Leaving Life in the Tunnels
Dr. Phil enlists the help of professional locator Troy Dunn to help find Cindy and her husband, Rick, a homeless couple who have been living in the flood tunnels beneath Las Vegas for two years. Cindy’s four daughters say they desperately want a relationship with their estranged mother — if she can clean up her life. After finding the couple in their underground home and learning how they survive day to day, Troy offers them a chance at redemption, and Cindy and Rick pack up their belongings and travel to Los Angeles. Will Cindy have the courage to face her four daughters and answer their tough questions? And, Cindy opens up about her past — learn what happened in her childhood that may play a part in the destructive choices she’s made. Then, Dr. Phil offers Cindy and Rick a plan to get their lives back on track, clean and sober. Will they grab onto the lifeline?
See what you missed in Part 1!
Dr. Phil meets with Cindy’s daughters and asks them how they feel about their mother and where she’s living.
Amber says, “I don’t know any other words other than horrified. That she would live there, make that her home.”
“What is it that eats at you the most?” Dr. Phil asks.
“Just that she didn’t love us enough to stay,” Amber says with tears in her eyes. “I think she had too many kids too young, and she didn’t know what to do with herself. I think she was overwhelmed.”
“But that’s kind of an excuse, right?”
“Yeah. She took the easy way out,” she says.
Dr. Phil explains that what happened to them was not their fault; this was their mother’s sickness, and it had nothing to do with them. He notes that Ashley seems to have high expectations about reuniting with her mother.
Ashley says she thinks the wounds of the past can be healed to a certain extent. She knows she can’t get her childhood back, but says, “I can’t just abandon her like she did to us. That’s just not me.”
Dr. Phil notices the pain on Amber’s face.
“Growing up, I think what hurt the most is I didn’t know what happened to them,” she says tearfully, indicating her sisters. “I didn’t know where they were. I didn’t know if they were OK.”
Facing Her Past
Cindy and Rick make it to Los Angeles. Will Cindy have the courage to face her daughters and answer their questions?
Dr. Phil sits down with the couple. He asks Cindy what she says to herself about the choices she’s made.
“My self-esteem is down in the tunnel still. Some days I can’t think about how badly I screwed up,” she says.
“You don’t like those tunnels, but it is a place to hide, isn’t it?” Dr. Phil asks. “When you’re down there, you’re off the grid, right? You’re off the radar. You’re not accountable to anybody. Nobody even knows you exist … but you can’t hide from in here,” he says, pointing to his head. “And that stays with you all the time.”
“Yeah,” Cindy says, admitting that drugs help numb the pain somewhat.
Dr. Phil shares Cindy’s childhood story with the women — how she says she took the blame for her brother's and father's deaths and how she began to self-medicate, which eventually led to losing her children, which changed their lives forever. On the other side, he tells Cindy about the girls being split apart and moved to and from several foster homes. Angela says she didn’t even have a childhood, because she had to care for Atisha like a mother.
Troy tells Cindy, “I sat with you in that tunnel, and was so amazed that these strangers — these crackheads — would wander into this tunnel and flop down on the bed and eat your food, and you seemed to have so little, and yet you were willing to help these strangers. And you said to me, ‘How can I not help someone in need?’ Good Lord, Cindy, how can you not look over here on this couch at your four children who want so little? They, I believe, would be grateful for scraps of motherhood.”
“Isn’t it time to set a goal to try to make the past the past, try to find a way to forgive and one step at time try to build trust, try to build some relationship here?” Dr. Phil asks. “You can say, ‘I’m going to do what I have to do to strengthen myself, heal myself, and I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying to make up to them what I didn’t give them the first time around the track.' Isn’t it time to do that?”
“It’s been time,” Cindy says, with tears running down her face.
A Light at the End of the Tunnel
Dr. Phil and Troy give the women some privacy to talk to each other. Will her daughters’ questions be too much for Cindy? Is there too much resentment for her daughters to find forgiveness?
Dr. Phil and Troy return. Dr. Phil offers Cindy drug detox and rehab and treatment for depression, anxiety and other disorders that she may be dealing with. After she's clean, there will be professional help to bring the entire family back together to work on getting rid of any anger, resentment or other issues they may have. He warns her that she may not ever return to Las Vegas, which has too much history and too many triggers for her.
Dr. Phil also tells Cindy that she’s married to an enabler, and it’s important for Rick to get clean as well. He asks Cindy for a serious commitment to work on herself, whether or not Rick accepts the offer of help.
“This might be your last best hope,” Troy tells her.
Ben Levenson from Origins Recovery Centers meets Cindy and tells her they are ready to help her get clean, so she can return to her family. “I don’t think I have a choice if I want to survive,” he says.
Beneath the Neon: Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegas
by Matthew O'Brien