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

Singular Profile: Pax Prentiss


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 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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46 thoughts on “Singular Profile: Pax Prentiss

  1. I received the art of happiness book from my sister. I’ve struggled with heroin addiction for 12 years. Reading that book left me with the thought that I do need to find out WHY I USE! Ive thried AA and NA and HA and done the 60,90,120 meeting and I was high at everyone. It just dont workcause I desreve a for me. I cant just convince myself that Im a washed up addict for life. That seems so degrading to me! I hate that it is so expensive but it is in MALIBUI! Hints the Expensive part. but I am going to try to get me some badass insurance and see if that can get me in there because I wast to expierence this first hand. If you can get me to know what it wrong inside of me that makes me crave this horrible self destructive pattern in my life then GOD BLESS because I am so tired! Ive tried all the cheap detoxes and rehabs and prisons and jails and maybe I can get DR.Phil to pay for this one for me. I deserve a real change ! And I dont think these men are bad because they are good at business. They are just other people who have the same desires to be treated well, avoid suffering, and enjoy life , just like everyone else , every species , in this world .

  2. Right here is the perfect web site for anyone who really wants to
    find out about this topic. You understand a whole lot its almost tough to argue with you (not that I
    actually will need to…HaHa). You definitely put a brand new
    spin on a topic that’s been written about for ages.

    Wonderful stuff, just wonderful!

  3. All the AA folk nail their own coffin. I had 5 years sober in AA until I realized everyone left the meetings to come tell everyone else AA is the only way. AA has great unity. Past that you dont need 47928 steps to realize your a drunk for certain reasons. It is my personal opinion that those in AA are weak. I have been sober 9 years and have an amazing life. Enjoy the bullshit and relapse AA offers. (Which has a 7% success rate)

  4. – I have been clean and sober for fourteen years and I did it the old fashion way getting a sponcer and going to AA meating all the time. I he wants to con people to go through his wonderful program he will be shaking your hand and taking the check from the other. I really thing the only way to do it is if you really want to quit. No matter how you do it either through A A or Passages whatevery keeps you sober. I was told a long time ago when I first went into the program my knees where knocking and I got a sponcer that night after the meating. The first thing out of his mouth was if you want what I have.. You have to do what I do. He also suggested that I do 90 and 90. Which is 90 meeting in 90 days, Long story short I’m very greatful for what I have and for my higher power to get me through this day. I’m not worried about tomarrow and yesterday is gone.


  5. It’s kind of crazy that everyone is leaving out the fact that many treatment centers, even the one sitter 12-step immersion programs, deal with internal issues such as child abuse , not living up to your parents expectations, past hurts pains , feelings of shame , self-esteem issues, regrets, abandonment, guilt, anger, trauma and the list goes on and on…..

    As neurobiology continues to strive to assess information on the addicted brain, what we see is that there is a kind of a switch that goes off in the brain of person to have an addiction disorder. They react differently than those who do not have an addiction disorder. This person can become a chronic alcoholic/addict their addiction can become progressive, and it can be fatal. That by definition is a disease. I think the The question here is “how does a person arrest the disease”. Here there is definitely much controversy.
    In my opinion, I don’t care how anyone gets sober, just get sober. There are 23 million Americans who are in treatment right now, there are 23 million people who are in recovery right now in America, and there’s millions and millions he will never be able to get into treatment because he can’t afford it ! We have an epidemic problem in America and something needs to be done about it. Everyone’s been affected by addiction families, children, employers common in a specially the medical community who has to deal with the overdoses and deaths caused by drunk drivers and addicts every day. Separating ourselves doesn’t help this problem. We need to come together as a unified front, to love those who are suffering, to help anyone that crosses our path with an addiction problem and extinguish the stigma that addiction carries.

    I got sober in Alcoholics Anonymous, after a 20 year addiction . For the life of me I could care less how anyone gets sober, just get sober. It’s a beautiful life not having to use a chemical to anesthetize my feelings anymore. I’m happy, I’m joyous, and I’m free. I carry the message of love and hope and for that I am eternally grateful.

  6. You AA’s that are knocking this just remember what your book says… says AA is a way but not the only way. Different strokes for different folks. I would never be so arrogant as to say AA is the only way. It might be for me or it might be for you, but might not be for someone else. Some people get sober and stay sober just by praying to God. Are they wrong? You are the one who should not be a fool.

    1. I have to read, and I’ve read all the replies, I’ve yet to read where ANYONE wrote the AA is the only way. No where, Doug, have I read that statement.

  7. He thinks he is a model in his pics. This guy is a joke. It’s wrong how he is taking advantage of so many people (I went to this place) what a joke. The good comments on here by the way I GUARENTEED are rebuttles from his employees.

    1. – Hey Fred… He was an acctic for ten years… Now he’s not…. Does this mean Pax is cured…. Really

  8. I did Mailbu Passages, i had 10 years of hard drinking behind me burnt well over a million dollars. 90 days later i have been sober ever since don’t even think about drinking. People drink for a reason face it.The only person that can change that is the 1 in the mirror no amount of steps can provide this understanding its that simple you drink for a reason find out what it is deal with it and alcohol will fade like a bad memory.Hell i even drink 1 or 2 beers if its hot enough and it never even enters my mind that i was once an alcoholic. and that million i burned i have made it back 3 times over.The power is in your head use it

  9. He wants the controversy to drum up business, which is why he makes those statements in his commercial. If he choses not to attempt drinking or using now that he’s “cured” then how could he possibly know whether or not he could use safely now.

  10. Hi left out, I hear what you are saying! I would suggest that you try and take her to a 12 step in a mainstream church and that should get her stsrted. Ig she really wants to be clean it will work! No money spent. Much luck. Laurie

  11. 1. Formal detoxification treatment with introduction to a 12 step program
    2. Inpatient rehab with a continued participation in your new 12 step program
    3. Daily AA meetings and acquisition of a 12 step sponsor. (90 in 90, more if necessary)
    4. Read your “Just For Today” , “One Day At A Time” or any other means you choose to use
    as a daily affirmation not to “pick-up”.
    5. Feel like getting high? Get to a meeting, call your sponsor……… that has to be your first
    The most important ingredient is the users commitment to stop and learning where the
    nearest support is.

    It’s worked for MILLIONS. Once you GET IT, you’ve GOT IT!!

  12. If this were truly a way to “cure” those with addictions & Pax truly wanted to help people then he wouldn’t be charging $88,000 a month!! He just switched one vice for another (drugs & alcohol for money & fame). Nothing worse then someone who profits off others’ weaknesses. Most people can’t afford their local rehab facilities because they lack insurance so Mr. Prentiss runs a business that purposely was started to target the wealthy. Mr. Prentiss if you TRULY want to help others then make rehab & your “cure” affordable to EVERYONE who NEEDS it not to just those that can afford it!!!

  13. There are certainly other ways of getting sober and AA admits that if you find another way our hats are off to you. But, Pax has 10 years or so sober, and that is good but only scratches the surface, as told in the Big Book, there was a man that waited 25 years and was very successful in business. When he retired he started drinking again and he was dead in 4 years. Now I don’t tell anyone what they should do, I only suggest what worked for me and I don’t take credit for my sobriety, I give all the credit to God. I never heard that mentioned in the article, so I just hope he has a spiritual solution as I have found in AA. I just don’t think we should make money on people that need our help, we need to give what was given to us – Freely.

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  16. 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.

    1. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. “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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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?

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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

    1. How can you afford it. Oh my God this guy is making Bank. This is supposed to help people. I think it only helps his wallet. How can people afford this?

  24. 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.

    1. 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!

  25. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. Then why not make it affordable to everyone?! I’m a nurse & I help people of all walks of life. If he were truly wanting to help others & he’s so convinced his way is the “cure” then help everyone not just those who can afford it.

  26. 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.

    1. 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.

  27. 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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