Addicts Transformed: Joani and Brian

Addicts Transformed: Joani and Brian

Last May, Dr. Phil did a prime time special with Joani, a wife and mother with a 30-year drug addiction.

A mother of two, Joani couldn't get through a half hour without shooting up. Her drugs of choice were methamphetamines, opiates and tranquilizers. "I take the amphetamines to go up, tranquilizers to go down, opiates to augment the feelings of happiness and euphoria that goes with the amphetamines," she explains.

Even worse, Joani was a nurse in a drug rehabilitation facility. "I get my drugs from doctors. It's a well-honed art. When you're a nurse like me, I know what the doctors want to hear. I pop pills right there at the nurse's station."


After meeting with Dr. Phil, discussing her dangerous behavior and her husband's enabling, Joani handed over her drugs and agreed to go to La Hacienda, a drug rehabilitation center.

Joani thought she would be in rehab for a month, but since she was one of the most difficult patients the center had ever had, she ended up staying for three months.


Rich Whitman, the director of La Hacienda, was a source of strength for her while in rehab.


"My life is so much better now that I'm sober," says Joani. "La Hacienda was a gift. At first, I thought Rich was trying to kill me. When the drug was gone, I realized this man had my best interests at heart. I grew to love him. When I saw myself on TV, it was surreal. It was the worst part of the detox, when I watched the show." Joani believed that she would want drugs again if she watched herself on the show, but just opposite happened: she wanted them out of her body.

"Before rehab, I spent a lot of time in my bathroom, in public bathrooms, doing drugs, acquiring drugs, thinking about drugs; it was a full-time job. Now, I listen to music, ride my bike, read a book, have lunch with friends," she says. 

"I like to see her do things that are positive for her," says her husband, Brian. "It's far better than going to the bathroom and shooting up."

And because Joani had been using drugs ever since she began dating her husband, their relationship feels brand new. "Before rehab, Brian and I were two adults co-existing in an extremely stressful environment. And now my relationship with Brian is better than when we were dating. Our sex life has been very good," says Joani. 

"Right after treatment she had a sex drive again. She was horny. Did I say that without stuttering?" says Brian, laughing.


Joani's dog, Lucy, used to lick the blood from her arm after she shot up. Now, Lucy goes for bike rides with Joani. "I'm known now as the lady in the neighborhood who went on Dr. Phil and rides around with her Chihuahua."

Joani gets strength from going to support group meetings. "Meetings

are where I find motivation. I go to two meetings a day." She's also involved with helping other addicts start their lives over. "The twelfth step is to help other people. It feels good to give back. It makes me feel useful. They've been calling me 'Dr. Phil' in the meetings because I'm like no nonsense. When I go on twelve step calls, I'm as tough as he is," she says. 

"The words I hear over and over are Dr. Phil saying, 'The next 10 minutes are going to determine whether you live or you die.' He was completely right. Dr. Phil was tough. I needed someone strong. I have a strong personality. Brian was in deep denial."

Her husband agrees. "I should not have been afraid that she was going to leave me. I should've been more afraid that she was going to kill herself," he says.

"I owe the people of La Hacienda a debt that I feel I can't pay off. Thank you Dr. Phil, for providing me with the opportunity to get better. You guys are really giving back," says Joani. "I'm a little nervous about sitting down with Dr. Phil without the drugs. I mean, not even a Valium!"


Six months after meeting Dr. Phil, Joani is back, clear-eyed and sober. "I feel wonderful to be back. I feel emotional to be back. I mean, I don't even remember what you look like. So I'm happy to see you," Joani tells Dr. Phil.

Dr. Phil is all smiles now as he looks at Joani. "You were in a scary situation. I knew that if you walked out of there and didn't go to get help, that I would never see you again. What has been your biggest challenge since you got back into the world and into your life?"

"Motherhood. The family," says Joani. "Just getting used to being in a family situation with two small children, and a husband and all that that entails, and do it sober. There's no more bathroom breaks. So that's been a challenge, to find outlets to help me to cope and deal with that."


Joani has two children: Mary, 7, and Max, 4. Along with the usual challenges that comes with children, Joani discovered a new one. "Mary and I have a very easy relationship. Max takes after me. He's harder to deal with. Max recently has been diagnosed with ADHD and he's started on Adderall, the very medication that brought me to my knees. I think that Max has inherited every one of my genes. I fear that he's an alcoholic and an addict like me. Max and I have always flirted with the dark side."

Brian is the only one who handles Max's drug. He keeps a watchful eye on the prescription and keeps it away from Joani, but says, "I'm nervous about the drug being in the house."

"Does it bother you, with it being there?" Dr. Phil asks Joani.

"It has not been a constant temptation," she explains. "I'm in a position of neutrality. I'm not tempted, and I haven't sworn off. It is, for the most part, a non-issue. I can say twice since it's been in the house, I've been exhausted with life, with the kids, and it's run through my brain, and when it runs through my brain, I pick up the phone, go for a bike ride, and that's only happened twice. For the most part, it's just a non-issue."

Dr. Phil turns to Rich Whitman, the director of La Hacienda. He asks, "What has been the key to the success that Joani's created for herself so far?"

"Joani has stayed in that process of recovery. She's worked hard at it. She got honest," says Rich.

Dr. Phil asks about Joani and Brian's relationship. "How are you two doing? Before you started working on all of this, there was some real tension between you two. And having been doing this for 30 years, I know that when you take away the anesthesia, that can get even worse, even sharper, even louder."

Joani admits that she was using drugs since they first started dating. "I've never had any quality recovery and known Brian, so in many ways, it's new," she says, smiling.

"We're awfully proud of you," Dr. Phil tells her.

"Thank you," says Joani.