The problem with most celebrity do-gooding in Washington is the glossy self-congratulatory earnestness, the sense they’re punching an “I care” ticket about some cause vaguely related to their VIP life in Hollywood.
Then there’s Trey Anastasio. The lead guitarist and vocalist for jam band Phish, along with actors Matthew Perry and Martin Sheen, turned a four-day conference on drug courts into an AA-style confessional about their messy personal addictions.
“My life was a complete catastrophe,” Anastasio told the crowd. “I was very, very sick from drugs and alcohol.” Sheen has been open about his alcoholism; Perry confessed he once took “enough prescription pain medicine to kill a small horse.”
Think of all the stars in and out of rehab (Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston , Lindsay Lohan, Robert Downey, Jr.), then how many are willing to talk about it in any non-promotional setting.
The conference at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center closed Wednesday with A-list testimonials about the importance of drug courts instead of jail, reports our colleague Aaron Leitko. Perry, new to the addiction advocacy game, looked a little nervous and said he came at the request of his sponsor, Earl Hightower. “He saved my life on so many occasions that I basically have to do everything that he says.” Sheen recited the same Rabindranath Tagore poem he pulled out during his last visit here.
But it was Anastasio, a graduate of drug court in New York state, who really put it out there. The musician, 46, was an addict in 2006 when he was arrested and charged with seven felonies. Given the choice of jail or drug court, he chose the later. “I am here today to tell you that that was the most important decision of my life,” he said.
For 14 months, he lived near the court and kept a rigorous schedule of treatment and community service. “I’m gonna tell you how great it is,” he said with grin. “But it’s important to say that when I was in it, it was very hard and I was not a huge fan.” Today’s Anastasio is clean and goes to AA meetings almost every day. “What started off as a nightmare — it was just crazy that I ended up in this program — over time I’ve been able to see what an incredible blessing it is.”