Interview: Sober House’s Jennifer Gimenez

Never a boring moment at Sober House. The first three episodes on Dr. Drew Pinsky‘s Celebrity Rehab spinoff Sober House (airing on VH-1 Thursdays), actress/model (and recovering cocaine addict) Jennifer Gimenez, as house manager, weathered a tropical storm called Steven Adler. (Meanwhile, two-years-sober Gimenez struggled to establish authority in the group including Mary Carey and Rodney King.) Former Guns n’ Roses drummer Steven Adler, after smoking heroin in a bathroom, was arrested, taken to jail, and released by a bail bondsman.

Vanilla Sky star Gimenez, who is good real-life pals with Cameron Diaz, talks with Fancast about Adler’s heroin arrest, how he’s doing, and his chances for his recovery. Adler pled guilty in November to a drug possession charge, but was collared again in late January for failing to complete community service. What is his future? Gimenez also talks Andy Dick, the Michael Phelps bong photo, her own recovery, and getting back into a size 6.

Q: How did that first week of Sober House go? Did you get any sleep?

JG: As the [cast] were walking in, I was kind of overwhelmed with the whole situation. I’ve never done a reality show. I’ve done movies, TV and modeled, but never a 24/7 camera kind of thing. I have to be the real me, introducing everyone around. We never expected Steven Adler to show up high with needles and be aggressive like that. I’d only heard of a sweet, loving guy. What I encountered was a monster. I saw an aggressive guy at first, and it got worst. Not realizing that everyone on the show except Rodney had relapsed, I’m looking at the beast of the disease. The disease is stronger than they are at the moment. I’m looking at six humans with a disease stronger than them. By the second day, it was overwhelming, the parties and friends, the Tinys and David [Weintraubs].

And seeing Steven, [Dr.] Bob Forrest had come in and said stay away from him, we think he’s high. I already knew he was high from that morning. The rest of the residents were saying he was attacking me in the group. He said, “We’ll figure out what’s going on here at the party.” Then, the lights go off. Steven got worse. There were many hours of what was going on.

We gave his family an opportunity to come get him. They didn’t want to come. We kept asking him to go into treatment. He started getting violent with me. He started throwing furniture. He didn’t hit me, but he was aggressive, violent and abusive. Verbal abuse is one thing. It’s not ok. But, you can understand because he’s in a disease.

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Q: Steven Adler gave you bruises?
JG: I think you’ll see it as the show goes on. I had welts all over my legs, in the back. My arms, my stomach they didn’t show, my legs were coming up. That was from throwing furniture at me. I don’t want to be a victim about this whole thing, but I don’t want to say it was nothing. Because it is. Physical abuse is not acceptable in any matter, in anyone’s life.

Q: What was going through your mind as Steven was coming at you?
JG: It was midnight, and we were going into the second day. I was like, ‘This is too much.’ What they don’t show is that Dr. Drew was there at midnight. He came after Loveline. With the advice of Dr. Drew, the producers, mentors, people in recovery, [I said,] ‘What do you do’? Everyone said, ‘Call the police.’ I said, ‘We don’t want to do that.’ We were going to take him to Las Encinas. He kept saying no, and that he was going to leave. At the advice of Dr. Drew, we called his family, and they didn’t want him. We wanted the cops to escort him to Las Encinas. He was pretty gone. It could have been an overdose. When the police came, we had no idea he had drugs on him. We thought we got the drugs. We didn’t know if he was swallowing some. They found them in his socks, hidden away. There was a lot of cocaine and heroin, that’s why he was arrested.

Q: Steven didn’t have cocaine on the show – the cops found cocaine?
JG: I believe so. I know that’s why they were saying it was. There were a lot of drugs you could say. There were baggies and balloons, so that’s normally cocaine to my knowledge. There were a lot, five to 10 bags of drugs. He kept hiding things. There are six other people in the house so we have to make sure they’re ok. [Dr.] Will and I are trying to maintain order. They can hide them in very weird places.

Q: What is the key to Steven’s recovery?
JG: I’m a firm believer that there’s hope. But if you have enablers around you, yes man friends and relatives. In the 12-step program, they call it lower companions. If you have those people hanging around you, you’re not going to make it. You have got to hit rock bottom. But, some of us have to die for the rest of us to live. I’m not saying he is that. I believe there is hope for Steven. Only in that moment, I knew the monster Steven. I knew there was no other choice but to call the cops and have him escorted to Las Encinas. I do believe there is hope for him. There is hope for any of us who are suffering from alcohol and drug addiction. Not all of us make it though. You have got to really, really surrender. It’s easy to say and look up in a dictionary. But, that means stop doing your way and the way that has worked for everyone else.

Q: Was Steven’s wife an enabler? Do you hear from her?
JG: I’ve heard a lot from his wife. She’s called me. I think she’s just scared. I did Loveline with Steven three weeks ago and saw him and some of his friends. Steven comes back on the show this week. I start hearing talks that Steven wants to come back and I’m like, ‘You’re kidding right?’ I thought it was a joke. For me, I’m like I’ve been abused, and I had to get clear with that. I’ve got to process the group and get them going to 12-step meetings. There was a lot we were. I heard he was coming back and was like, ‘Hell no.’ It’s either him or I. I don’t know if they’re going to show that, but I was really scared. They’re like, ‘Now he wants to meet with you and talk.’ I was like, ‘No, but then if he comes back, he needs to see what he’s done.’ They show him a tape. I was like, ‘I’ll meet him, but there has to be rules and regulations. If he comes close to me, I’m calling the cops. If he says one vulgar word, I’m gone. You need to be in the room Dr. Drew. Either I take this role, not like it’s an acting job, and own this, or I leave and let go completely and call it a day.’ At that point, I was like, ‘Maybe I’m not qualified, I was doubting myself. It was scary. I think that’s what happened with Steven. It was the first time in his life he had been sober for 30 days. It’s scary to be in your own skin and you’re uncomfortable in it. He just falls on my legs and says he’s sorry. There is this whole crying moment. I saw the other side of it and thought of what my mother and poor brother had to deal with. I see a reflection of me, that remorse and guilt. I saw the sweet Steven and was willing to forgive him. I realized he’s human and really sick.

Q: What is the status of Steven’s case?
JG: He told me got three years probation. Is there hope for him? Yeah. But does he want it that way, not his way? I don’t know.

Q: Did you get along with Andy Dick?
JG: As soon as Steven apologized to me, I say, ‘Let’s get you into your room.’ You hear everyone crying and screaming outside. The producers and Drew come up to me and they’re like, “Andy Dick is coming.” I was like, “No, that’s it, I’m gone.” I was mortified and believed the media hype on Andy Dick. He’s at the door, and my heart is pounding like he’s going to ringleader. I see this man shaking, vulnerable, willing to be different and get it. He’s like, “I’m so freaked out right now, help me,” and hugs me. At that moment, I was like, ‘This is why I’m doing this. He’s one of the ones I can help.’ To this day, he’s one of the loves of my life. He was my light and angel on that show. Those 21 days, he made it so worth it for me. I love my Andy Dick. He has inspired me on so many levels. Another reflection of me. Andy is the best thing that could have happened to that show. … I can say that I know Andy has stayed sober since the show. There’s a will there. There’s hope. I know I have too. I know Mary [Carey] is working on it. I know Rodney [King] has been trying.

Q: What kind of extreme stuff did they not show?
JG: Were there needles of someone injecting themselves or sex going on? No. Steven Adler, that’s probably the darkest. That was the most inappropriate. I think that’s the darkest stuff.

Q: What do you think of the Michael Phelps bong photo? Do you think he should be publicly lambasted?
JG: Well, he’s human. The people we look to as role models, they’re human. Some of us have the gene and some of us don’t. I don’t know him. It must be hard though to hold that image up. He is America’s sweetheart, yet I’m sure if he wants to explore in his life or may have the disease. If it becomes a problem as more should be revealed, there is hope for that one too. Some of us make bad mistakes.

Q: Do you work with celebrities as a sponsor?
JG: I have, I guide them through the steps of recovery. I work with people not in the public eye, but amazing women. I speak in hospitals, institutions, and 12-step meetings. I believe in order to keep what I have, I have to give it away. That’s been the philosophy of the 12-step program.

Q: Who got the most out of the treatment of Sober House?
JG: I think the seed was planted for all of them. They learn at their own time. There isn’t like a trophy at the end. I know working with the people I do, it’s like, ‘I have to get my job back, I need to go do that movie.’ There is no parade at the end of the street. Sometimes I wish there was, but there’s not. Whether they take that beautiful treasure and use it, it’s up to them. I see hope in all of our experiences. Andy is the only one I know that did stay sober for the rest of the time. Maybe Nikki [McKibbin] I don’t know. Everyone has a moment.

Q: Your personal story – what was your low point and made you want to turn your life around?
JG: I have been struggling with alcohol and dug addiction and recovery for the last 10 years of my life. I have stints of sobriety here and there. When I was young, I became an international model overnight. It was always about my outsides. But I wanted to scream, Help me, I’m dying. I don’t feel comfortable I my own skin. The foundation wasn’t solid. Therefore, I relapsed again for about 11 months. My mom and friend were like, ‘You need to go to treatment.’ I said ‘Up yours,’ but did it for them. I went for about 9 ½ months into treatment. I was like, ‘I’ve got to get back out there.’ They were like, ‘You’re going to die if you go back out there.’ Somebody was like, “You’re going to get your Hollywood stuff together and die, or live and move out of L.A.” I was willing not to do it my way anymore. That was my lowest, when I relapsed. When I went into treatment, I was a mess. I wasn’t publicly a mess, but on the inside, my spirit was barely breathing. I relapsed into July of 05 and then for another six weeks. I realized I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t get high anymore and be normal. I was locked in hell and tired. I could not die. I was like, ‘There’s got to be a reason, I need help.’ I moved out of L.A. and did everything they told me to. They said, ‘Don’t work for a year.’ I put down the drugs and picked up the fork. After the show, it took me three or four weeks to decompress. I was so traumatized from the show, and not having cameras over you. It was September and I was like, ‘I don’t know who I am, what I am going to do.’ He’s like, ‘Babe, get back into acting.’ He directs me in a one-woman show on the show. I had never done that, and that was pretty brilliant. I had to dig deep and figure out why I wanted to do this. I got very clear with my motives and intentions. After the show, I was like I’m worthy of being alive. I have a story now. I have more depth and weight to me. Then, I got the treadmill. I started walking two miles a day then jogging a little bit, running. It kicked into 12 miles a day after a month. I started shrinking in size. Then, I ended up breaking my ankle for two months. I’ve been working out again for a month and a half and am back to a size 6. I’m back to my normal size and it feels great to be complete again for the first time.

Q: What were your drugs of choice?
JG: I started with alcohol. I took my first drink when I was 12. My alcoholism kicked in around 16. I tried cocaine when I was 18. A downward spiral for years, I was trying to stay sober, I’ve been battling it for 10, 12 years. Every time I relapsed was when I was drinking. I thought I could handle it. It’s cross-addiction, which leads me back to cocaine.

Q: What’s your exercise regimen?
JG: After I broke my ankle, I got a trainer, this guy Eric Pascale, he is amazing. He’s kind of a life coach. I do boxing, kickboxing, yoga. In the middle of boxing, he’ll give me a crazy yoga pose. Getting skinny, I would do it the wrong way, not eat for a couple days to drop a few pounds, or do a cleanse. Those things don’t work. I would quickly gain the weight back or just feel horrible. I eat lots of protein, I’m a meat eater. I balance that. I can tell the palm of my hand, 2 oz, 4 oz. I train with my trainer. I was on the treadmill this morning. As soon as we get done with this phone call, I’m going to get back on and do another two miles. I definitely am more conscious and aware of that. I don’t want to go back to that. It felt uncomfortable once I realized what had happened with the weight. To watch the show is really hard and be called a fat bitch and spic, and everything he called me over and over again, it’s hard to watch.

Q: How has your good friend Cameron Diaz supported your recovery?
JG: Cameron has always been a big supporter of mine to be happy and well in my life. We’ve known each other for a very long time. I’m sure it hurt her to watch me go down the times in my life back into my disease. I can only imagine that she’d want the best for me. She’s a great woman. I fancy her to death. She’s a remarkable human being.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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