John and Mackenzie Phillips have traipsed through life as addicts, periodically being arrested, then entering treatment and boasting of their recovery, then marketing their success and new image.  But all of this has been a fraud, harmful to themselves most of all.


The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, September 24, 2009. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at

John and Mackenzie Phillips - Recovery Family of the Century

John and Mackenzie Phillips on the cover of PeopleJohn and Mackenzie Phillips are models of American addiction. Their story perpetuates the American myth of recovery - of a medical disease that strikes people randomly and is remedied by confession.   Although this mythical journey, repeated ad infinitum, periodically refreshed their finances, it ruined their psyches and souls.

In 1981, the Phillipses appeared on the cover of People Magazine around their treatment for cocaine addiction through the administration of the drug Clonidine by legendary addiction doctor, Mark Gold, at Fair Oaks Hospital in Summit New Jersey.  According to the article:

"The family's once brilliant spark had nearly flickered out. 'I know Mackenzie felt she would never be able to live again without cocaine,' says her father. 'And I felt there was no life for me after heroin.'

Medicine would prove them wrong. After months of treatment in a unique New Jersey rehabilitation program designed by Dr. Mark S. Gold, 31, the Phillipses are near recovery. 'John was the key,' says Gold."

(Fair Oaks was part of the chain of mental hospitals, Psychiaric Institutes of America , which was prosecuted by both the federal government and a number of states for insurance fraud, performing unnecessary procedures, payoffs for referrals, misdiagnosis, etc. - thank God nothing like that occurs now!)

Immediately following the article, John and Mackenzie embarked on their "recovery" concert tour. Mackenzie has now revealed to People and the world that she and her father were having sex - part of a decade long "affair" - in this period, as well as continuing their rampant drug use.

Mackenzie (who is now 49) made this revelation in anticipation of the publication of her memoir, High on Arrival. She declared on the Orpah show that she was moved to write her autobiography after getting clean following her arrest with drugs last year at LAX:

"I'm still here for a reason. I think the universe shows us some purpose for our lives when you think there's not hope left."

Does being arrested, coming clean, and staging a major media appearance to commend yourself remind you of anything? In 1981 in People, John Phillips declared about being arrested the year before: "It was the best thing that ever happened to me," leading to his recovery at the hands of Dr. Gold and Clonidine. Phillips was given a suspended sentence soon after due to his highly publicized recovery, while Mark Gold became a celebrity addiction guru.

Thus continues the saga of the Phillipses, who made a career combining drug use, highly publicized episodes of recovery (according to the People article, John had already been in rehab seven times before), and continued commercial enterprises. Their formula: Get arrested, admit your addiction, get treated, gain publicity, keep taking drugs.

The 1981 People article proudly announced:

"The combined treatment has cost $62,500, but the Phillips family has regained health-and the courage to tell its horror story in hope of helping others. 'The only way I can clear my name,' says Mackenzie, "is to admit, 'This is what I have been through, this is how bad it is, and this is what I don't want other people to do.' " John, who faces up to a 15-year prison term and a $25,000 fine April 7, is a living sermon. 'It's very hard to make yourself an exhibit, to hold your arm out for people to look at,' says Phillips. 'But I don't want anyone else to go through all the things my family has.'"

Now, more than a quarter century later, the saga continues. If she stays in good health, Mackenzie can perpetuate the cycle any number of times. John never quit "recovering." Among other great moments in their epic tale, John got a liver transplant ten years after the People story, following which the National Enquirer photographed him at a bar.

Here is one more "fun" fact from John's memoir (yes, he wrote one too lauding his recovery, in 1986, while he was still screwing Mackenzie). The NY Times reviewer was not entirely convinced by John's story:

"Phillips is not altogether realistic about himself. He recalls that when he was a postman, he threw mail away because his mailbags were too heavy; as a graveyard plot salesman, he received down payments, pocketed the money and never recorded the transactions. Still, on page 297 of a 444 page book, in reporting how he skipped out on a $2,000 hotel bill, he writes, 'My values were beginning to corrode under the prolonged influence of hard drugs.'"

The Phillips saga is about America's inability to deal realistically with people who use drugs, to allow them to admit it, and to formulate realistic treatment for them - other than confession and promises to abstain.