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Video: Ex-ESPN analyst: Broken people go to rehab

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    >> nbc news, new york.

    >> and steve phillips joins us now exclusively. steve, good morning. good to have you here.

    >> good morning.

    >> with all that's happened with your family, with your career, with the sex treatment facility, you could have come out and you could have gone completely underground and i'm just curious why you decided to talk to us?

    >> well, it was hard to watch that lead-in. that was sad. there's a lot of sadness there. i think i look at it and i think that what people need to understand, what i want to do is take ownership. i mean, i made some mistakes. and people look at sex addiction as an excuse. it's not an excuse. i'm fully responsible for everything i did and accept responsibility for that. sex addiction is a diagnosis. it's what you recognize, the problem that you have where you have to try to go and get some help, which is what i did.

    >> jeff rossen just said there is a diagnostic criteria that has to be met. what is that? because people do think, for someone of high profile who gets caught in a scandal, this is kind of a modern-day get out of jail free card. what is the criteria?

    >> yeah. i recognized in august that i had a real problem, that i was a sex addict and i needed to get help. i started calling facilities in august well before everything blew up and really before there was a problem and i lost my job. i made a decision to get help on a friday before the sunday when i got fired. so i was going to go get help. i realized i had a problem and i needed to get help. i think it's a compulsion where you can't stop and you understand the consequences. the first step of the 12 steps is you're powerless over your addiction and in your life it gets unmanageable it wasn't anybody else. it was me. i couldn't stop myself from doing the things that i was doing, even knowing the consequences -- married, great job, great career, and i risked all of that, risked all of that to act out the way that i did.

    >> you said there's a lot of sadness in that piece when you watched it. when you listened to the phone call of your wife, the 911 call, where she's talking about brooke hundley coming to your house. we've already said that she sent text messages to your wife. she actually contacted one of your sons online, pretending to be someone else and asked questions about your marriage. what goes through your mind when you hear those things?

    >> it's sad. i mean, i think about all my family's gone through. you know, when you talk about victims with all of this, people chose to participate in a relationship, but my wife and kids didn't. and with what my wife and kids have gone through and the trauma that they've faced not only from having a father and a husband that's a sex addict , but the trauma of the incident, the trauma of the media attention afterwards and then me going away for 45 days, they've been through a lot.

    >> you lost your job, but so did brooke hundley. she was young, 22 or 23 at the time, as she said in that piece, so she's a victim also. although you say she chose to be in the relationship. if you could talk to her -- first of all, have you spoken to her?

    >> no.

    >> what would you say to her?

    >> i don't think it would be appropriate. the way i look at it is that is all in the past. my focus is trying to move forward, trying to save my family. i'm not wishing ill on anybody. i think everybody needs to move on with their lives and try to put the pieces back together.

    >> talk to me about the process at this clinic, gentle pass in mississippi. it has been reported that tiger woods is there as well. can you share any of what it's like? and in particular, what's it like for the week, i understand the spouse of the person treated is asked to come and be a part of the therapy is it.

    >> yeah, people who go there are broken people. that's really the essence of the addiction is you're broken inside and you've got a hole that you tried to fill, whether it was with alcohol or drugs, sex or gambling, with whatever. and so, you've got a lot of broken people there that are struggling to find answers. and really, that's what you do is you go there and they try to get to the basis of why did you do what you did, and for most addicts, whether it's alcohol or sex or whatever, it's that you have that hole inside based upon shame and trauma that you've incurred from a childhood --

    >> was there an ah hah moment for you during therapy? do you now have a better understanding -- and by the way, i should mention this is not the first time you've gone to a clinic for that. so, clearly, the first time it didn't work. are you able to sit in front of me today and say you're healed, you're repaired, you're better able to deal with it?

    >> yeah. the first time, back in '98, you're referencing with the mets, when i had another scandal, i didn't go to a clinic. i just got some local therapy and really didn't get diagnosed properly. so, i tried to manage everything on my own. i didn't get in the system, didn't get in a program, didn't get the appropriate help that i needed it was my issue. i didn't realize it back then. i did get to the basis of my issue, that reality that when i made a mistake, it wasn't i made a mistake, i thought it was a mistake, that when i failed, i thought i was a failure, when i disappointed somebody, i internalized it that i am a disappointment. and that hole is something that i looked for some way to medicate and fill. and most addicts that i've been around that's been a similar story. so, i've gotten to the basis that i need to try to resolve those issues on my own.

    >> i have just a few seconds left, steve. the status of your marriage right now, you and marni, you're together?

    >> i'm working my tail off to try to save my marriage. i've broken my wife's heart and she's had to deal with so many issues trying to keep the family together. we went to therapy together and we're working hard to try to do that. i don't know what the ultimate result will be, because i've damaged her and our relationship in a terrible way.

    >> i know it's not easy to sit here and talk about it. i appreciate you coming in this morning.

    >> thank you.

By
TODAY contributor
updated 2/8/2010 11:15:43 AM ET 2010-02-08T16:15:43

It’s a familiar story: Celebrity male is caught cheating on his wife, declares himself a sex addict, goes through a treatment program, and comes out looking for forgiveness. To the public, it can all look like little more than an easy way to rehabilitate an image and deny responsibility for bad behavior.

Before Tiger Woods was the celebrity reportedly undergoing the sex addiction treatment, it was former ESPN baseball analyst Steve Phillips. And, Phillips told TODAY’s Matt Lauer Monday in New York, it’s a very real and devastating addiction.

“People look at sex addiction as an excuse; it’s not an excuse. I’m fully responsible for everything that I did and accept responsibility for that,” Phillips said in his first interview since leaving the Gentle Path sex addiction program at the same Mississippi treatment center that is said to have just finished treating Woods.

What the 46-year-old Phillips did was devastate his family and destroy a bright and lucrative career.

“I’ve broken my wife’s heart,” Phillips said. “I’ve damaged her and our relationship in a terrible way.”

Disastrous liaison
Last August, Brooke Hundley, a 22-year-old production assistant at ESPN, told Phillips’ wife, Marni, that she had had an affair with him. Hundley, who also contacted Phillips’ 16-year-old son through the Internet, posing as a classmate, confronted Marni Phillips in front of her home. Terrified, Marni Phillips called the police on the young woman.

Phillips’ sex addiction had gotten him in trouble before. In 1998, while he was the general manager of the New York Mets, a co-worker filed a sexual harassment suit against him that forced him to take a brief leave of absence from his job. The case was settled out of court.

Phillips told Lauer that he knew he had a problem back then, but he didn’t look at it as an addiction.

“I didn’t go to a clinic; I just got some local therapy,” he said. “I tried to manage everything on my own. I didn’t get the appropriate help that I needed.”

TODAY
Steve Phillips lost his job as a baseball analyst for ESPN after it was revealed he had had an affair with 22-year-old production assistant Brooke Hundley.
Everything finally came crashing down when he had three sexual adventures with Hundley last summer. After the affair ended, Hundley contacted Marni and then the eldest of the Phillips’ four sons. When Marni made her 911 call after Hundley confronted her in her own driveway, the story hit the New York tabloids, which had a field day with the salacious story.

“I think of all that my family’s gone through,” Phillips said. “People choose to participate in a relationship, but my wife and kids didn’t. With what my wife and kids have gone through, the trauma that they’ve faced, not only from having a father and a husband that’s a sex addict, but the trauma of the media attention, they’ve been through a lot.”

Seeking help
Phillips told Lauer that he actually realized he was out of control after he broke off the affair with Hundley. 

“I started calling facilities in August, well before everything blew up, and before there really was a problem where I ended up losing my job,” he said. “I knew I had a problem; I needed to get help.”

TODAY
Phillips said that he is “working his tail off” to save his relationship with his wife, Marni.
By the time he entered treatment in October, both Phillips and Hundley had been fired by ESPN. Now living in California, Hundley told NBC News that she regrets what happened.

“I’m sorry for him and his family. I’m sorry for my family. I was 22; I made some mistakes. If I could take them back, I would, OK?” she said.

The program Phillips completed is a 12-step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, whose first step calls on members to recognize that they are powerless over their addictions and their lives have become unmanageable.

“People who go there are broken people,” Phillips explained. “That’s really the essence of the addiction, that you’re broken inside. You’ve got a hole that you’ve tried to fill, whether it was with alcohol or drugs or sex or gambling, with whatever.

“You go there and try to get the basics of why did you do what you did,” he added. “For most addicts, whether it’s alcohol or sex or whatever, it is that you have that hole inside based upon shame and trauma that occurred from childhood.”

Uncertain future
Phillips did not address his specific trauma, instead choosing to address how it affected him.

Slideshow: Celebrity scandals “I did get to the basis of my issue,” he told Lauer. “When I made a mistake, it wasn’t that I made a mistake, I thought I was a mistake. When I failed, I thought I was a failure. When I disappointed somebody, I internalized it that I was a disappointment.”

And he tried to make it better by having sex with women other than his wife.

Marni Phillips filed for divorce last fall, but the couple are together since Phillips completed his 45-day treatment program and are trying to work out their problems. He said it’s not easy, and it’s by no means certain that they will not divorce.

“I’m working my tail off to try to save my marriage,” Phillips said. “I don’t know what the ultimate result will be.”

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