When people think of celebrities, they envision the positives – the fame, the riches, the adulation, and the glamorous lifestyle. What they forget is the constant pressure to perform, the unrealistic expectations of perfection, the lack of privacy, and the permissive environment within the entertainment community. Famous people have the same human frailties as everyone else, and when they yield to temptation in the form of excessive alcohol or drug use, they run the same risk of developing an addiction. Here are four well-known celebrities who developed the disease of addiction, but were able to work a program of recovery to regain control of their lives.
#1 Russell Brand
“It is 10 years since I used drugs or drank alcohol, and my life has immeasurably improved. I have a job, a house, a cat, good friendships, and generally, a bright outlook. But the price of this is constant vigilance because the disease of addiction is not rational.” ~ Russell Brand, writing for The Spectator Over the years, comedian and actor Brand was arrested 12 times for various drug-related offenses, with heroin being his preferred drug of choice. He has now been sober since 2002, and he uses his high-profile image as a platform to promote sensitivity and understanding for substance abusers. Brand credits his sobriety to the Focus 12 drug treatment program, the support he receives from fellowship groups, transcendental meditation, and “fastidious structuring” of his life. As a way of giving back, he organizes fundraisers for drug treatment and has served as a sponsor for many people making their own journey of recovery.
#2 Demi Lovato
“We are a different breed, we alcoholics, but it is just like having any other disease – you have to learn to live with it.” ~ Demi Lovato, speaking to the Daily Mail Actress and singer Lovato has enjoyed an enviable career, and at only 23, is already a 13-year showbiz veteran. She got her big break on the Disney Channel and has moved on to become a number-one recording artist. Her personal life has not been quite so smooth. Her birth father was a bipolar schizophrenic alcoholic and drug addict, and her mother suffered from depression and eating disorders. These demons were passed on to Lovato. As a young adult, Lovato herself began experiencing depression and symptoms of a bipolar disorder, developed an eating disorder, practiced self-harm, and began to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, particularly cocaine. After a physical altercation with a dancer on her tour, Lovato entered rehab, which she completed in late January 2011. By her own choice, she lived in a Los Angeles sober-living facility for more than a year to avoid jeopardizing her sobriety and health. Today, she gives back with the Lovato Treatment Scholarship, which awards paid-for treatment for someone struggling with addiction and mental health issues.
#3 Zac Efron
“I just started going. And I think it’s changed my life. I’m much more comfortable in my own skin. Things are so much easier now. It’s a never-ending struggle.” ~ Zac Efron, talking about Alcoholics Anonymous Efron began his acting career in his mid-teens and has made a successful transition to adult roles, becoming one of the hottest, most sought-after young actors. In the past five years alone, he has starred in 15 feature films. Like a lot of people who live in the public eye and who are under constant surveillance by the paparazzi, Efron began to feel the pressures of fame. In his own words, he began to use alcohol and cocaine as a “social lubricant” to ease his anxiety. In 2013, when he realized that he was “caring less about the work and waiting for more for the weekend”, he checked into rehab and started going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. He has been completely sober since June of that year, saying “I just really never again want to have to take anything from the outside into me to feel good about my outside.”
#4 Wes Bentley
“There is a stigma that it’s the one you can’t beat, and it is an awful one… But that’s partly why I wanted to talk about it, because there’s people out there who are still addicted, and they might not think you can get past it either. But I want to show them that you can. I mean, I have to work on it every day still, as you know, but I just want people out there to know… That it is beatable and you can live an amazing, happy life.” ~ Wes Bentley, talking about his past heroin addiction His breakout role was in 1999’s “American Beauty”, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. As a young actor, Bentley was ready to take Hollywood by storm. The exposure overwhelmed him, and he began using drugs to cope. His addictions cost him his marriage and stalled his career. For nine years, Bentley abused drugs nearly full-time, working just enough to buy more drugs. Even when he was arrested in 2008 and ordered into treatment, he relapsed and continued to use heroin. In 2009, he told a friend, “I need help or I’m going to die“. He began regularly attending 12-Step meetings and has maintained his sobriety ever since. Once again able to focus on his career, Bentley has made appeared in 25 films since 2009, as well as starring in two seasons of the hit show American Horror Story.
What Can We Learn from Celebrities’ Struggles with Addiction?
The first takeaway from the stories is that drug addiction can happen to anyone. These were successful individuals who seemingly had it all, but fame and fortune do not matter the disease of addiction. The second takeaway is that there are many causal factors that can contribute to the development of the disease:
- Russell Brand’s addiction started with experimentation, and he quickly became addicted, calling heroin “blissful”.
- Demi Lovato had a family history of emotional disorders and substance abuse, and when these manifested in her, she coped by self-medicating.
- Zac Efron suffered from anxiety from the complete lack of privacy and eased that anxiety with alcohol and cocaine.
- Wes Bentley was overwhelmed by the sudden rush of fame, and he pulled away with heroin.
Experimentation, genetics, family history, anxiety, and co-occurring mental disorders such as depression and anxiety can affect anyone from any walk of life. So, consequently, recovery is also possible, regardless of your own personal situation. The fact that these celebrities were able to step back from the brink and regain serenity and sanity in their lives means that there is hope. There are programs, therapies, medications, and support groups that can help put you on the path of your own journey of recovery. The only thing that you have to do is admit that you have a problem and ask for help.