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Inside Vh1's Controversial Show Celebrity Rehab

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Shocking revelations. Emotional outbursts. Tears. They’re the staples of reality television, and Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew has it all. But when former Taxi and Grease star Jeff Conaway, drunk and stoned beyond recognition, moved from his car to a wheelchair to be rolled into the Pasadena Recovery Center in the opening minutes of Rehab’s first episode, it was clear this was no Surreal Life.

The eight-part VH1 series provides a sobering look at what it takes to get sober, through the struggles of such familiar-ish faces as Rocky IV star Brigitte Nielsen and former American Idol contestant Jessica Sierra (see boxes). Shot last summer, the show offers a voyeuristic glimpse into the closed-door world of detox and rehabilitation—shakes, abuse stories and vomiting included. As the patients’ mentor and therapist Dr. Drew Pinsky himself puts it, “It ain’t pretty.”

Host of the long-running syndicated talk show Loveline (and a real physician), Pinsky initially resisted the idea of televised treatment. But his friend, counselor Bob Forrest, convinced him: “He said, ‘I am so sick of people talking about rehab who have no idea what they’re talking about. They don’t understand how addicted celebrities are and what they go through.’ And I thought, ‘Wow!'”

But could TV hurt the process? Addiction specialist Marty Brenner of L.A.’s Waissman Institute says patients may act for the cameras: “And it puts them under unnecessary scrutiny if they relapse.”

Moreover, some of Rehab’s patients may have been motivated by money (they were paid to appear) or increased fame. But, Pinsky says, “however you can motivate somebody to get sober, we’ll take it.”

REHAB’S PATIENTS: SIX MONTHS LATER

BRIGITTE NIELSEN, 44

IN FOR

Alcohol. “I’m the kind of person who way overdoes everything,” says the mother of four sons, ages 12 to 23, who turned to the bottle as her 13-year marriage failed. She married again in 2006.

HOW SHE’S DOING

Sober for six months, she says, she also quit smoking last September. Next goal? “A great body again!”

Still battling

JEFF CONAWAY, 57

IN FOR

Alcohol, cocaine (started at 17) and prescription pain meds started when he suffered a back injury while filming 1978’s Grease.

HOW HE’S DOING

After recent back surgery, he’s still struggling with addiction. “I’ve been depressed all my life,” he told PEOPLE in 2006. Says Pinsky: “He’s a complicated case, but not hopeless.”

RICCO RODRIGUEZ, 30

IN FOR

Cocaine and alcohol. The former Ultimate Fighting champ could lose his son Paul, 2, to foster care if he doesn’t end his spiral of abuse.

HOW HE’S DOING

Still with Carmen, his girlfriend and Paul’s mother, he’s sober and takes regular drug tests. Doing the show, he says, “in some crazy way saved our family.”

First time in rehab

JAIMEE FOXWORTH, 28

IN FOR

Marijuana. The Family Matters child star had been smoking pot steadily since age 16 and turned to pornography to pay for her habit.

HOW SHE’S DOING

Sober, she says, “My outlook is totally different. People don’t understand that marijuana can be so addictive. It doesn’t matter what type of addiction you have. It all hits us the same.”

MARY CAREY, 27

IN FOR

A whole-life makeover. The adult-film star said she wanted to quit booze, Xanax and even porn.

HOW SHE’S DOING

She recently performed at a gentlemen’s club, and “I’m still struggling with drinking,” Carey says. “But I used to drink a bottle of vodka a night, and I haven’t touched that. Drew is helping, one day at a time.”

Quit the show

DANIEL BALDWIN, 47

IN FOR

Upkeep. A cocaine addict off and on for 18 years, Baldwin was in a sober-living facility before the show.

HOW HE’S DOING

The new dad—to Avis Ann, born Jan. 17—claimed other patients were “trying to sensationalize” for the cameras. Baldwin quit but says he remains sober. “I hope the best for everyone,” he says.

JOANIE LAURER, A.K.A. CHYNA, 38

IN FOR

The former pro wrestler—known for her drunken antics on The Surreal Life—says she used alcohol to mask “emotional issues. I led my life like it was a three-ring circus.”

HOW SHE’S DOING

She drinks wine occasionally, but the show helped: “I’m leading the life that I should have led years ago.”

In rehab again

JESSICA SIERRA, 22

IN FOR

In April 2007 the American Idol alum was arrested for battery and possession of cocaine.

HOW SHE’S DOING

After a Dec. 1 arrest for disorderly intoxication (and a court order to stay 100 feet from cameras), she is back under Pinsky’s care. “She needs long-term treatment,” Pinsky says. “She’s ready for it. She’s doing great.”

SETH “SHIFTY” BINZER, 33

IN FOR

Cocaine and painkillers. The lead singer of the band Crazy Town hit a low after his wife, Melissa, and their son Halo, 5, moved out.

HOW HE’S DOING

Now in a sober-living facility in Beverly Hills, he says, “I didn’t do it to get on TV. I was facing death if I kept at it. I want to stay sober.”