Dr. Drew explaining the gravity of taking these medications—especially while drinking alcohol, which I was at the time. I could be exposed to seizures if I stopped on my own, like I had been with the Ativan, and it scared me. I have two children and a lot of people who depend on me for work. It was a matter of arduously restarting my scheduling. It was a matter of going to meetings every single day, sometimes two or three a day, and getting plugged into a unit of recovery. It was about giving back and sharing with a sponsor, and that allowed me to see the beauty of what recovery really is. On top of that. Dr. Drew helped out with getting my hormones in check. It was my hormones, not my physiological state, that was out of whack. With my work schedule being so hectic—doing interviews, TV shows, personal appearances, red carpets—I would be irritable and scream and lash out to a lot of people, a lot of whom didn’t deserve it.

Because drug addiction and especially the come down from it is such a personal thing, why didn’t you get treatment privately if you’re financially successful enough to afford it?

Truthfully, I wanted to help other people. There’s a humanitarian side of me. I had watched the show before, but the idea of being on it personally didn’t seem like it would ever work. The producers convinced me that if I could do their show and share my experiences and what they meant to me, it would likely mean something to other people as well. If I could help just one person, that would be enough of a reason. I always knew that I would help people. Whether it’s with their hair and make-up or getting people to appointments, it’s just in my nature to be of service. I have two sponsees as well and they’ve maintained their sobriety for over a year, so I’m really proud of that.

Since you’ve worked so hard at your sobriety, do you find it frustrating to read things about yourself like the H&M incident and have people attribute that to you falling off the wagon?

No, it doesn’t bother me. Do you believe everything that you read? The Post will write trash about anyone. [Pause.] Okay, the H&M incident [during which Dickinson reportedly flashed shoppers in LA by trying on leggings in the middle of the store], I’ll admit it. I took my clothes off. I honestly didn’t think anyone was there, so I totally deserved that one. But when I act out on television or in front of the cameras, that’s something completely separate.

We recently interviewed Carré Otis and she talked about being given cocaine in her heyday as a means of weight maintenance. Do you think that drug use is still prevalent in the modeling industry, or was that just the fast decadence of the 80s?

I’m really glad to hear that Carré is clean now, but she didn’t use cocaine for weight maintenance. She used it because she was surrounded by it. Her husband, Mickey Rourke, was a cokehead. She didn’t have a drug problem before she met that guy, so I think she was just being polite with that question. But cocaine, heroin and alcohol are still prevalent in the modeling industry. They’re prevalent in any industry. I don’t care if you’re a doctor, a lawyer or an Indian chief. With the modeling world, though, you’re getting these impressionable girls and boys into a fast-paced lifestyle without any sort of supervision. It’s bound to happen. Even recently, I was in London and these models wanted me to go off and party with them. My publicist got me a car and whisked me off from there. It’s all about having people who care about you and have your best interest in mind.

What advice would you give to people who want to get sober or are trying to maintain their sobriety?

If anyone thinks they have a problem, there are local chapters in every city and every neighborhood. All they have to do is dial 411 to find out where. Go into a meeting and just sit and raise your hand. The smartest people in the world have a forum to go to. Attending daily AA meetings is spiritual medication for anybody with -isms.

McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer currently residing in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Time Out New YorkThe Huffington Post, abcnews.com and usopen.org, among others. He has also written about Carré Otis and Celebrity Rehab, among other topics, for The Fix. 

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.