Addiction in the Spotlight

Within the ever-growing community of people in recovery from drugs and alcohol, it is generally agreed upon that connection with others who have suffered from the same plight can lighten the weight of the process. It is by way of roads paved by others that we are able to see what has worked, and what has not. While one person’s recovery journey will be unique to them, the lessons learned can be shared to be used as light posts along the way.

For many, a local fellowship provides a community through which we can build a network, and it organically builds from there. Another resource that we have is personal accounts that are publicized in literature, on the silver screen, and now through social media. The popularity of social media, in particular, has infiltrated so many aspects of modern life, giving consumers front row seats to the inner lives of celebrities and ‘influencers’ alike. If someone has struggled with addiction and found recovery, it is often publicized and examined, sometimes with scrutiny.

 

Substance Use in the Public Eye

In Hollywood, there is a dangerous glamorization of alcohol and drug use, and it’s nothing new. When a person first finds fame, there is pressure to drink socially and use drugs. If the celebrity does develop an addiction, they likely have the benefit of finances to access expensive treatment, but they aren’t granted the anonymity or privacy lesser-known people in the program have access to. The luxuries celebrities are afforded—and envied by many—can be hazardous to their desire to stay sober. Being in the spotlight can be lonely, dehumanizing, and disingenuous, and there is difficulty finding people to trust. It’s as if the peer pressure so many of us fall prey to is amplified for those who have found fame.

In recent news, Dax Shepard, an actor/comedian who has been open about his struggles with addiction in the past, recently disclosed an opioid relapse after being sober for 16 years. As a person is in the limelight because of his celebrity status, it was his choice to be open about his story and to share it with the world before it came out in a tabloid.

“… And I hate it, and I’m lying to other people. And I know I have to quit. But my tolerance is going up so quickly that I’m now in a situation where I’m taking, you know, eight 30s a day, and I know that’s an amount that’s going to result in a pretty bad withdrawal. And I start getting really scared, and I’m starting to feel really lonely. And I have this enormous secret,” Shepard disclosed on his popular podcast, Armchair Expert, where he has always spoken candidly about his past.

Shepard’s situation is one that many who have relapsed can relate to; he suffered an injury, was issued a prescription for pain medication. Then, a few months later, he had another accident, warranting yet another prescription. He was able to justify taking the medication because a doctor had given them to him, and everyone in his life was aware he was taking them. This continued until he started lying to his family and friends.

 

What Next?

To people in the program, this is a very relatable story. Relapse is a part of recovery, and many have fallen prey to the same: thinking we can handle it, thinking we have control over it after some time has passed. What’s more than that, though, is that by using his platform to share this information, Shepard is helping to normalize the stigma of addiction, in that it can affect everyone—even celebrities we may have deemed superhuman in some way. Regardless of celebrity stature, yearly income, marital status or number of homes someone has, they are still just as susceptible to their disease as a person who must sleep on a park bench. It is an equalizer among us in many ways.

 

Some other celebrities who have been open about their struggles with addiction include:

 

  • Demi Lovato: Having found stardom at a young age on the wholesome Disney channel, Lovato made her foray into pop music and soon became a household name. By the time she was 17, she began dabbling in drugs and alcohol and before long had developed a severe addiction. After seeking treatment, Lovato was sober for 6 years and, after a brief relapse in 2018, has now been sober for almost 3. She has been open about her struggles as well as her triumphs in interviews and on her social media channels.
  • Eric Clapton: European-born Eric Clapton, who found fame in rock and blues with groups like the Yardbirds and Cream, has been very vocal about his problems with addiction. He battled with a heroin addiction as well as alcoholism throughout his early career, at times spending $16,000 a week on heroin. His substance use came to a halt when his young son tragically fell from a skyscraper in 1991, which propelled him to finally seek treatment. After achieving sobriety after 20 years of active addiction, Clapton is active in the AA community and has founded his own treatment center in the Caribbean.
  • Matthew Perry: The actor, who found fame in the massive television series Friends, battled his alcohol and drug addiction largely in secret. The extreme influx in popularity and wealth brought on by the show’s success quickly seized control of Perry, his alcohol and Vicodin use accelerating in lockstep with his star status. After finding sobriety with the help of his parents in 2001, he has since made efforts to ‘pay it forward,’ as you do in the program of AA. He opened a sober living facility for men in 2013, called the Perry house, openly discusses his past in interviews and literary ventures, and has stated that the best thing about him is that he can help another alcoholic stop drinking.
  • Russell Brand: British-born actor, author, stand-up comedian, and recovering heroin addict, Brand has become a household name in the recovery and wellness worlds. He found himself hopelessly addicted to heroin in the early 2000s, and to this day says that drugs and alcohol weren’t his problem: reality was his problem, and drugs and alcohol were his solution. Brand found recovery with the 12 Steps through AA, which he credits with saving his life. Today, Brand continues recovery advocacy by sharing the 12 Step solution to other alcoholics and addicts, speaking on Transcendental Meditation, writing books and conducting speaking engagements around the world.

 

Not only are these men and women brave for sharing their struggles with the world, but their social advocacy helps to further spread awareness and support in places that may not be otherwise reached.

 

Humility in Transparency

To bring it back to Dax Shepard’s story, one of the most poignant parts of his admitting to his relapse—which you can hear on “Day 7” of his Armchair Expert podcast—is his admission to being arrogant (“I thought I was a smart addict”), and his need to be humble. Once a person gains a certain amount of time in recovery, they may feel that they have recovery on lock. This, Shepard attests, is not the case. When discussing his situation with a close friend also in recovery, his friend pointed out the fault that was anchoring him, and likely would be the key to ultimately freeing him once he let it go.

“He says, you know your number one character defect is your arrogance. You think you’re so much smarter than everybody… I suffer from the same one… I thought, I’m a smart enough addict to do this and come up with a bulletproof game plan. The anecdote is humility. Tell everyone in our meeting, and ultimately tell everyone period.”

As we now know, Shepard admitted his relapse to his family and friends, and then on a much larger scale by discussing it on his public podcast. His story shows that once you untether yourself from your secret and expose it to the world, the result from a community such as AA and NA is one of love and compassion. This community is built upon others wishing to better themselves, and those around them looking to do the same.

While there may be some controversy arising from this particular situation—whether a person’s sobriety is erased after a relapse has been a point of contention in some circles—one indisputable truism can be taken away: humility is the key to keeping people accountable. By admitting fault and choosing to be honest about his relapse and now continuing to move forward, Shepard serves as a reminder that, though there will be bumps in the road, we can persevere, and come through stronger than before. After that, we can help another person along the way as we, too, were once helped.

If you have suffered a relapse or are looking to find treatment options for yourself, we can help. Our Admissions teams are available 24/7, and have been where you are. Regardless of where you are in your journey, know that you aren’t alone and there are options to get you on the right track.

Please give us a call today: 866.420.6222.

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