January 19, 2010
There's still no hard Tiger Woods news, but there's plenty of Tiger Woods rumormongering, part of what happens when you let the message run untethered. The Tiger rumors are like the tide, swooping into my email inbox with dozens of "Tiger: have you seen this?" subject headings. (By all means, though, please keep sending them to email@example.com.)
The latest one, however, is getting some serious traction, enough that it's leaped from the tabloids to reputable newspapers like the LA Times and the Orlando Sentinel. According to a groundswell of chatter, Tiger Woods is allegedly undergoing sex addiction treatment at Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Services in Hattiesburg, Miss., one of the nation's best addiction-treatment centers.
(By the way, if you're one of the types who thinks this is all either a bunch of media-driven nonsense and/or a huge invasion of Tiger's privacy, do yourself a favor and stop reading now. Really. Come back in an hour when we do our preview of the Bob Hope Pro-Am. Seriously, you'll just get upset. Final warning.)
Anyway, so ... Tiger's getting sex addiction treatment in Mississippi? It sounds like the setup to yet another bad joke, but it's got the ring of truth to it. As the AP's Chris Talbott, on location in Mississippi, points out:
Celebrities apparently pass through there all the time, yet employees are bound by confidentiality agreements. And let’s face it: Celebrity rehab clinics are supposed to be in towns like Palm Springs or Los Angeles.
But it kind of makes sense that a sex addiction program is here. No one could possibly expect to find celebrities at a converted cottage-style motel, nestled between a rental car place and a windshield repair business in an aging part of town.
Talbott does an admirable job of running down all the possible angles -- checking the airport for a private plane, consulting with the local golf clubs, getting tips from the locals like he was searching for Elvis -- but ultimately comes up empty. As they say in the law, though, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
And if Tiger Woods -- or, for that matter, any celebrity -- were ensconced in a sex-addiction rehab program, writer Benoit Denizet-Lewis has the inside story on what it's like at the Pine Grove facility. Denizet-Lewis claims to have a source inside the walls there who's confirmed that Tiger is indeed there. And this is what Mr. Woods and his wife would be going through. Heavy, heavy-duty invasion-of-privacy alert here:
All of the programs rely heavily on intense group therapy sessions and on family and couple's therapy (if Tiger and his wife, Elin, are serious about repairing the marriage, she will be spending some time in treatment with Tiger). Sex rehabs also require patients (although they don't use that word, preferring "clients") to sign a "celibacy contract" that includes a pledge not to have sex with anyone, or to [NSFW -- let's just say "serve as one's own caddy" --JB], while in treatment.
[M]en who had repeatedly cheated on their wives had to write "empathy letters" to them, which would never be sent but were read in group and usually criticized for not being nearly empathetic enough. The wives, meanwhile, wrote painful "cost letters"-detailing how the addiction had affected them -- that were read to their husbands for the first time in group by another group member. Family therapy was also an important part of treatment for the patients, many of whom were on the brink of breakup or divorce.
Look, bottom line, if Tiger is indeed stricken with an addiction of any sort, we wish him nothing but the best in his recovery. It's an easy source of jokes, sure, but hopefully Tiger can use this time to get a handle on whatever demons he has and get back out on the course sooner rather than later.