January 6, 2012

Psycho Mike gets serene

Image: Ian Logan


Humor, honesty and fart jokes with shock jock Mike Catherwood

By Steve Diogo 
Nine years ago, “Psycho” Mike Catherwood was a failed punk rocker and drug addict holed up in an hourly hotel on the bad side of LA. Today, he’s a nationally syndicated radio personality, co-host of Loveline Radio with Dr. Drew Pinsky, a celebrity dancer (for two episodes) on Dancing With the Stars and a man who’s very content in his sobriety. Catherwood recently sat down with RenewEveryDay.com to talk about the power of humor and honesty, staying clean on the edge, farting around Dr. Drew and why he’s sworn to never dance again.
Renew: Humor is a big part of who you are. When did the humor come back, and how does it play into your recovery?
Mike Catherwood: It’s an integral part. When you’re dealing with stuff that’s painful—which is pretty much everything when you’re an addict—it can be tough to digest it when you’re looking at it totally straight. If you can handle it in a comedic light, it helps you, and other people, understand.
Renew: Did you ever worry that sobriety would kill the creative part of you, that sobriety wasn’t compatible with “Psycho” Mike?
MC: Oh, yeah. I had made other attempts to get clean before it finally stuck, when I was living in New Jersey and I relapsed. Then I went to rehab in Minnesota, and I relapsed. One of the things that really helped was getting sober in LA. Every meeting I’d go to, there’d be a super-famous screenwriter or director, massive rock stars, actors. So that false notion that I couldn’t be creative or successful if I was clean dissolved almost immediately when I saw these other people who were far more creative and clever than I could ever hope to be, right there and established in recovery.
Renew: I would think, being a celebrity in LA, you’re walking a line between being surrounded by the sex-drugs-rock lifestyle while at the same time having a sober celebrity support network. The choice is always in your face.
MC: It’s just like any other community, man. There’s going to be guys and gals who try to ride it for the advantages, who are all kind of rancid at their core, and there are those who do it for the right reasons and live their lives accordingly. Like anywhere else, you just identify the people who have what you want, and you stick with them. For every celebrity that you see on TMZ who’s just exploiting the advantages of being well-known and going to clubs and living that cliché lifestyle, there are thousands more who are just really quiet, humble, family people. And a lot of them are in recovery, fortunately, and they don’t want anything to do with that other life.
Renew: On the flip side, are there more challenges and temptations?
MC: I certainly haven’t reached the level of celebrity where I get the kind of treatment a lot of these other people do. Comedians and rock stars are the two groups of people who my heart really goes out to in trying to work their recovery. It’s not only a life where you’re encouraged to be a party animal, but you also live your life on the road. It’s just so hard. The place where I receive my strength is my home base, the people I know, the people I can count on, the people I need to account to: my friends, my family, my dogs, my sober buddies.
Renew: So, do you ever just want to backhand Charlie Sheen?
MC: I do because to hear him go on about what he says about the program, it angers me to no end. But I also, maybe thanks to working next to [Dr.] Drew [Pinsky] every night, I know that he’s a guy who’s suffering from more than just addiction. There are some other issues there. My heart goes out to him in that regard. 
Renew: What’s your life like now? How does recovery inform what you do?
MC: Honesty is extremely important to me because I host an advice show. Honesty is the heart of what we’re dealing with on the air when these kids call, whether it’s addiction or not. Listeners gravitate toward rigorous honesty on the air. Having gone through the Steps, I have a noticeable sense of fearless and rigorous honesty that comes through on the air. That’s all a product of recovery. I can’t tell you how many times I get that, whether it’s from an email or on Facebook. People tell me they appreciate the way I open up.
Renew: That must provide a lot of reinforcement.
MC: Yeah, and a lot of times it’s stuff that has nothing to do with recovery, but I know that my desire to be that honest is always a byproduct of sobriety.
Renew: You have a tremendous opportunity to be of service.
MC: I am in an extremely unique position when it comes to dealing with throngs of kids on a nightly basis, and I don’t take that for granted at all. It’s therapeutic for me. Imagine how it feels talking to all these kids every night. As much as I desperately, desperately hope that I can help people, it helps me just as much.
Renew: And, of course, you get to hang out with Dr. Drew every night.
MC: Oh, yeah … that’s the best.
Renew: Give us some Dr. Drew dirt.
MC: The problem with Dr. Drew is that there is no dirt. He really is a guy who’s so completely concerned with helping other people help themselves. I’ve never seen that from someone who wasn’t an addict himself, but it’s the case with him. I don’t know where it comes from with him, but it’s a deep-seated, visceral desire to have people be cured from the disease of addiction. It really means a lot to me to see that at work every night. I will say this though: As intelligent and hard-working and insightful as he is, I can break him down to a 15-year-old bonehead with a couple of well-timed farts. That’s the one thing I can tell you for sure about Dr. Drew.
Renew: Been doing much dancing these days?
MC: No! I mean I had to prepare for the exit dance they made me do [on Dancing with the Stars]. But outside of that, I plan on never dancing again. Guilty feet have got no rhythm, as George Michael said.
Renew: Well, I consider no interview a success unless it contains a George Michael quote.
MC: Awesome. … I’m happy to oblige.
Renew: You made my day. What advice do you have for the young Mikes out there who are going to read this article?
MC: There’s a lot of belief, especially in young kids, that in order to be cool, edgy, non-conformist, in order to be like all those guys you look up to, that you have to use and drink. I’m here to tell you firsthand that I’ve been lucky enough to hang out with some of the most ridiculously cool people on the planet, and the lion’s share of them are normies—or they’re sober. This romanticized notion that you have to drink yourself to death or do drugs in order to be a cool, creative, edgy guy is patently false. And if you’re trying to get sober, don’t fall into the misconception out there that, just by stepping into the program, everything is going to magically straighten out. That’s not how it works. It doesn’t flip over like a switch. It would be like believing that you can get a cover-model body by just hanging out at the gym. You have to actually do the work. The tools we’re given are not easy. They don’t provide immediate satisfaction. They take prolonged, patient, consistent effort and perseverance. But it’s guaranteed to work. If you give it the patience and perseverance that it takes, you’ll wind up with the life you always dreamed of. When I went into it with a realistic view, that’s when it actually worked.

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