Bob Forrest's compelling memoir, Running With Monsters (written with occasional L.A. Weekly contributor Michael Albo), reads like a checklist of your typical junkie's life: overdoses, dead friends, homelessness, jail time. Forrest even managed to get himself banned from a Marina del Rey rehab.
But that's just half of the story. After achieving sobriety and helping countless others get on the same path, the Thelonious Monster frontman and Celebrity Rehab regular has become one of the most recognizable faces in recovery.
Raised in Palm Desert in a happy, music-loving family, Forrest found his upper-middle-class existence crashing to a halt when his father lost his business and then died while Forrest was in his teens. “The seed of anger started to take root,” Forrest writes. He also would discover that his older sister was actually his mother.
By senior year of high school, he was using pot, cocaine and speed, and drinking “Bacardi rum for breakfast.” He ditched college but developed a talent for maneuvering the drug-fueled, Hollywood punk club scene. He struck up lifelong relationships with the then-unknown Red Hot Chili Peppers, living for a while with Anthony Kiedis and Flea. He even worked as the band's manager and roadie.
But while his contemporaries became alt-rock heroes, Forrest's band, Thelonious Monster, never rose above indie cult status, fueling his addiction, which included heroin and crack. If booze and drugs were the only requirements for rock stardom, Forrest was bigger than The Beatles.
Like so many druggie memoirs, Forrest's book recounts in gross detail the author's addiction, such as the day he smoked heroin just before leaving for his first failed stint at rehab. “Even now, with my shaking hands and distracted mind, I could have pulled it off while wearing a blindfold,” he writes.
Then there was the brutal beating he got from two Marines after lousing up the national anthem at a Clippers game.
Forrest goes beyond crafting a simple cautionary tale. He delves into the psychology of the disease, making his story relatable to anyone, not just wannabe rock stars.
Talking to Forrest is like talking to your old, stoner uncle — he's a little fuzzy on the specifics (“Well, there's different levels of OD”) and laughs with a hearty smoker's voice even when recounting some pretty gruesome events, like the time he snorted heroin in a cab and was left for dead on the sidewalk before waking up in an ambulance.
He recalls once waking up next to former Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante: “I remember I looked up at him and said, 'I think I need some cocaine.' I couldn't move my arms, I couldn't move my legs, I couldn't even roll over. I'd been unconscious for so long there was no blood flowing through my legs. But I knew if I had some coke, it would kick everything into gear!”
Forrest was actually key in getting Frusciante clean, a strange paradox considering he was still maintaining his habit; after witnessing friend River Phoenix overdose outside the Viper Room in 1993, Forrest drove Frusciante to Las Encinas recovery center, then drove right back to Frusciante's house and smoked his crack.
“I could see everybody's problems but not mine,” Forrest tells the Weekly.
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There would be 26 attempts at rehab, but by 1996, Forrest had gotten sober. He started to learn the ropes of recovery, eventually becoming a chemical-dependency counselor. He operated his own outpatient facility, Hollywood Recovery Services, from 2010 to 2012.
“Through the years, I realized, that's what's kept me sober,” Forrest says.
Friends, former drug buddies and admirers, from the Chili Peppers to Courtney Love, attest to the “junkie whisperer's” second act in 2011 documentary Bob and the Monster. On Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew, Forrest is the bespectacled, hat-wearing sage doling out advice to has-beens and never-weres.
Since it first aired in 2008, the reality show has been heavily criticized for turning drug treatment into entertainment, especially after the deaths of cast members Jeff Conaway, Mindy McCready, Rodney King and Alice in Chains' Mike Starr.
Forrest defends the show's motives, citing a need to get drug addiction “out of the closet,” even if he is often critical of the recovery industry.
“You can't ignore it,” he says. “It's a huge social problem, and it's only gonna get bigger. Thirty thousand people are gonna die of drugs this year. I expect that number to double in the next five years because of the secrecy. There's no going back. The only way that society thinks about anything is if you put it on television. Sponge Bob SquarePants is more offensive to me than to show a grown adult in rehab.”
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