The Recovery Award Show

By Anna David 04/29/11

Sometimes it seems that there are more award shows in Hollywood than there are people worth celebrating. Thankfully one of those is The Prism Awards.

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The In The Rooms co-founders with Steven Tyler

If there’s any place that the recovery and entertainment worlds intersect, it is not, as I hope you already know, at Sober Valley Lodge. Instead it’s at the Prism Awards, an event put on by the good people at the Entertainment Industries Council (EIC) in collaboration with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and FX, that’s been going on for the past decade and a half and which honors, in their words, “outstanding accomplishments in the accurate depiction of substance abuse and mental health disorders” in film, television, music and other entertainment.

Where else can you see Dr. Drew Pinsky (along with Jennifer Gimenez and Dr. John Sharp, who will both be featured on the upcoming season of Celebrity Rehab) and Intervention’s Jeff VanVonderen and Candy Finnegan mingling with the likes of Kevin Sorbo, Nicolette Sheridan, Joey Lawrence and Peter Krause? And what other award show will you ever be at where the water flows like, well, water and not wine?

At the Beverly Hills Hotel-held event on Thursday, April 28th for the 15th Annual Prism Awards--that's where. On the warm spring night, well-known and celebrated films like Black Swan and The Fighter vied for awards along with lesser-publicized titles (like the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie The Lois Wilson Story: When Love Is Not Enough, starring Winona Ryder as the long-suffering wife of A.A.’s co-founder) as well as specific episodes of Dr. Phil, Intervention, Sober House, and others. (There was even a special LUNGevity award for The Bold and the Beautiful, which had a story line this year where a character who’d never smoked was diagnosed with lung cancer.)

I was lucky enough to be at the table for In The Rooms, the first social networking site for sober addicts, along with Newport Academy CEO Jamison Monroe and Writers in Treatment founder Leonard Buschell. Not only did ITR co-founders Ron Tannebaum and Kenny Pomerance—who have decades of sobriety apiece and launched In The Rooms a few years ago—receive the President’s Award (which “recognizes an entertainment industry project that not only raises awareness but also leaves behind a legacy”) but they were also intrinsically involved with the night’s biggest celebrity, Steven Tyler, taking the stage. Tyler, you see, was there in place of Richie Supa, a 22-year sober former member of Aerosmith who was the recipient of the DJ AM Advocacy Award in honor of Adam Goldstein (who died in October, 2009 from a cocaine and prescription pill overdose after having shot his MTV recovery show Gone Too Far, which aired after his death). Supa not only wrote “Amazing” with Tyler but also composed the In The Rooms theme song—called, appropriately enough, “In the Rooms”—and, while he was sick in Florida, Tyler rhapsodized about his longtime collaborator and “guiding light” in both sobriety and music. “Drug addiction is a very private thing,” Tyler said from the stage before talking about how he and Suba first experienced “the most degradation known to man” before cleaning up (Tyler was sober 12 years before relapsing a year-and-a-half ago by “snorting fucking Lunesta”).

The other hit of the night wasn’t musical but political. “We are not powerless against this problem,” asserted White House Director of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske, who presented an award alongside Celebrity Rehab alum Eric Roberts. “We can tell compelling stories.” These stories, said Kerlikowske, “help make the drug problem smaller and make America healthier and safer.”

Other memorable moments included Black Swan screenwriter Mark Heyman saluting his social worker mother, KaDee Strickland from Private Practice tearfully recounting the impact her character’s rape storyline had on sexual abuse hotlines, The Closer’s Tony Dennison talking about his attempt to speak from the heart, Peter Krause praising the Prism Awards for their honoring “purposefulness in storytelling,” and radio legend Shadow Stevens saying anything. We may not be at the point where celebrating recovery is the norm but the Entertainment Industry Council is doing everything they can to change that. And why shouldn’t they? After all, as Tyler said from the stage, what we do when we’re out there is just “so not right.”

Anna David is the Executive Editor of The Fix as well as a magazine and book writer (Party Girl, Bought, Reality Matters) who discusses addiction on TV and at colleges around the country. She also interviewed Tom Sizemore and Todd Bridges for the Fix.
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