Pat O’Brien comes clean with Dr. Phil.
Nobody covers the stars and their moments of indiscretion better than The Insider host Pat O’Brien. But now, the 30-year broadcast veteran has found himself making headlines of his own. He sits down with Dr. Phil to talk about the vulgar voicemails that made headlines and his rehabilitation from alcohol addiction.
Dr. Phil: Tell me why you wanted to do this, or at least agreed to, whichever it was.
Pat: With all that’s been written and all that’s gone on, I think it’s time to tell my side of the story.
Dr. Phil: Were you coerced into doing this by the studio, or is this something that you think is a reasonable thing to do?
Pat: No, no, no. I’ve been in the business 30 years. Anybody who’s worked with me knows I’m not coerced into anything.
Dr. Phil: What is your objective? What do you hope to achieve?
Pat: To get the second chance, and I think this is a country that allows second chances. We’ve had celebrities who’ve gotten second chances … It’s my turn on this planet to get a second chance.
Dr. Phil: Do you deserve a second chance?
Pat: Absolutely. I’m a good person, but I’ve gone through a horrendous few weeks. I’ve been through rehabilitation and I’m doing all the right things to get myself back on track.
Dr. Phil: This all came to a head as a product of one weekend several weeks ago in New York. Tell me what happened that weekend.
Pat: Everybody has a bottom. And I hit my bottom that horrible weekend in New York. Do I remember most of it? No. And that’s where the bottom is. It was a weekend of fun, I thought, a weekend of drinking, which turned into a little bit of craziness.
Dr. Phil: This ended badly with you being on the cover of every tabloid and many of the newspapers in the country, so it was more than a little bit of craziness.
Dr. Phil: You go to a restaurant, you and your girlfriend, and you encounter this other woman … So you’re drinking and doing coke?
Pat: Small amount of coke, a lot of alcohol.
Dr. Phil: A small amount of coke is like being sort of pregnant.
Pat: It is a horrible, horrible drug.
Dr. Phil: You began to call this woman on her cell phone from your cell phone — although you were in the same room?
Pat: I don’t remember making the calls. I do not remember that at all. I was loaded out of my mind. I was loaded.
Dr. Phil: I just want to get this straight in my mind: You’re making these calls to a woman who’s 20, 30, 50 feet away?
Pat: I’m in the other room. I remember picking up the phone, but I don’t remember saying what I hear. I have no memories of saying hookers and cocaine, that’s not me. In fact, that was not me on the phone.
Pat would wake up to find out the string of sexually explicit voicemails were being listened to by the entire world on the Internet.
Dr. Phil: Let’s listen to the tapes.
Pat: It’s painful for me to hear this.
They listen to Pat’s vulgar and explicit messages.
Pat: That’s not me.
Dr. Phil: But that’s your voice.
Dr. Phil: I want to know what you say to yourself that makes it OK to be there with one woman, and on a cell phone talking to another woman, talking about, ‘Let’s get some hookers and some coke and go crazy.’ What was going through your mind that said, ‘This is OK. I’m going to do this not once, not twice, but seven or eight times’?
Pat: I kept doing the same thing over and over again expecting another outcome. That’s the definition of insanity … I was out of it, Phil.
Dr. Phil: When I first heard this, having known you, it comes to my mind: What the hell were you thinking?
Pat: And that’s what’s coming to my mind right now: What was I thinking? You don’t think I’ve asked myself that question? … I was out of control. It was a drunken Pat O’Brien making a stupid, ridiculous, shameful, self-centered horrible tape … I’ll take responsibility for every word of that because I did it and that’s my voice, but Phil, that is not me. I was fueled up on alcohol. I’m an alcoholic; I’m an addict. I was saying things that when I hear them, I can’t believe I said them. I don’t remember saying it. It’s so hurtful I’ve already blocked it out. I mean, it’s ridiculous. But what made it OK? Four bottles of wine and two bottles of champagne. I blame myself.
Dr. Phil: No actually, you don’t. You’re blaming the alcohol and the drugs, but you’re not high or drunk 24/7. You have lucid moments when you aren’t drinking actively, you’re not drugging actively. Is there no time that in your mind you said, ‘You know what? The viewer is not so stupid that I can do anything I want’? I mean, you have to believe that they’re so stupid or you just took an approach that is so arrogant that you think, ‘I can do anything I want, I’m a big star. Nobody can hold me accountable.’ Something had to be going through your mind that gave you the permission to say, ‘This is the standard to which I can hold myself.’
Pat: I’m not a big star and I never thought for once that I was pulling something over on the viewer. I don’t know what I was thinking, Phil.
Dr. Phil: This is offensive in a locker room full of guys, but it’s certainly offensive to women … You obviously acknowledge that the things that you said are very demeaning to women. What is your opinion of women?
Pat: Well, not like that. That’s not my opinion of women. I work in an office where more than half the staff are women and I haven’t had one problem at work, not one problem. I respect women, I respect what they stand for. If I were a woman, I wouldn’t want to hear that stuff. But if I’m a caring and smart and forgiving woman, I’d say, ‘That can’t be him. That can’t be the pattern of his life.’ And it’s not.
Dr. Phil: Did you ever drink on the job?
Pat: Never. Never lost a moment of work. Never called in sick. I never missed a day of work, I never missed an hour of work. I never missed a call, I never missed an interview.
Dr. Phil: You have interviewed a number of celebrities that have been wrestling with drugs, alcohol, addiction, self-destruction. I recall when you interviewed Billy Joel at the time that he put himself into rehab. When you’re sitting there talking to someone like Billy Joel, nothing ever clicked with you sitting there saying, ‘You know what? I’m worse off than you are. I ought to do what you did’?
Pat: Thank God, on some level, that this happened and I’m not dead. Because I would have died from this disease. You’ve got to hit that bottom. That’s it. I mean, there’s no way to go but into rehab and get control of your life. At the age of 57, I finally did that.
Dr. Phil: Let me talk about rehab for a minute. There are those who believe that you fled to rehab to create an excuse, an explanation for getting busted on the inappropriate sexual behavior that made it on to the Internet. True or false?
Pat: False. I fled because I was dying. I came back home from New York and barely recall even checking into rehab, by the way. And when confronted, I said, ‘You know what? I’ve got to go. I’ve got to go’ … Not once did I say, ‘Oh, this is a good way to get rid of this publicity, because the publicity hadn’t happened yet.
Dr. Phil: This was not a preemptive strike to try to —
Pat: It was a preemptive strike to stay alive. I went into rehab so I could see my son graduate from college, so I could see my show get better, so I could see me get better. It saved my life. It’s my recovery, nobody else’s.
Dr. Phil: Did this work for you, Pat?
Pat: I think it did. I’m 50 days sober now. I have more clarity now … I’m sorry I did it, I’m sorry I offended people. I’ve gone through incredible shame. I’ve gone through despair, I’ve apologized to the people that this has offended. And I can’t say anything more. That wasn’t me; this is me now. I speak to you with a heavy heart, and I’m going back to work and I hope everything is going to be OK.
Dr. Phil: Are you different as you sit here today?
Pat: Of course I am. I’ve been through hell, and it’s my fault. I’m taking it on my shoulders like a man.
Dr. Phil: Tell me how you feel about your son, Shaun, and his being exposed to all of this.
Pat: You know, Shaun is a very, very strong kid. He grew up in a loving household. And I am a great dad. In the last year or two, the drinking, I think he noticed. I think that there were times when I may have embarrassed him. And we’re rebuilding that trust now. We’re being very honest about it … Shaun and I have a very honest, very loving relationship.
Dr. Phil: What did you say to him about this the first time you faced him?
Pat: I told him the truth. And I said, ‘We’re going to go through some tough times’ … I’m proud of him to step up and see this for what it is — that it is an illness. That his daddy needed help, and his daddy went and got help. That is what he can tell his friends.
Dr. Phil: You have gone to the point of getting yourself a 24-hour-a-day seven-days-a-week sobriety partner.
Pat: He’s moving in. It’s a good idea.
Dr. Phil: It isn’t over. You’re attending a meeting a day. And I’m a huge fan of the 12-step program and you have totally immersed yourself in that.
Pat: Absolutely … I have surrendered myself to this program, and it’s step by step.
Dr. Phil: I want to tell you something that I know about you that you don’t know I know about you. I have had a number of opportunities to observe you when nobody knew that I was watching, and what I have seen is a dedicated, loving and sensitive father who made it all about that boy. Honestly, genuinely. That’s Pat O’Brien. And out of the people in this world who know that, put me at the top of that list. And to whom much is given, much is expected. It’s going to be interesting to watch you continue to overcome this.
Pat: I won’t let you down.