Alcohol and Abuse: Facing Dr. Phil
Dr. Phil checks in with the two families competing in the Ultimate Family Weight Loss Challenge."As you watch that, and you go home and drink yourself into oblivion, I have two questions for you: Number one, what the hell are you thinking? And number two, what gives you the right to subject those children to that kind of behavior?" Dr. Phil asks Steve.

"I really don't know what I'm thinking when I do that," Steve admits. "I've never seen how
I looked, the way I acted."

"What do you say about what the children are being subjected to?" Dr. Phil continues.

Sheila replies, "I know they're there, but I didn't realize how much they actually saw."

"This is going to stop," Dr. Phil warns Sheila and Steve, offering his help. "You're going to get help and calm down, or you're not going to have access to those children. Professionally, I can't see this and then not take actions to protect those children. I am required to do that and I intend to do exactly that."

Dr. Phil wants to make sure they understand the gravity of the situation. "You know what's going to happen? You're going to wind up being charged for his death," he says to Sheila. Dr. Phil looks to Steve. "You're going to be dead from alcohol poisoning or because she pushes you down the stairs and breaks your neck or you get brain damage and just shut down," he warns, and turns to Sheila. "And then, you're going to wind up in prison, and then your children are going to be spun off into foster care, which I believe they would be a lot better there, now, today."

One night Steve was passed out in bed and Sheila could smell that he had been drinking. "There was still alcohol in the bottle and I

dumped it in his face, and I just started beating him with [the bottle] and then he woke up," Sheila explains. Steve was left with multiple wounds and bruises all over his body.

 

Dr. Phil points to a picture of Steve's battered body and addresses Sheila. "I want you to turn around and look at it. I want you to look at his face. I want you to look at his arms. I want you to look at his chest, his eye ... You understand if that

bottle hits him in the temple and goes through to his brain, he could seize and die at that point?" he asks her and she says yes. "Do you get the gravity of this?"


"Yes, I do!" Sheila retorts.


"Do you want to get mad at me here?" Dr. Phil presses.


"No," she says through tears.


"Because that's your comfort zone, isn't it? To get angry," Dr. Phil explains. "And the problem is your children are picking up the tab for what the two of you are doing. They're paying the price."

"I don't want you to think that I think this is OK because I don't, and that's why I'm here," Sheila defends herself.


"You think it's OK enough to do it over and over," Dr. Phil points

out.


"It's not OK, and I know it's not OK," Sheila pleads. "It just happens!"


"Help starts right now," Dr. Phil tells Sheila. "You make a conscious choice to do this. You give yourself permission to do it. Don't tell me you don't know it. Don't tell me you go on auto-pilot, and fly into it." Dr. Phil points out that when Steve was passed out on the kitchen floor, she attacked him, left the room and came back and attacked him again. "This isn't in the heat of passion. It isn't in the moment. You do it across time. You go off and think about it, and you come back and attack him some more. Then you go off and attack him some more."


"I don't think about it and attack him," Sheila explains. "When I see him, I get mad, and that's when I do it!"

Dr. Phil wants Steve and Sheila to understand how the drinking and rage impacts their daughters. He shows them footage of their vicious fighting while the girls look on. "You are throwing your husband to the floor. Do you see your little girl covering her ears?" he asks Sheila.

"Yes," she says. "I didn't know that at the time! I don't look around me to see where they're at ... I didn't know she was there. I didn't think to look to see if she was there."

"OK, I want you to see it now," Dr. Phil tells her.

"I see it," she replies.

 

Steve also admits to driving drunk with his daughters in the car. Dr. Phil says to him, "Do you understand that if I find out from her or anybody else that you're driving with those kids in the car, I will do whatever it takes to put you under the jail?" The audience applauds. "I will not allow you to subject those kids to that."

"Do you know why you get so angry?" Dr. Phil asks Sheila.

"Because I didn't want my kids to grow up seeing what I've seen," Sheila explains.

"Because the truth is, you grew up with a very violent and abusive father, did you not?" Dr. Phil asks her. "He drank, and he was very violent and abusive with your mother," Dr. Phil continues, and she agrees. "And you watched him beat her viciously. You watched him stuff her in a dryer. You watched him throw up and make her eat the vomit." The audience gasps. "You have come from somewhere that is not OK. You said your children are starting to believe that this is just normal and natural. And so their standard of what they expect is very low." Dr. Phil notes that Sheila's father denies such treatment and abuse.

Dr. Phil continues with Sheila. "What you were exposed to was not normal, and you couldn't punish your father for that ... I think you wanted it to stop so bad, and you have rage pent up against him. And I think you went and married somebody just like him that you could beat the s**t out of! I think that is exactly what happened," he says to her. "I don't know that I'm right, but I've got a lot of confidence in what I'm telling you. I think this is meeting a very sick need on your part. And I think you can't give it up because it is your

only identity."

"I want to give it up," Sheila says.


"I think if he stopped drinking, and he got healthy, you wouldn't know what to do," Dr. Phil says to Sheila.


"I don't know if I agree with that," Sheila says, explaining, "We can fight about anything, anything! And I mean, like, really argue. And I've never, ever raised my hands to him unless he was drinking. Never, never hit him while he wasn't drinking."


"That's why I'm saying I think you married somebody that does exactly what your father did. And you're doing to him what you wish you could have done to your father," Dr. Phil clarifies. "You married a surrogate punching bag so you can vent all of that rage and anger on him. And I do believe you are afraid he will get better." Sheila has even said that she fears Steve would leave her if he cleaned up. "That's not healthy! You're doing this because you're getting a sick payoff from it."

Steve has been to rehab twice, and drank shortly after getting out each time. He has had as much as a half gallon of vodka at a given time and hides bottles of alcohol all over the house, including in the gutter and the laundry baskets. Dr. Phil asks him, "Is it

hopeless for you to stop drinking?"


"No, it's not hopeless," Steve says.


"If it's not, then why haven't you stopped before now?" Dr. Phil asks.


"I guess I didn't have the willpower to do it. I didn't realize how far we are at," he explains.


"You can't change what you don't acknowledge," Dr. Phil reminds Steve. "You've got to get the gravity of it ... I'm trying to shock you awake here. That's why I have shown you what I have shown you. You're out of control."


"Yes," Steve agrees.


"And I'm going to promise you: You cannot drink. If you live another 70 years, there will never be a time in your life that you can handle alcohol. You have to surrender to the fact that you are powerless to control alcohol," Dr. Phil tells him. "Alcoholism is a complex disease. It is resistant to treatment, and it is subject to relapse. That's not something you're going to fix here on this stage. It's something that is going to come from making a serious lifestyle change."

Dr. Phil looks at Sheila, "I want to save you from yourself before you wind
up in jail for murder or manslaughter."

He addresses Steve: "I want to stop you before you die of alcohol poisoning, or worse yet, kill yourself and those children or some unsuspecting family that's driving their kids down the street," he says. "I don't want you on the street with me. I want to stop you."

Dr. Phil offers them some advice. "You two need to separate. You don't need to be living under the same roof right now ... If you stay together, you're going to drink, and you're going to kill him. And you need to be apart right now, maybe forever, but unless and until you have a pattern of sobriety and some control and some momentum," he says. "You don't do this by willpower. You do it by programming." 

He suggests that Steve find an Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) meeting and that Sheila go to therapy to deal with her rage and anger-management issues. He offers to set up individual counseling for them and possibly couples counseling down the road. Most importantly, the kids need to be out of the crossfire. "You are not evil people. You are out of control, and we've got to get you some help. Don't feel guilty. Feel on task," Dr. Phil assures them.

At the end of the show, Dr. Phil asks Sheila, "What do you think about what I'm saying? You strike me as being very reluctant to accept this concept of not being together."

"I'm not reluctant. I'm just afraid," Sheila admits.


"What are you afraid of?" Dr. Phil questions.

 

"This is all I know," Sheila explains.

 

"That's the problem," Dr. Phil tells her. He acknowledges that although she doesn't like the situation she is in, she feels comfortable and knows what to expect. But it can't continue. "There is nothing, nothing, that can be worse for those children than what they're living right now. They need a chance for some peace, some clarity, some predictability." Dr. Phil suggests that the daughters go to counseling as well. "I will do what it takes to give you guys a chance. And if you can get back together in a healthy way, fine, and if you can't, then you just can't ... You came for help. The quickest way from A to Z is not always in a straight line, and it's not always at the most feverish pace."