Steven Adler’s Mom Details ‘Manipulated Rehab Encounter
Last month, Steven Adler finally broke his silence and explained why his role on the Guns N’ Roses reunion tour was limited to a handful of brief appearances. Speaking with the One On One With Mitch Lafon podcast, the drummer said it was his understanding that he’d play on all the Appetite For Destruction material during the entire tour, but that ended when he hurt his back during rehearsals. “Duff called me and said, ‘Dude, you’re not gonna play with us anymore,'” Adler said. “‘You’re not gonna do these shows.’ And I was, like, ‘You’re the worst person in the world.'”
When Adler got on the phone with the press a few weeks later, he was less willing to share anything about Guns N’ Roses. “I had the best experience last year playing with them last year,” he says. “I wish Izzy [Stradlin] was there, but it was so great since I finally got to have some closure. It was wonderful. I don’t have nothing else to say about it. I’m really sorry. That’s all I can tell you. There’s nothing to say. I literally, literally honest to god literally, I can’t even tell you why I can’t tell you any more. Literally, okay? I really can’t. I just can’t.”
Adler was speaking on Sweet Child of Mine: How I Lost My Son to Guns N’ Roses, his mother’s new book chronicling Adler’s tumultuous childhood, his early days in the band and and the endless agony of his decades-long drug addiction. “I’m afraid to read it,” says Adler. “I’ve only read three books in my life, but one day I will read it just to see what I put her through.”
Adler’s mother Deanna wrote the book with Lawrence J. Spagnola, who also helped the drummer with his book My Appetite for Destruction: Sex & Drugs & Guns N’ Roses. “The reason that I wrote the book was because I want other mothers out there to know that they’re not alone,” she says. “I always thought I was alone that nobody else had a son that was a drug addict.”
In this exclusive excerpt, Deanna Adler talks about her appearance on VH1’s Celebrity Rehab.
On June 16, 2008, I received a phone call from the producers of Celebrity Rehab. Unbelievably, they wanted me to come in and visit Steven, who, as I stated, had become the most powerfully charismatic presence on the show. In fact, he was such an audience magnet that VH1 decided to cash in on his immense popularity by developing a new spin-off show.
The result was that VH1 launched Sober House. The show would go on to be another ratings hit. But it was obvious that VH1 judged this show’s success not by the number of drug addicts it rehabilitated, but by the number of eyeballs it attracted. What upset me most was the obvious fatal flaw in both shows: if an addict needed the glare of a national television audience to rehabilitate, then they were doomed from the start.
No one could get permanently clean in a fishbowl. Did no one else understand this? That’s why the show has never tracked the number of cast members who have gotten sober and stayed sober. It should have be called Hollywood Rehab because like most reality shows, it was a manipulated farce.
The producers asked me to appear during the show’s “Family Weekend” episode. I was floored and more than a little skeptical. Steven and I hadn’t spoken in over four months. What made them think he would break his silence? I was sure Dr. Drew knew all about our present status and yet they insisted my appearance would be therapeutic.
I arrived at the recovery center where they clipped a tiny wireless microphone to my blouse powered by a battery pack attached behind me. They led me into a large well-lit open room. At first, I was very happy to be there, but a moment later I had a premonition, one of foreboding as I looked up to see Dr. Drew and another doctor sitting with Steven. The way they were seated and their body language immediately signaled that this was going to be more of an interrogation than a reunion.
Steven’s expression confirmed my fears and I knew this was a set-up. His face was serene enough, but his eyes were filled with rage. I swallowed hard and almost began to cry, but was just able to keep my emotions in check. I heard Dr. Drew tell Steven to give me a hug. We embraced, but it was an awkward, half-hearted gesture on both our parts. Then we took a step back, and since Steven didn’t utter a word I felt obliged to do so.
Big mistake. I told Steven he looked good. It was true, his complexion was rosy and his eyes were clear, but when he looked at me his eyes narrowed. He immediately became confrontational. He accused me of “always saying I look good, even when I’m high.” I felt the blood pound up through my neck, but held my ground. I said that was not true, because it wasn’t.
Then we sat down and all hell broke loose. I could swear I saw the other doctor offer Steven a very subtle approving nod. He may as well have smacked his lips. It was feeding time at the zoo. Instead of trying to make amends, Steven and the other doctor tore into me with vicious accusations. They revisited the day [Steven’s stepfather] Mel banished Steven from our home, condemning me for such a heartless act that doomed Steven, ruining his self-worth and branding him with abandonment issues that would cripple him for life.
I asked them about Steven’s brother Jamie and his right to a nurturing environment. I pointed out that Jamie was a very precocious, impressionable child and that as a loving and caring mother I had to protect him from Steven’s bad influences. It wasn’t just the cursing and screaming; it was the drug paraphernalia, the pornography and the drinking. This destructive behavior would only prove to be more and more damaging to Jamie. Faced with this situation, I asked the doctors what else could I have done as a responsible parent? It was Steven who had left his parents completely exasperated with no other choice. This caused Steven literally to throw his arms up and walk out. He did this twice during our session, and both times Dr. Drew had to go out and get him to come back into the room. Why so much drama? What was the point?
I admired Dr. Drew that day. I thought he was balanced in his responses and even-handed in dealing with both of us. But it was easy to appear fair in the wake of the other two pit bulls. The other doctor was only there to side with Steven and say things to instigate ill feelings between the two of us, fanning the flames by creating animosity. I guess he knew Steven’s theatrics would only jack up the ratings for the show. What a jerk.
Afterward, I was proud that I had fought back and hadn’t buckled under a lot of groundless accusations. I felt I had calmly but compellingly proved my point on the importance of providing a secure and nurturing home for Jamie. Backstage, some of the crew spoke kindly to me. They told me they now understood how impossible my situation had been with Mel, Jamie and Steven. After a few minutes, they took me back to the hotel saying they would call me in the morning to let me know what time I should come back for the official family gathering.
But a few hours later, after I had returned to my room, they called to say that Steven didn’t want me at the family outing. I told the producer I understood, that there were no hard feelings, and to tell Steven that I loved him. Then I requested that I be flown back to Las Vegas that night.
Although it hurt to be attacked and humiliated on national television, I tried to put the entire experience behind me. But I can still feel, to this very day, the way my ears burned and my heart pounded as Steven and the doctor ganged up on me. I thought about the producer who had told me Steven wanted to reconcile and just shook my head.
“When the episode finally aired, I thought I could weather it but soon became a basket case.”
It was so unfair to ambush me and had I even a moment beforehand to prepare or think how best to cope with the situation, I would not have minded the attack nearly as much. The fact that some of the crew backstage quietly sided with me meant a lot. And once I was back home, a few friends called to tell me that although it was obviously a hatchet job, I had handled myself well.
Of course, it aired as a pitifully one-sided segment. The producers of Celebrity Rehab edited it all down to air only the most confrontational, sensationalistic pro-Steven crap for the show. All the truthful, legitimate points I had made about Steven’s manipulative, abusive behavior were taken out. Steven was made to look like the victim. I was forced to endure all the devastating moments, including Steven’s obscenity-laced rants over the damage I had inflicted upon him at a tender age. It made me look selfish, wicked, heartless and completely wrong. No judge, no jury, and no mercy. Guilty.
If this was what audiences have been watching, I hope they’re aware that it’s all twisted to maximize the drama at the cost of the truth. Even the title is misleading. They’re not celebrities; they’re chemically-dependent wannabes desperately clinging to their fading 15 minutes of years past; whatever the producers can dredge up from the Hollywood has-been bin.
When the episode finally aired, I thought I could weather it but soon became a basket case. They ran a mean-spirited, provocative promo for the “Family Weekend” episode. It contained the most humiliating scene, where Steven threw up his hands in disgust and walked out on me the second time. The spot was shown incessantly on every network and major cable channel for weeks ahead of the broadcast date. The calls kept flooding in, and some of them were shattering. One woman remarked, I had to be the most hated mother in America.
Jamie was very upset with the way the show manipulated the cast and the guests, but he was able to put it in perspective. It’s all about getting people to tune in, and the show wouldn’t have been picked up for another season if it wasn’t drawing decent numbers. It’s pathetic, but nobody wants to see Steven and his mom hugging and making up. They needed that promo of Steven storming out of the room because they know audiences love to watch people in anger and pain. Jamie smiled and won my heart although it was already his. He proclaimed, “You’re a great mom and the only people that need to know that are me and [Steven’s brother] Kenny.” Jamie’s loving declaration helped to calm me down.
Regardless of how I came off, I still hoped that Doctor Drew would help Steven. Steven was still smart enough to do anything he wanted with his life, and if they could get him to set his mind to cleaning up, he would. I knew that would be my only chance to fix the ill will between us. It had to begin with a clean and sober son. Until then I couldn’t blame myself for Steven’s situation, couldn’t do anything to change it, and couldn’t be bitter because the show was using his damaged state to boost their ratings.