Last year, at the Colorado Gold Conference, I gained a full understanding of the inner workings of the tormented psyche of Britney Spears.

Yes, that’s right. Our favorite crash’‘n’burn starlet? I totally get her mindset. Totally. The head-shaving, panty-flashing celebrity is simply a victim of spotlight addiction.

For a few short hours that weekend, I was a celebrity. Or at least, I felt like one. I won the Colorado Gold writing contest, sponsored by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers – an extraordinarily generous group of talented people.

I was presented with my award at the conference banquet. I stood on stage, for the first time in my life, and looked out on a vast sea of faces, all upturned, contemplating
..moi. There were flashbulbs popping out in the crowd. There was a plaque, and even a check. There were warm congratulatory hugs and the very gracious kudos of my talented fellow finalists.

As I said, this is a wonderful group of people. After the awards banquet, and even the next day, everyone I passed in the hall stopped to congratulate me. Writers I respect and admire – writers I practically worship – told me they were proud of me, and let me tell you, that is heady stuff. I was dizzy. I was drunk on fame.

The next day, after the conference ended, I celebrated with a shopping trip at the mall across the street. And can you believe it? Nobody there knew who I was!

The papparazzi were nowhere to be found. Nobody came up and hugged me. Nobody.

Damn.

Finally, I walked into Anne Taylor, and a blonde woman trotted up to me, grinned hugely, and said, “Ooooh! Hi!” with insane enthusiasm. She was stupendously glad to see me. My head, which is generally a bit, um, oversized, was so grossly inflated at this point that I knew that, of course, she recognized me, and I stood there, smiling modestly, my heart leaping.

But she was a salesclerk. A salesclerk who was really, really excited about the shop’s current pants promotion. I could get my second pair for half-price, she told me, still grinning and practically bounding toward a display of the latest cotton twill flares.

I felt oddly bereft. I realized, finally, that my fifteen minutes was irrevocably over.

So. Back to Britney. In her heyday, she was pursued by hordes of squealing fans and camera-wielding papparazzi. The poor girl could barely twitch an eyelid without having it recorded on film. It was probably really annoying, but, wow. She must have felt pretty special.

Then the limelight started to fade. People weren’t paying attention anymore. Unless, of course, she did something outrageous – flashed her panties, married the losingest guy in show business, or juggled a toddler and a Starbucks cup like a drunken circus clown.

Britney doesn’t need rehab for drugs and alcohol. I suspect that most celebrities – Lindsey, Paris, and the gang – are tragically addicted to a very expensive and tragically toxic substance: the spotlight.
I think I’’ll recover. I’m getting better already. But for those with a tougher habit, formal rehab might be necessary. I’’m thinking six months in a cabin in the woods, with only a surly octogenarian woodcutter for companionship.

And by the way, in Spotlight Rehab, no dogs are allowed. No boyfriends, either.

Because when I got home, mine made me feel like a celebrity all over again.