Anyone who has watched House, MD for very long knows that Dr. House, the anti-hero and my television husband, has struggled with a raging Vicodin addition. He uses, becomes addicted to, then abuses Vicodin to manage chronic pain of an old leg injury.
Let's be clear: addiction is not a particularly funny subject. It's the way that Hugh Laurie portrays Dr. House as a darkly cynical and deeply sarcastic (often rude) character that leaves you rooting for him anyway. His addiction makes him human, rather than another, predictable genuis, and it's why it's so hard to watch him falter. He's a quindessential anti-hero and he's what sets the show apart from all other medical dramas.
His Vicodin addiction finally comes to a head after a series of vivid hallucinations at the end of Season Five. Addiction, we see, comes at quite a price. Dr. House carted himself off to Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital for drug rehabilitation. After a series of episodes that show him recovering inside rehab for Vicodin addiction in Season Six, House returned to work Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital (PPTH) newly sober.
Image courtesy FOX
As a nurse and someone who advocates avidly for better research and more awareness of mental illness, I've developed a tremendous amount of respect for the way House, MD worked the side-effects of addiction, depression, self-medication and other mental illnesses into their epsiodes. When the show shouted out the National Institute of Mental Disorders (NAMI), during an episode about a schizophrenic patient, I got tearful. NAMI is one of my favorite charities.The cast and crew of House, MD, have frequently appeared in ads for NAMI and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the charity. That is beyond full of the awesome.
Even as I joked about House being a more interesting character as a drug addict, I knew that the Sober Dr. House storyline would inevitably involve a drug relapse. I just didn't know how painful his downward spiral would be to watch.
See, I know addicts. And I know that relapse is the a painful hallmark of addiction. There are any number of things that can lead to a relapse: negative moods, celebrations or drug-related reminders, and once triggered, the desire to seek out the drug despite any negative consequences can be overwhelming.
When Lisa Cuddy, the longtime love of Dr. House, undergoes surgery for a potential cancerous tumor, in a Season Seven episode called “Bombshells,” Cuddy wants desperately for House to be by her side. Learning that he cannot cope with the potential death of the love of his life unless he's taking Vicodin, House falls back into his old patterns of using. When Cuddy realizes that House cannot handle his emotions without the aid of Vicodin, she breaks off her relationship with him. This shatters House and breaks his heart.
The event triggers a full relapse for House.
In the following episode, “Out of the Chute,” Dr. Wilson, House's sidekick, and friend to Dr. Cuddy, finds House cheerfully staying at an expensive hotel high on Vicodin and lounging about in a bathrobe.
Wilson worriedly confronts his friend: "She [Cuddy] told me you had taken a Vicodin." House glibly replies, "And then I took a lot more,” as he pops open a pill bottle, swallowing Vicodin pills like they're candy. House suggests that the leg pain is worse, which Wilson quickly refutes. “It's not physically worse.” House replies, “Pain doesn't discriminate, and neither do the pills.”
At the end of the episode, “Out of the Chute,” Dr. House jumps off his balcony, landing in the pool. A group of much-younger bar patrons have gathered to watch. He yells, “"What do you do when you win?" The bar patrons yell in reply, "Party!"
House yells, "What do you do when you lose?"
"Party harder!" they holler back.
I'll be interested to see how the Relapsed Dr. House story arc plays out, only I'll be watching in horror, not giggling at his Vicodin-fueled antics. Who knew relapse would be so hard to watch?
What do you think about our anti-heroes relapse? He's back tonight after a three week hiatus. Will you be watching?
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