Tonight, after 30 long and mostly dry days, VH1′s Celebrity Rehab Presents: Sober House reaches its finale. But the gripping reality show didn’t include the genre’s most famous addict, Jeff Conaway, a two-time Celebrity Rehab dropout (he battled a longtime addiction to prescription painkillers) and undoubtedly one of Dr. Drew Pinsky‘s most challenging patients.
Conaway opted to try sobriety on his own. How’s he doing? Well, since leaving treatment and undergoing one final — and successful — back surgery, he says he’s found new purpose in life. It includes a band he formed with his girlfriend, Vikki Lizzi, a future book, and maybe another reality show. We caught up with him and his girlfriend shortly before Celebrity Rehab was picked up for a third season.
First off, how are you doing? Are you sober?
JC: I’ve been having a nightcap, but that’s it. I’m clean. We’re not doing any drugs at all, I don’t drink throughout the day or anything like that, but I do have trouble sleeping and it helps.
VL: After his fifth surgery, which was a success, we were so elated that he could walk and stand straight again that we decided it was a miracle from God and that we had to stay on a clean path from then on.
How long has it been?
JC: The show ended in June and my surgery was in November of last year. As soon as the operation was a success, our lives started all over again. It’s like we’ve been given a second chance. I’ve gotten many chances before and I don’t want to test Him anymore. So I’m just gonna say, “Thank you God,” and do what I have to do to keep winning points.
Do you think shows like Celebrity Rehab and Intervention serve as deterrents?
JC: I think so, but there’s that old saying, that it can’t happen here, it can’t happen to me. And unfortunately, it does happen to you. Before you know it, you’re hooked, and locked down, and it’s not a pretty ride. In the beginning it seems all exciting and marvelous and wondrous, but after a while, it’s none of those things. It’s, “I can’t cope without it, I can’t sleep without it, I can’t eat without it…” It’s a horrible place to be. Life may not be the greatest thing in the world, but it’s better than anything else we have. Might as well make your peace with it.
Why do you think people love these shows?
JC: Why do people slow down on the freeway when there’s a car crash? People are morbid. They’re thrill junkies, and this is a way to get in on a life they know nothing about. Plus they’re enamored with other peoples’ problems. Because they have enough of their own, it’s nice to think about somebody else’s for a while. That’s what television is all about, really.
Jeff, you’ve done reality TV stints before, namely Celebrity Fit Club, but do you feel like Celebrity Rehab raised your profile more?
JC: People have been coming up to me for decades now, so I don’t know if it’s heightened it. I love it when people recognize me and say hello. I guess it means I’m getting my job done — people are watching and liking what they’re seeing. I don’t get these actors that won’t sign autographs, or go around punching paparazzi. It’s like, what would these people be without them?
VL: Jeff gets so much mail on our myspace page, it’s ridiculous. People ask him how they can get off the pain meds and there’s so many out there that have the same condition that Jeff has — broken back, trouble sleeping, pain from injury, all asking for help. It’s heartbreaking to read some of them.
Would either of you guys consider doing Sober House?
VL: No. I’ve seen it, but we’ve been pretty successful of staying clean since his last operation. We have a life coach, Johnny Wimbrey, who’s been a positive influence on us both. Jeff’s been playing his guitar again, he got me playing piano after not having touched it for four years, and we’re writing music together. I’m so happy that our lives have changed now. We have every intention of keeping each other clean.
You know what they say, great music is born out of great pain.
VL: That’s true in our case. We worked on this album for four years, but when Jeff’s injury occurred, all of a sudden, we couldn’t do anything and everything kind of went downhill. So I have a million things in my head that I want to write about from the past couple years.
The album is out?
VL: Yes, it’s called “Saints and Sinners” by Vikki and Kenickie and you can get an autographed copy on my website. You can hear some of the music on our Myspace page, too. Jeff is as amazing a singer as he is an actor.
JC: Our reality show! It’s going to be called, Krazee! We can’t say much about it, because ideas get stolen and next thing you know, somebody’s doing your deal, but we’re in negotiations with a couple of networks and I would say that, in a few months, you’ll be laughing at the insanity that goes on around here. I’m also working on my autobiography, which my agent in negotiating right now. The book is called Psychedelic Misfit, and there’s a story behind that title, but rather than telling it now, I’ll let you all read it instead.