Single Celebrities

Singular Profile: Pax Prentiss

April 25, 2011
By Kim Calvert
Photos by Todd Young

Meet the single dad, former heroin addict and co-founder of Passages Malibu, the most controversial and luxurious addiction-treatment center in the world.

Pax Prentiss at Passages Malibu: a single father, former heroin addict and co-author of The Alcoholism and Addiction Cure.

Pax Prentiss at Passages Malibu: a single father, former heroin addict and
co-author of The Alcoholism and Addiction Cure.

Pax Prentiss, former drug addict and now CEO of luxury addiction rehab Passages Malibu, has this to say about Charlie Sheen: “There’s a hole in his life that Charlie keeps filling with drugs and women, and he will keep filling it until he’s dead.” Prentiss should know. During his own descent into heroin and cocaine addiction, he came close to dying several times, including the night when drug dealers beat him, broke his jaw and almost buried him alive in the desert.

Charlie might not like that assessment, but when it comes to treating addiction, Sheen and Prentiss share some important common ground. Both adhere to the controversial idea that the AA 12-step model is not the answer for everyone. In his book co-authored with his father, The Alcoholism and Addiction Cure, Prentiss details his own vida loca — the lies, the stealing, the self-destruction. He also writes of his recovery, but concealed that he was raising a daughter by himself and that she was born while he was still “chasing the dragon.”

Pax Prentiss with his daughter Taylor whom he credits with motivating him to stop using drugs.

Pax Prentiss with his daughter Taylor whom he credits with
motivating him to stop using drugs.

“When Taylor was born, I had been in and out of treatment centers for about nine years, none of them sticking,” says the never-married Prentiss. He says he asked for custody of Taylor when it was clear her mother, a woman he had only casually dated, was not in a position to raise her. “The responsibility landed on me and I wanted it,” he says.

Pax and Chris Prentiss’s book outlines their cure for addiction.

Pax and Chris Prentiss’s book outlines their cure for addiction.

“Taylor was definitely motivation for me and helped me stay sober, but it took me another year before I actually achieved sobriety,” he says, adding that he wanted to protect his daughter until she could decide for herself if she wanted to be part of her father’s public story. “I didn’t want to bring her into it,” the 36-year-old Prentiss says. “But I’m fine with it now that she’s older.”

Although Prentiss credits his daughter with motivating him to get sober after numerous stays in rehabs, 12-step meetings and quitting cold turkey, he says his 10 years of sobriety is the result of an addiction-treatment approach he developed with his father. The younger Prentiss suggested they build Passages Malibu, and together they created the most luxurious, expensive and controversial addiction-treatment center in the world.

It’s controversial because unlike most drug and alcohol rehabs, Passages Malibu does not have any Alcoholics Anonymous “Big Books,” or sponsors or 12-step group meetings nor do they encourage their clients to join AA when they return home. Why would they? According to Prentiss, they’re cured.

“We don’t subscribe to any of the AA principles here,” the soft-spoken Prentiss says. “The 12-step model didn’t work for me and there are a lot of other people it doesn’t work for. The reason: AA doesn’t focus on healing the core issues. They want you to identify as an addict or an alcoholic for the rest of your life, and to me, that’s detrimental to healing. They also believe that it’s a disease. I don’t believe it’s a disease. I believe it’s caused by the underlying conditions.”

Pax Prentiss in front of the main house at Passages in Malibu, one of five “single family homes” where clients receive treatment during their stay.

Pax Prentiss in front of the main house at Passages in Malibu, one of five “single family homes” where clients receive treatment during their stay.

He says his own underlying condition came from feeling inferior to his father. “I was unsuccessful at the time, and I was insecure about it,” he says. “Heroin was a way of feeling better. It numbed the pain. When I discovered the reason, I worked on healing it through individual therapy, and that’s why I’ve been able to stay sober.”

Uncovering the core issues is what clients do when they come to Passages. Each person gets 70 hours of therapy from psychotherapists, marriage and family therapists, and hypnotherapists, along with acupuncture, acupressure, physical training, spiritual counseling, life purpose coaching plus gourmet meals, tennis courts, a swimming pool, spa services and plush accommodations overlooking the Pacific Ocean for $88,500 a month. Prentiss says clients at the 12-step-based Betty Ford Clinic get one hour of therapy a week something he calls an archaic treatment program. (The Betty Ford inpatient program costs $27,400 for 30 days.)

A June 2008 feature article in the LA Weekly lambasted Passages and the Prentiss father/son team.

A June 2008 feature article in the LA Weekly lambasted Passages and the Prentiss father/son team.

“I wanted to open a facility that offered individual therapy,” Prentiss says. “We immediately became successful because that’s what everybody wants. They don’t want to go to group meetings, they don’t want to be identified as an addict or alcoholic, and they don’t want to believe they have a disease.”

How long does it take to be cured? Prentiss says the average time is one to three months. Yet, he doesn’t recommend that Passages alumni try drinking or using when they go home. “I feel as though I could drink in a controlled fashion, but I also don’t desire to drink in a controlled fashion,” he says. “I just don’t desire it. A lot of the clients who graduate from here don’t desire it either, but I do know people who have gone back to drinking normally.”

Their non-conventional treatment philosophy has generated a lot of anger from the recovery community and skeptical reactions from some members of the media. Writer Mark Groubert blasted Passages in a 2008 cover story for the LA Weekly titled “Buying the Cure at Passages Malibu,” calling the Prentisses “the Holocaust deniers of the addiction-recovery industry.”

Pax Prentiss says that Groubert set them up. “He called Passages and said he wanted to do an article on the best rehab in L.A. I said great, come to Passages.” Prentiss says he let Groubert stay there for two days. “He was so nice when he was here, but the whole thing was a setup. He had those intentions from the beginning. His intent was to slam us. That’s what he does, he writes hit pieces. We get slammed by people in the 12-step programs as well they’re down on us too.”

Pax Prentiss conducts serious business at Passages  but there are moments of laughter.

Pax Prentiss conducts serious business at Passages – but there are moments of laughter.

Despite the skepticism and 12-steppers “throwing spears,” Prentiss says they get numerous referrals from therapists and doctors, and business is booming. He says people come to Passages from all over the world. Their clients include celebrities and corporate titans, as well as middle-class people who have health insurance often staying at Passages for as little as a $4,000 co-payment.

Prentiss catches a big one. Fishing is one of his favorite past times. Photo courtesy of Pax Prentiss.

Prentiss catches a big one. Fishing is one of his favorite past times. Photo courtesy of Pax Prentiss.

Besides the Malibu location, the Prentiss father-and-son team have a less expensive facility in Ventura ($32,500 per month), are planning to build one in Santa Barbara and have discussed a fourth location in the Hamptons. Prentiss says he also wants to open a nonprofit program for youth and another for homeless adults.

Prentiss says he splits his time between work and raising his daughter. Now that she’s 11 and more independent, he says he wants to start dating again, although he says he’s somewhat mystified by how, who and where.

“I’m certainly ready to start going out again,” Prentiss says, “but I don’t really know where to begin. It’s challenging doing it on your own. With things like homework and school duties, you don’t get to go out at night. I love spending time with my daughter, but it would be nice to go out once in a while too.”

While most women would view the attractive, successful co-owner of Passages Malibu a “hot property,” there’s the scary part too. After all, Prentiss did relapse numerous times before finding his cure, and spent a good part of his life strung out on heroin and cocaine not the kind of thing most women want to read on a Match.com profile. So for now, most nights out are daddy-daughter dates, like going to a recent taping of American Idol  a show they often watch at home after dinner and homework, for their before-bedtime “appointment.”

“She has a clear idea about not using drugs or alcohol,” Prentiss says about his daughter, Taylor.

“She has a clear idea about not using
drugs or alcohol,” Prentiss says about
his daughter, Taylor.

Yet he does manage to squeeze some grown-up fun into his life. You might see him at the Commons in Calabasas enjoying movies (which he loves) or eating breakfast at the Rose Café, a longtime favorite. He likes to get away to La Paz, where he keeps a boat and goes deep-sea fishing for tuna and marlin. He enjoys hunting game like bighorn sheep and mule deer, and recently returned from a solo trip to Puerto Vallarta. “I was there for a week,” he says. “No girlfriend, no daughter, no work totally alone at the Four Seasons. I needed a break.”

He says that Taylor knows what he did when he was younger and knows that drugs and alcohol are not good something she tells her friends at school. “She’s had a good upbringing,” Prentiss says. “She has a clear idea about not using drugs or alcohol.” He says it’s one reason they live in Calabasas, not Venice where he grew up.

Prentiss says the best thing a parent can do is to lead by example, which is what he says he’s tried to do with Taylor. “There’s no time for drugs and alcohol, let me tell you,” he says about being a single dad. “It helps me stay sober. She keeps me out of trouble.”

Words: Copyright © Kim Calvert/2011 Singular Communications, LLC.
Photos: Copyright ©Todd Young/Young Studios.

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  4. […] out of treatment centers for about nine years, none of them sticking,” single dad Prentiss told Singular magazine in a profile on him in 2011. “Taylor was definitely motivation for me and helped me stay sober, […]

  5. Jack says:

    Good read. Super frustrating to read some of these comments, so, here’s my two cents:

    I guess for a lot of people, AA is the only way. The US has such a problem w/ drugs. A mate of mine is at Passages Malibu right now. Pain pills, etc. he did the NA thing for a spell and it didn’t take. My question: is that really all there is? Couldn’t there be more than one solution to a problem?

    I guess all I wanted to say is that the 12 step thing, etc, maybe its not for everyone. Everybody has their favourite way to do virtually everything here, and heaven forbid if you suggest any alternative. I’m hopeful for my friend. Took a visit out there once and it was beautiful. Seems unfair to call Pax and Passages a load of nasty names.

    • Kevin says:

      Being open-minded to the thought that other forms of recovery can work is important, I myself prefer the program of AA and the life that it has blessed me with today, however people can and do find other roads to recovery sometimes. The real danger is in prentiss trying to tell people that alcoholism IS NOT a disease! 100 years of constant study and research has proven without a shadow of a doubt that this IS a disease by the very definition of the word, and to tell someone that has a chronic and progressive disease that they are “cured” is putting a dangerous weapon in the hands of very sick people. I believe other forms of recovery do exists and there is nothing wrong with that! But shame on you Pax for the lies you have spread that have cost many people their lives.

  6. mickeba says:

    Pax is a phony and a clown, and he’s come up with a great way to bilk people out of 88 grand a month. Pax calls himself a “former addict.” So I guess Pax can now use heroin without fear of problems since he’s a “former addict”? Passages is a fraud and a joke.

  7. Bruce says:

    “Rarely have we seen a person fail, who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover, are people who can not or will not completely give themselves to this simple program. Usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves.”

    Enough said. AA does not say it is the ONLY WAY,.It does say you can RECOVER if you follow a simple program. Don’t use. Pretty simple.

  8. Sherrill says:

    It is truly a nice and helpful piece of info. I’m glad that you just shared this useful info with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Beatrice says:

    Everyone is different, lets embrace new ways of treatment. If you have a headache and ibuprofen works better for you rather than taking aspirin, do you neglect the fact that aspirin works for others?

  10. Heroin Cure says:

    Not sure what the fuss is all about. I see a lot of haters on here. Some people got there panties in a bunch.

  11. Ibogaine says:

    Some people want to claim they are diseased and some people refuse to be labeled. Some people need to wake up.

  12. [...] out of treatment centers for about nine years, none of them sticking,” single dad Prentiss told Singular magazine in a profile on him in 2011. “Taylor was definitely motivation for me and helped me stay sober, [...]

  13. Jan BW says:

    Alcohol and addiction treatment is never one size fits all. To say that AA or Passages is the only way are clearly not sustainable statements. Both work for some but not all.

    I’ve been drug free for 22 years by moving away from the people and places that I associated with getting high. I quit cold turkey when I found out I was 2 months pregnant. I was a better than 1k a week coker not a recreational user.

    I’ve since been around people doing it from time to time but it doesn’t have the hold on me it once did. I needed to change my life, the people I was with and the environment I put myself in.

    My point is different treatments work for different people. There is no right or wrong. Find the one that works for you and embrace it.

  14. toni alexander says:

    Ialso dont Like to remind myself every day that I cant be cured. Went to rehab, I know that there is a lot inmy terrible past that is the cause of my addictions . Looking forward to finising the book. So far it is helping me identify.

  15. mike savage says:

    Nice if you can afford it. if not go to a aa meeting read the big books
    first 168 pages do the steps with another alcoholic that has done them and you may get sober. I did

  16. Stephan says:

    I’m 53 years old and have been in and out of treatment programs many times in my adult life. These have consisted of inpatient, out patient, relapse prevention and 12 step programs. I used crystal meth and then crack cocaine for a lot of years. I’ve been in and out of “the rooms” many, many times. To tell me that I’ve been unwilling or mentally incapable of giving myself completely to these simple concepts is an insult. Sure the 12 step program works for a lot of people but it also doesn’t work for a lot of people. If I’m not mistaken, the success rate for people attempting the 12 step method is about 10%. Not very high in this persons opinion. A lot of times I’ve attended 12 step meetings and really just wanted to go get a bag of dope afterwards. Who wants to drag up and recollect their drug/alcohol use and abuse for the rest of their lives, not me. There are many non-12 step recovery programs out there and I am not condemning or condoning any of them, I’m just saying that maybe 12 step programs aren’t the only way to quit using drugs and alcohol. I’m not saying 12 step programs don’t work because they obviously do for some people and God bless them, let them continue with their recovery with my prayers for success for them. I’ve known people who haven’t succeded in 12 step programs but have sincerely given their lives to God and are still clean and sober to this day. I also know of people who have just outgrown their addictions. I’m not an addiction expert but I do believe we as a society should continue to explore the issue and offer as many reasonable recovery options as we can. If Pax’s program works for some then it is a successful program.

    • Stephan says:

      As a follow up:
      I’m not condemning nor condoning this program. I’m just saying don’t knock it just because you can’t afford it. I haven’t attended nor can I afford to attend it. Maybe in the future we’ll have the right cure but until then we need to keep exploring!

  17. steve f. says:

    The only ones for whom the 12 steps do not work are those who haven’t tried it enough or those born with severe mental impairment. Pax unfortunately qualifies for at least one of these catagories. To hear him on his TV commercial blatantly making the statement that “this is not a 12 step program, it works” negates the fact that countless millions of hopeless addicts and alcoholics have become able to transform into useful, healthy, and happy members of society in most cases for the rest of their lives. If this “cured” young entreprenuer was indeed an addict or alcoholic and manages to survive when he relapses again he will still be welcomed into the 12 step rooms with open arms. It’s a great shame though that many people who might have otherwise had a chance to recover will have died directly as a result of the deadly misinformation spread by Pax and his father.

    • Zephyr Waddell says:

      I’ve known Pax since preschool. He has a huge heart, and isn’t in it only for the money. They have always lived well. He may or may not be right, everybody is unique. But he does this because he cares and wants to make a difference.

  18. robert says:

    Unfortunately lots of alcoholics and addicts will die trying this method. This is method here is simply an easier softer way and ultimately will not work. The only recovery program that works longterm is aa. It’s been around since 1935. Much longer than this over-priced method here.

    • Luann says:

      A lot of alcoholics/addicts will die even trying AA; a lot of alcoholics/addicts will die doing nothing. It’s up to the individual to get help and there must be options whether they are 12 steps bc it’s a disease or Prentiss’ program bc it’s a psychological issue.

  19. Lori says:

    i wanted to try to contact Pax. I read his dad’s books and have tried two times to conact the Malibu Passages Rebab center for treatmetn for my 23 year old daughter. I feel I am dealt with in a snoppish way. I need $18,500 to even begin to talk about treatment. I am discouraged with other treament programs I have experienced with my daughter and my brother. I guess you have to be rich to get better treatment. My dauther is on Medi-Cal – due to her continued post-partum depression and continued struggle with drugs. I have called Passages 3 times now – and had to go to a cheaper treament which was outpatient and not what my dauther needs. I have read Pax’s father book and feel that this is a real – different and probably more effective treatment to my daughter’s problems – working on what is hurting and wrong on the inside and then on the outside.

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