Bloomberg Businessweek

RICH KIDS ANONYMOUS

IT’S EASY TO SNEER AT THE IDEA OF AFFLUENZA, BUT MAYBE THERE’S SOMETHING TO THE PREMISE THAT WEALTHY KIDS HAVE A PARTICULAR SET OF MENTAL HEALTH AND ADDICTION PROBLEMS
STAFF MEMBERS AT NEWPORT ACADEMY IN BETHLEHEM, CONN.

Tall, lean, and lantern-jawed, Jamison Monroe Jr. could pass for a third Winklevoss brother. His childhood in Texas, as he recalls it, was a series of misadventures with addiction: pretending to have ADHD in ninth grade to get Adderall; getting booted from his Houston prep school; being arrested five times and cycling through four rehabs, all with no real effect. He was a spoiled rich kid, the namesake of a prominent Houston financier. “I had such low self-esteem and such severe depression that drugs and alcohol worked,” Monroe says. Until, of course, they didn’t. “I did self-harm, cutting myself, burning myself, contemplating suicide. Plus a lot more cocaine, a lot more drinking, blacking out a lot more. Everything just got progressively worse and worse.”

Even at his life’s darkest moments, young Jamison had something available to him that thousands of other people don’t: seemingly limitless access to wealth. Despite going through a divorce, his parents could afford to help him through his DUIs and expulsions and send him anywhere in the world to get better. In 2006, after a host of false starts and detours, including a therapeutic wilderness program, he found the right place for him—a 30-day, $2,200-a-day program in Malibu with a full team of specialists drilling down into the root causes of his addictions. “I had a primary therapist, I had a family therapist, I had a recovery counselor, I had a spiritual therapist,” Monroe says. Slipping easily into the patois of recovery, he explains that the real culprit behind his drug use was a lack of self-worth that all the money in the world couldn’t help him overcome; all that overflowing privilege, he suggests, may have been part of the problem. “The focus was on my negative self-beliefs, which stem from early childhood—this feeling of not being good enough.”

When he emerged from the program he was 25, with no college degree, no career, and no obvious prospects. Six months later, Monroe came up with a startup idea. He went to his father and asked for the money to open a drug rehab facility of his own. It would have been comical if it weren’t also poignant: What do you do if you’re a young, rich screw-up who wants to help other young, rich screw-ups? Ask Dad to buy you a rehab.

Jamison Monroe Sr. let his son down gently. “It’s not happening at this point,”

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