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Addiction in the Hollywood Spotlight

Addiction is a disease. Despite all the glitz, glam, and fashion, even celebrities are not immune.

Drug and alcohol abuse are rampant in music, movies and even the real lives of celebrities, which are obsessively documented in the tabloids. The coverage puts a deceivingly “cool” image on the very uncool, even deadly reality of addiction.

Substance abuse in Hollywood has itself become a source of entertainment. In fact, struggling celebrities seem to gain more fame because of an addiction. Although money can afford high-class rehabs, no one can buy recovery, leaving stars tormented for years in the spotlight.

Even worse, young fans see their habit as an endorsement, wanting to mimic the clothes, the hair and even the drug use of their favorite idol. But when the non-famous get addicted, instead of admiration, they face the harsh societal stigma of being an addict.

Why do we idolize the famous for their addiction, but condemn our friends and family for their own?

Even the substance-related deaths of high-profile stars don’t spark a large enough conversation on the serious, growing addiction epidemic.

The reality is:

  • You are not alone. Some of the most famous celebrities are also addicts.
  • Recovery is possible. Over 10% of the U.S. population, including many in Hollywood are living in recovery from addiction.
Addiction is a disease. Despite all the glitz, glam, and fashion, even celebrities are not immune.

20 Inspiring Stories of Celebrity Recovery

Eminem Recovery

Marshall Mathers, most commonly known as the artist, Eminem has not shied away from sharing his experience with addiction. In fact, his 2010 album ‘Recovery’ illuminates many of the feelings he experienced throughout his tenure as an addict.

“When I took my first Vicodin, I didn’t feel any pain. I don’t know at what point exactly it started to be a problem, but I just remember liking it more and more.”

Many people tried to confront Mathers on his pill addiction, realizing he was taking up to 20 pills a day. Eventually, a nearly fatal overdose landed Eminem in the ER. Had he gotten to the hospital any later, he would have died.

“My organs were shutting down. My liver, kidneys, everything. My bottom was going to be death.”

Having to detox and regain motor skills, the Grammy-winning artist believes his brush with death was all part of a learning process.

“I couldn’t believe that anybody could be naturally happy without being on [drugs]. So I would say to anybody that it does get better.”

Angelina Jolie Drug Addiction

Probably the topmost A-list celebrity (Girl, Interrupted, Salt, Mr. and Mrs. Smith) of the last decade, Angelina Jolie -Pitt has admitted to dabbling and struggling with addiction to heroin.

“Before age 20, I had tried every drug imaginable, including heroin,” the actress formally states.

The mother of six now supports various humanitarian efforts and shares her story to help others.

“I went through heavy, darker times and I survived them. I didn’t die young, so I’m very lucky. There are other artists and people who didn’t survive certain things.”

Demi Lovato Sobriety

“I never knew sobriety was possible for me,” the child-actor-now-turned-recovered-performer, Demi Lovato says.

In her early teen years, she could not go 30 minutes without cocaine or alcohol and also suffered from eating disorders and self-harming.

“Addiction made me a manipulator and a liar.”

Lovato seemed to have all the help in the world, but she didn’t want any of it.

“It’s no longer fun when you’re doing it alone. Sneaking cocaine onto airplanes and fighting. It’s no longer ‘I’m young and rebellious and out having fun’. This is alcoholic behavior.”

After entering rehab in 2010, a three-month residency proved successful. Now celebrating three years of sobriety and not allowing any “past, demon, disorder or addiction” rule her life, Demi is more victorious than ever.

Zac Efron Cocaine Addiction

The High School Musical star, Zac Efron has recently made the news since exiting a drug and alcohol treatment facility in 2013. “It’s a never-ending struggle,” he said of his addiction. The pressure of being a role model for children around the world while still being a child himself became much more stressful than imagined.

“At the same time, I’m a human being,” says Efron.

“I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve learned from each one.”

The now-adult actor credits sobriety with changing his life. “I’m much more comfortable in my own skin. Things are so much easier now.”

Pink Drug Addiction

“I remember getting up off the floor in the morning – and that was the last time I ever touched a drug again,” recalls P!ink, the songwriter of hits like “So What” and “Get the Party Started.” Alecia Moore, nee P!nk certainly got the party started in her early years, reflecting on the drugs she had used that led to an overdose in 1995. She has admitted using drugs such as ecstasy, crystal meth, acid, and heroin. “For me, drugs were just a distraction,” Moore states.

“I found my chance [in music], and I wanted to go for it. I was performing and wasn’t bored anymore since boredom spawned destructive patterns in me.”

Successfully quitting an addiction to nicotine and now working on a shopping addiction, P!nk continues to use her story as hope for others who struggle with any addiction.

Russel Brand Recovery Advocacy

“From my first inhalation 15 years ago, heroin fumigated my private hell and lay me down in its hazy pastures and a bathroom floor in Hackney [London] and embraced me like a womb.” The actor reveals that his decade of drug and alcohol addiction was the use of external substances to deal with internal issues. Brand, now sober for nearly 11 years, believes that drugs and alcohol weren’t his problems, but in fact,

“Reality is my problem, and drugs and alcohol are my solutions.”

The reality that a relapse is ever-present doesn’t negatively affect his day-to-day lifestyle. “I was in constant fear of what I was going to do next. I was found in the toilet of an office party, shooting heroin. My life became drastically unmanageable.” Becoming an advocate for recovery, the comedian soon took to speaking in front of courts and to others struggling with addiction to present a solution.

“Without abstinence-based recovery, I’m a highly defective individual, prone to self-centeredness, self-pity, and self-destructive, grandiose behavior. But if I seek the company and fellowship of other addicts and alcoholics, then, one day at a time, I have a chance of living free from addiction.”

Elton John Drug Recovery

“I was consumed by cocaine, booze, and who knows what else,” states the ‘Tiny Dancer’ pianist. Elton John started using cocaine in the 70’s with his manager, specifying the drug gave him confidence when he was off stage.

“I always said cocaine was the drug that made me open up. I could talk to people,” the musician reflects.

But soon, cocaine became the drug that closed him off. “It started out by making me talk to everyone and then ended up by me isolating myself, which was the end of the world.” When John came across a fan, Ryan White, an Indiana teen who contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion, the performer said it forced him to take a hard look at his own life. “It helped me stop using cocaine and alcohol.” As of 2015, Elton John has celebrated 25 years of sobriety.

Robert Downey Jr Addiction and Recovery

A rising star in Hollywood, Robert Downey Jr. (Less Than Zero, Chaplin, Iron Man), was most notably recognized for his arrest record and active addiction to alcohol, cocaine, and heroin. In the early years of his career, it was practically impossible for Downey to get hired due to his excessive insurance bonds it required to have him on set. He had quit drugs in 2003 after an ultimatum his wife had given after multiple trips to prison and rehab.

“I was the poster boy for wasted talent. Taking drugs to me is like having a shotgun in my mouth with my finger on the trigger, and I like the taste of the gun metal.”

Ending in a fetal position in a rat-infested LA hotel alleyway, hallucinating on drugs. His marriage, a soaring career, and his sobriety are only possible after entering a 12-step program, practicing meditation and martial arts, and attending therapy. One of the most impressive comebacks, Robert Downey Jr.’s career seems to improve the longer he stays sober.

Jamie Lee Curtis Painkiller Addiction

Jamie Lee Curtis’s sobriety is her “#1 accomplishment”. After having starred in Halloween (1978), Prom Night (1980), and True Lies (1994), the Golden Globe actress describes her active addiction to alcohol and painkillers.

“For a long time, I felt like I was failing. I feel like a failure as a mother a lot, because, despite my best efforts, I repeated some of the same ways I was parented.”

Being sober for 13 years, the actress attributes her sobriety to her new life, stating achieving sobriety is the bravest thing she has ever accomplished.

“Working hard at solidifying my sobriety and having support around me is the most courageous thing I’ve ever done and will ever do in my life.”

Bradley Cooper Alcoholism

The actor (The Hangover, Silver Linings Playbook, Guardians of the Galaxy) doesn’t take his 11 years of sobriety for granted. Since 2004, Cooper has remained abstinent from all mind-altering substances.

“I would not be sitting here if I hadn’t gotten sober.”

Before getting sober, Cooper says his addiction to alcohol and painkillers was taking a toll on his work. “I always felt like an outsider. I realized I wasn’t going to live up to my potential, and that scared the hell out of me.” The 40-year-old actor’s breakout success came after starring in The Hangover, and he has his sobriety to be thankful for.

“The one thing that I’ve learned in life is the best thing I can do is embrace who I am, and then, whatever happens, happens.”

Daniel Radcliffe Sober

Daniel Radcliffe has opened up about how he turned to alcohol while dealing with the pressures of starring in one of the biggest film franchises in history, Harry Potter. “There’s this pressure of living with the thought, “What if these people are saying I’m not going to have a career after [Harry Potter]?” states Radcliffe.

“I was living in constant fear of who I’d meet, what I might have said to them, what I might have done to them, so I’d stay in my apartment for days and drink alone.”

Thankfully, Radcliffe has shed his image as a childhood star, reminiscing on how much has changed since the series.

“I was a recluse at 20. It was pathetic – it wasn’t me. I’m a fun, polite person, and it turned me into a rude bore. People recognize me as I am, not who I was.”

Jennifer Hudson Recovery

Before appearing on American Idol in 2004, the singer hasn’t touched a drink or drug in her entire 34 years. The story behind her tee-totaling lifestyle is quite tragic. The reason for remaining abstinent is due to her brother-in-law having killed her mother, brother, and nephew while under the influence in 2008. In a recent interview, Hudson credited the birth of her son as having saved her in the aftermath of her family’s gruesome murders.

“I’ve never had a drink in my life and I’m not starting now. I’m sober.”

James Franco Drug Use

Known for his stoner characters in high budget films (Freaks and Geeks, Pineapple Express), the actor only plays the part of a pothead. Franco states,

“As a teenager, I got into trouble due to things I did under the influence of drugs and alcohol.”

On more than one occasion, people have mistaken his laid-back personality as intoxication, although the actor insists that it’s been a long time since he has even had so much as a drink.

Jada Pinkett Smith Sober

The multi-millionaire actress was raised in a ‘war zone’ of poverty and drug addiction.

“The neighborhood I grew up in was very rough. I expected to be dead by 21.”

Pinkett’s mother and grandmother both struggled with drug addiction. Luckily, young Pinkett’s talents drew her closer to a lifestyle of comfort.

“I didn’t let the fact that addiction ran in my family keep me from drinking.”

Pinkett was drinking two bottles of wine each night, hoping for a better tomorrow. As of 2015, Mrs. Will Smith is closing in on two decades of sobriety, giving credit to her family and strong support systems as her muse for ongoing recovery.

Travis Barker Recovers from Addiction

“More than once I have walked away from death,” states Barker, the well-known drummer of the rock band Blink-182. From gang-related shootings to plane crashes and near overdoses, Travis Barker has consistently cheated death. After being one of two survivors of a 2008 plane crash, the drummer was left with third-degree burns on 65 percent of his body. “I battled post-traumatic stress disorder, survivor’s guilt and even suicidal thoughts.” Barker’s addiction took a toll on his daily life. Whenever he went on tour, he had to medicate himself to leave the house.

“My breakfast was four blunts, four Vicodin, one Valium, and one Oxycodone.”

The MTV Video Music Award-winner had a security guard sleep during the day and stay up at night just to make sure Barker was breathing. Being eight years sober from prescription pills and alcohol, Barker reflects on his new, healthier lifestyle.

“I swim and run every day. I pay attention to what I put in my body. The moment I had kids, my life changed. I was meant to be sober. I had done my time.”

Joaquin Phoenix Overdose

Academy Award-winning actor, Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator, Walk the Line) has dealt with a fair share of personal battles. In 1993, his older brother and actor River Phoenix (Stand By Me, My Own Private Idaho) died of a heroin overdose outside of Johnny Depp’s then-owned LA club, The Viper Room. For years after his brother’s untimely death, Joaquin struggled with alcohol.

“I became aware of my drinking as a tool to relax when I didn’t work,” states Phoenix.

Since getting sober, Joaquin has retired from acting, leaving the spotlight for a more modest hobby, film-making.

Stevie Nicks Drug Abuse

Singer and songwriter, Stevie Nicks, known for her work with Fleetwood Mac, maintained a cocaine habit throughout her early career. Nicks eventually created a hole in her nasal cartilage that influenced her entering a 28-day rehab program, which helped end her chemical dependence. Although she gave up cocaine, Stevie became strongly addicted to Klonopin in the early 90’s. She believed she could function adequately while on a worldwide tour.

“I continued to tour,” reflects Nicks. “and after years of addiction, weight gain, and exhaustion, I detoxed again. This time, I was done.”

23 years later, Stevie Nicks is still touring, enjoying life but this time above the influence.

Anthony Kiedis Heroin Addiction

The lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers has battled drug addiction throughout his entire life. The singer who penned the 1991 hit, ‘Under the Bridge’, a love song to his city of Los Angeles, mentions his early years in active addiction from heroin, cocaine and alcohol in his hometown.

“I was constantly exposed to drug-using and drug-dealing behavior while growing up,” states Kiedis.

At age 11, Kiedis took on to pot, cocaine, and heroin which would prove to be harder to quit than he thought. His best friend and band mate, Hillel Slovak, died of a heroin overdose in 1988. Although fear sobered Kiedis for a bit, it would take life-threatening experiences (like injecting drugs under a bridge with Mexican gang bangers and multiple stints in rehab) to straighten his life out.

“There is nothing I enjoy more than being able to experience life sober,” says Kiedis. “I realized everything I’ve been through is to show that somebody can go all the way down and come all the way back and have a productive, successful, happy life.”

Steve-O Drug Addiction

“My drug use hurt those I love the most,” says Steve-O, most notably recognized from MTV’s ‘Jackass’. After appearing on the hit TV show and movies for his wild stunts (setting himself on fire, stapling his scrotum together, attaching leeches to his eyes), Stephen Glover believed his career to be over.

“I was so afraid of the spotlight going away, so I kept the cameras rolling 24/7.”

In Steve-O’s documentary, Steve-O: Demise and Rise, the camera caught a glimpse of the stuntman’s life in California during his nitrous oxide, cocaine, ketamine, and alcohol-fueled days. Addicted to the fame and the substances, Glover, while under the influence, had hallucinated his own intervention.

“The guys from Jackass came over after I told them I was going to perform a stunt that could be the end of it all. Unknowingly, I had scheduled my own intervention.”

Since getting sober almost 8 years ago, the Wildboy has taken his life down a notch, but still performs with all abandon. “It is so important to me to prove that I still had that in me,” Steve-O explains about his antics, “- that sobriety hadn’t turned me into a wimp.”
With his most recent stunts and comedy tour, Steve-O published his New York Times bestseller, Steve-O: A Professional Idiot.
The now-vegan and animal lover says,

“I arrived at the conclusion that I need to be more compassionate in my lifestyle.”

Drew Berrymore Drug Addiction

Gaining instant fame as a childhood actress, Drew Barrymore (E.T., Scream, 50 First Dates) later struggled with substance abuse when her parents first introduced her to the LA nightclubs.

Becoming fond of alcohol and cocaine by the age of thirteen, Barrymore became a spectacle in the media, entering a Beverly Hills rehab center at age fourteen. Although she had not committed to sobriety during her first stay, Barrymore restructured her life in the following two trips to rehab and had garnered higher success than ever imagined.

“I needed to be around people that are committed to sobriety,” states the actress. “It has saved me.”


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