There are millions of addiction recovery stories, but not enough are covered in the media – except when it involves a celebrity. Here are some of our favorite famous addiction recovery stories.
Celebrities are humans, just like us, and despite their fame, money and cool occupation, many celebrities have gone on to suffer from an addiction to drugs or alcohol. This further proves that knows no boundaries – rich or poor, old or young – anyone can be susceptible to addiction.
Many of these celebrities continue to relapse and suffer from addiction despite the fact that this is clearly ‘on-show’ to a global audience of newspaper, magazine and news website readers. This is clearly something the vast majority of celebrities do not enjoy, and this is further proof that it’s not easy to defeat addiction no matter how much money you may have amassed.
Many of these personal tragedies are ‘easy fodder’ for the tabloids, and many of these stories do make it to the front page of popular magazines such as the National Enquirer. The tabloids exploit these stories for their own profits. This is because these stories sell newspapers and magazines. However, it’s rare to read a story about how a celebrity has successfully entered recovery and mastered recovery. This is because these stories simply do not sell newspapers.
For this reason, we’ve chosen to report on celebrity ‘success stories’. We are frankly bored of reading about stories where celebrities hit ‘rock bottom’. We feel that omitting to discuss success stories is an injustice to many of these celebrities who now live their lives as role models for others who are seeking out sobriety.
Why do many celebrities develop an addiction?
Whilst we feel there is no one answer to this question, one explanation is that the celebrity lifestyle is arguably conducive to drug and alcohol use. Celebrities typically live a party-fuelled lifestyle, and many of celebrities may easily access drugs and alcohol.
Another explanation is that celebrities are often shielded from life’s stress and this prevents them from maturing. This may be particularly true for ‘child stars’. This over-protection of child stars mean they may fail to develop the necessary skills needed to cope with adulthood.
Furthermore, celebrities’ lifestyles are very much on show. Their successes and failures are effectively in a ‘fishbowl’ for us all to stare at. When celebrities experience failure, one easy way to ‘self-medicate’ from associated negative feelings is to consume drugs and alcohol.
Lastly, many celebrities are thought to possess an ‘addictive personality’. For instance, many celebrities are very creative but also very sensitive. They may be more likely to suffer from anxiety and depress. To cope with these feelings and sensitivities, celebrities may be more likely to ‘self-medicate’ with drugs and alcohol. For some celebrities, this could mean that they go on to develop an addiction to drugs and alcohol.
10 inspirational celebrity addiction recovery stories
Let us look at 10 celebrities who managed to beat their addiction to a variety of different substances. Many of these celebrities have managed to live ‘in recovery’ for many years, so you can be sure they have adapted to a ‘sober lifestyle.’ Many have gone through several relapses on their journey to sobriety.
1. Martin Sheen
Martin Sheen is a recovering alcoholic. In the 1970s, his alcoholism was so severe that he suffered a mild heart attack while filming “Apocalypse Now.” However, he has been in recovery since 1981. This followed a series of talks with film director Terrence Malick in Paris. He’s now an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous and he truly is the embodiment of the sober lifestyle. Sheen attributes his success in sobriety to AA and his Catholicism.
2. Jamie Lee Curtis
Jamie Lee Curtis has struggled with drug and alcohol addiction since the age of 35. However, Curtis has now been in recovery for more than a decade. Following a routine operation when Curtis was 35, she became addicted to painkillers. Curtis also ‘self-medicated’ with alcohol in order to ease loneliness.
Curtis is quoted as saying that her recovery is the ‘single greatest achievement’ in her life. She feels that without her recovery, her life would be a total shambles. Curtis feels as though she’s lucky in that she didn’t have anything to lose by entering recovery.
3. Robert Downey, Jr
When you’re talking about famous addiction recovery stories, few have received more coverage than Robert Downey Jr’s. His journey to recovery is no secret, especially after his meteoric rise to popularity in Marvel’s Iron Man film series. Downey was born into the limelight. His first film role came when he was only five years old. He says he was brought up ‘surrounded by drugs’. His father allowed him to smoke cannabis at the age of six. He says his father would ‘do drugs’ with him as a way of bonding with his son.
Downey said: “When my dad and I would do drugs together, it was like him trying to express his love for me is the only way he knew how.”
Ironically, one of his early films was “Less Than Zero,” (a film made in the mid-1980s) which was a story about at a young man so consumed by addiction that he died of an overdose.
When Downey was addicted to heroin, his life was spiraling out of control. He was arrested numerous times and even spent six months in jail when he failed to attend a court-ordered drug test. Finally, Downey managed to quit drugs in 2001. Downey relied on a number of holistic therapies and filled the void left by his abstinence by taking up yoga and Wing Chun kung fu. He also credits the support he received from his spouse as the source of his success in recovery. Downey is also an advocate of 12-step recovery programs.
4. Kelly Osbourne
Kelly Osbourne has suffered from Vicodin addiction since having her tonsils removed when she was 13 years old. When she was 17 years old, she was consuming around 50 Vicodin tablets each day. She says that her mother’s cancer exasperated her Vicodin addiction. Osbourne has been in and out of rehab since 2004.
5. Robin Williams
Robin Williams abused cocaine and alcohol throughout the 1980s. He also suffered from depression. Williams credits the overdose of John Belushi as the ‘wake up’ call he needed to get help with his own addiction. Williams relapsed in 2006 but immediately sought out help by attending a rehab clinic.
To fill the void created by his recovery, Williams took up regular exercise and cycling. These activities helped William alleviate the depression he felt due to the death of his friend, Belushi. In fact, Williams is credited as saying ‘cycling saved my life’. In 2010, he revealed he continued to struggle with alcoholism throughout his life.
Tragically, Robin Williams committed suicide in 2014 after a battle with Lewy body disease.
6. Nicole Richie
Nicole Richie has struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction. In the past, she’s consumed heroin and prescription drugs. Richie is the adopted child of Lionel Richie. She received a privileged upbringing in Beverly Hills. She says this lifestyle led her to experiment with drugs in her teens.
She says because of her exposure to an exciting lifestyle, she got to the point where nothing excited her anymore. This boredom caused her to engage in risqué and dangerous behavior. She began to experiment with cocaine at the age of 19. By the time she reached her early 20s, she began to smoke heroin.
She’s now been clean for nearly a decade. She’s now a fashion designer and she actively works on her recovery each day.
7. Drew Barrymore
Drew Barrymore is well known for her struggles with addiction. Barrymore was first introduced to drugs at the age of nine when her mother brought her to legendary New York nightclub, Studio 54. She identified as a ‘party girl’ at the age of eight.
As famous addiction recovery stories go, hers was well known to anyone who grew up in the 80s and 90s. Incredibly, she checked into rehab by thirteen. At the tender age of fourteen, she published her autobiography titled ‘Little Girl Lost’.
8. Elton John
Elton John began to experiment with cocaine back in 1974. He says he began to take drugs as a way to feel socially accepted. He identified himself as a loner and somebody who is not good looking. Taking drugs allowed him to feel more socially accepted and as ‘part of the gang.’
From the mid-1970s up to 1990, John continued to take drugs. John also abused alcohol. During this period, John attempted to commit suicide several times. He refers to this period as the ‘lost years’. In 1990, John decided enough was enough and so he committed himself to his recovery.
John claims he is fortunate to be still alive. He says he experienced several cocaine overdoses, and he would ‘turn blue’ from epileptic seizures caused by his heavy cocaine use.
9. Steven Tyler
Steven Tyler is the Aerosmith frontman. He says he’s spent over $20 million on heroin and cocaine over the last thirty years. In 1986, his bandmates encouraged him to attend rehab. He says the rehabs in the mid-1980s were similar to mental institutions, and not like the rehabs we fortunately have today.
He also attended rehab in 2009 after developing an addiction to painkillers. He says landing a role on American Idol also helped him into recovery.
Tyler says he must work on his recovery every day, and that simply going to rehab is not the end of an addict’s struggle. He also credits the help he received from AA for his success in recovery. In fact, he says if he stops going to AA meetings, he would relapse quickly.
10. Anthony Hopkins
Anthony Hopkins is widely considered one of the World’s most respected actors. He’s famous for roles such as Hannibal Lecter in ‘Silence of the Lambs’. His career spans over six decades, and in that time he’s starred in more than eighty films. However, his career wasn’t always so seamless. In fact, back in the 1960s and 1970s, he struggled with alcoholism. It was only recently that Hopkins revealed these past struggles with the public.
Hopkins says he descended into alcoholism due to feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy. He first turned to the bottle in the 1960s following his decision to build a career in the theatre. During this time, he appeared in theatre plays up and down the United Kingdom. He would ‘live out of bedsits’. He says he never really felt at home on the stage and refers to this period as his ‘tedious years’.
In 1973, he walked out of ‘Macbeth’ whilst the film was still in production due to his alcoholism. He also abandoned his first wife and daughter. It was until years later that his daughter would accept him back into her life.
Hopkins stopped drinking when he began to forget where he had been when under the influence of alcohol. In 1975, his second wife walked away from him. He went on a bender that lasted for several days. He ended up in a hotel room in Phoenix, Arizona, and called his wife claiming he did not remember how he ended up in Phoenix. He then experienced several blackouts over the proceeding days due to his alcoholism.
Following a recommendation from his agent, Hopkins attended an AA meeting. He’s since attended AA meetings ever since. He credits an overwhelming sense of fear for staying in recovery. This includes the fear of losing his family, his career and his personal health.
One thing they all had in common is that they each tried different forms of treatment. Some went to fancy “celebrity rehab” facilities, others went to regular facilities. Studies show that there’s no better success rate at $20,000 a month rehab facilities than there are at “regular” rehab facilities.
Rehab is just the first step in addiction treatment. What comes next – “aftercare” – which includes outpatient treatment, a sober living home and continued therapy, counseling, adherence to the 12-step program and sponsor support is the key to better outcomes.