Many courageous celebrities are coming forward and sharing what it’s like to battle addiction with their fans, inspiring thousands of people to embrace recovery and sobriety.
Almost daily, we hear about yet another celebrity being checked into a rehab center or having a relapse. My patients often say that celebs are lucky because they have the money to get the best treatment possible, and therefore their recovery is much easier. Celeb rehabs are often imagined as spa resorts where one gets spoilt rotten with massages, eats meals cooked by high-end chefs, and hangs out with other famous people. However, while I am sure that rehabs that specialize in supporting celebrities offer luxurious surroundings and top-quality specialists, it can be more difficult for the stars to stay clean and sober when they go back to their everyday life after their treatment.
“Being in recovery has given me everything of value that I have in my life. Integrity, honesty, fearlessness, faith, a relationship with God, and most of all gratitude. It’s given me a beautiful family and an amazing career. I’m under no illusions where I would be without the gift of alcoholism and the chance to recover from it.”
Surrounded by temptations, with alcohol and drugs often normalized, glamorized, and easily accessible, without a permanent home, family, or daily routine, celebrities are more likely to relapse because it is difficult for them to break their established habits. And if you know what it’s like to feel ashamed, guilty, and discouraged when you had a relapse, imagine what it’s like for a celebrity. Their struggles and failures are instantly made public, with reporters hunting them, bloggers bombarding them with hurtful comments, and advertisers and even charities dropping them as their spokespeople.
It is a very public humiliation, and I am sure that we all still vividly remember the high-profile meltdowns of Britney Spears, Lindsey Lohan, Mel Gibson, David Hasselhoff, and Charlie Sheen. Drew Barrymore famously went into rehab at the age of 13, Daniel Radcliffe admitted that he drank a lot while filming the last three Harry Potter movies, and Eric Clapton counts himself lucky to have survived a cocaine addiction. Johnny Depp, who used to be a co-owner of The Viper Room, the ill-fated night club at which River Phoenix fatally overdosed, is also a recovering addict.
“I believe alcoholism is a disease. I don’t think you can mess with it. There was a time when people who didn’t know me well would say, ‘Couldn’t you just have one glass of champagne?’ And I would say, ‘No.’ I’m doing well. Why risk it?”
Sadly, many other incredibly talented people didn’t make it: Whitney Houston, Heath Ledger, Bruce Lee, Brittany Murphy, Michael Jackson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Judy Garland, Elvis Presley, David Kennedy, Prince, Peaches Geldof, Chris Kelly, Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, and John Belushi are among the many people killed by their addiction.
“If you’re an alcoholic or a drug addict, we flirt with death. We pull ourselves to the brink of destruction and if we’re lucky we pull ourselves back. We all have that in us.”
It is always inspiring for me to see when celebrities have the courage to get treatment, are honest about their struggles, and become inspirational role models when they manage to stay sober. Ben Affleck, who famously lost his family and many acting gigs because of his alcohol addiction, for instance, has been very open about his challenges and is encouraging others to seek help:
“If you have a problem, getting help is a sign of courage, not weakness or failure.”
The list of celebrities who struggle with alcohol and drugs is enormous. It is therefore very inspiring that many of them become advocates of getting help and demonstrate that it is possible to battle the illness: Kirsten Dunst, Megan Fox, Russel Brand, Lana Del Rey, Brad Pitt, Oprah Winfrey, Angelina Jolie, Stephen King, Nicole Richie, Matthew Perry, Demi Lovato, Ed Harris, and Kelly Osborne. Unlike it was the case in the past, these celebrities do not glamorize drugs and alcohol making them ‘cool’; on the contrary, they try to raise awareness of the illness and its grave consequences among their fans.
My battles with addiction definitely shaped how I am now. They really made me deeply appreciate human contact. And the value of friends and family, how precious that is.”
Bradley Cooper has also been a great advocate of sobriety since 2004 when he gave up drugs and alcohol. His personal history with alcoholism and drug abuse was one of the reasons why he decided to make the Oscar-winning film A Star Is Born (2018), where he plays Jackson “Jack” Maine, a famous country rock singer who is battling an alcohol and drug addiction. Maine eventually commits suicide because he is unable to overcome his addiction and it ruins his life. Cooper famously stated that the story really resonated with him, and he is very grateful that he has been able to stay sober since his recovery.
“Recovery from alcohol and drug addiction is the greatest accomplishment of my life.”
Jamie Lee Curtis
Some celebrities even openly celebrate the anniversaries of their sobriety, showing that life without alcohol and drugs is possible – and wonderfully exciting: Eminem (12 years sober), Sir Elton Jones (30 years sober), Rob Lowe (30 years sober), and Samuel L Jackson (44 years sober). Congratulations, and thank you for inspiring so many other people to give up alcohol and drugs and embrace sobriety!