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Johnny Whitaker - A Positive Influence For People In Recovery

by James Heller 23. September 2009 12:26
Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles is participating in Recovery Month 2009, in part, with articles about recovery during the month of September.  Most individuals suffering from alcoholism and drug addiction begin their recovery with alcohol and drug treatment.  So it is our pleasure to help bring awareness to the general public about the benefits of recovery to individuals, their families, and everyone with whom they interact.

Stories about the negative behaviors of famous people have been increasing in recent years.  The reason may not be that more of the famous are getting into trouble, but that there are more media outlets that gain from the promotion of negative stories.  In either case, this is a good time to give credit to three people of fame who exhibit positive behavior to help others in need; John Whitaker, Paul Williams, and Rip Taylor.

Johnny Whitaker is best known as a child star in the shows Family Affair and Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, and the movie Tom Sawyer where he gave Jodi Foster her first on-screen kiss.  While remaining active in show business today, John’s primary vocation is in alcohol and drug treatment as a counselor and the San Fernando Valley Chapter Liaison for the A.W.A.R.E. (Always Working toward Advancing Recovery Environments) program.

John’s story of addiction and recovery is different from the usual “troubled child star” gossip paper article.  As an example of how his addiction unfolded, he says “I believe that if you are born with the disease of addiction, it will catch you at some time in life”.

A religious upbringing allowed John to enjoy his childhood fame, and not experiment with alcohol, drugs, and other negative behaviors the public often hears about.  Instead, he says that he experimented a little with alcohol and drugs later on in high school.  Like many alcoholics and addicts, it took a traumatic personal experience to trigger heavy drinking and drug use.

This painful experience challenged John’s religious beliefs, and he “took a trip to the dark side” as a resentful answer.  After some years, his family staged an intervention and he agreed to enter treatment.  He speaks with sadness about friends who were also child stars and were lost to alcohol and drugs, like Anissa Jones and Dana Plato, with the common alcoholic’s wish that they had found what he had.

In 2003, at a time when John was not working, a friend suggested he take some classes on chemical dependency at Pierce College.  Reluctant at first, he relented and soon became interested in the prospect of helping alcoholics and addicts to find recovery as he had.  Once certified, he became a counselor at Tarzana Treatment Centers and is now the Alumni Coordinator.

John’s work with the A.W.A.R.E program offers him the chance to help individuals extend their recovery time and enjoy the sober life.  He coordinates events with local treatment centers and publishes a newsletter to inform local recovering individuals about them.

AWARE is a statewide self-advocacy program that involves those in treatment and recovery, their family members and significant others. Through AWARE, individuals have the opportunity to share their personal and collective experiences of AOD treatment and recovery with policy makers and the community at large. AWARE offers a range of strategies to distribute, collect, and analyze information that is important to the recovery community. Self-advocacy activities are available to multiple treatment agencies and individuals in the recovery community throughout the state of California.

John’s story is a reminder that the disease of addiction is cunning, baffling, and powerful.  The beliefs that protected him as a famous child were not enough to make the disease impotent.  The disease sat dormant until an opportunity was presented to strike, and it struck hard.  He is one of the blessed few who survived active addiction and now enjoy a life of recovery rather than the sad alternative that is seen too much by the public these days.

That trademark smile is still unmistakably Johnny’s.  His passion for helping others in recovery is obvious after only a short, five minute conversation.  And he is a fine example of positive influence coming from the show business world.

Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles has an alumni association so patients can attend events with others in recovery after alcohol and drug treatment.  If you or a loved one needs help with alcoholism or drug addiction, please call now at 888-777-8565 or contact us here.

Southern California Locations for Alcohol and Drug Treatment
Tarzana Treatment Centers has locations all over Southern California in Los Angeles County. Other than our central location in Tarzana, we have facilities in Lancaster in the Antelope Valley, Long Beach, and in Northridge and Reseda in the San Fernando Valley.