Anyone who tells you that overcoming the disease of addiction is a liar. Addiction sneaks its influence into every aspect of your life, and it takes more than strength of will to get through. This goes double for anyone who lives in the intense world of America’s jet set. At the top, the pressure to succeed is so intense that it’s no wonder so many turn to drugs to try and find some kind of solace.
What’s really disturbing is how much our culture loves to look at celebrities who constantly fail at rehabilitation. Whether it’s the tiger blood-fueled ranting of Charlie Sheen or the revolving-door-rehab antics of Lindsay Lohan, America loves to draw attention to the failures of the very people that it put up on a pedestal to begin with. So today, let’s look at something else – let’s recognize the people who put in the sweat, blood, and tears to overcome the disease that could have ruined their careers.
Lou Reed. His name is fresh on everyone’s tongue after he passed away this weekend after a long and painful struggle with liver disease. In a way, Reed’s life was the prototypical version of the rags-to-riches rock star – he went from fronting for the then-commercial-flop Velvet Underground to being one of the true heroes of American rock and roll. He even got a genus of (underground) velvet spiders named after him! But that rise to stardom went hand-in-hand with a dangerous relationship with drug abuse that was integral to his songwriting. Reed spent years addicted to heroin and other drugs, but spent the last thirty years of his life sober, even taking up Tai Chi to help him focus on his recovery.
Robert Downey, Jr. Whether you know him as Iron Man or Sherlock Holmes, there’s no denying that Downey is one of the biggest-ticket actors in Hollywood right now. But just over ten years ago, he was on the brink of losing everything. In the late 1990s, Downey struggled with cocaine, heroin, marijuana, Valium, and a whole host of other drugs; repeated arrests almost completely ended his career. According to his testimony in a 1999 trial, he had been struggling with addiction since the age of eight! But his years of struggle finally culminated in a trip to rehab that left him clean, and he swiftly returned to the spotlight where he belongs.
Oprah Winfrey. Everyone loves Oprah – her positive attitude, her style, her larger-than-life attitude. Even if you never watched her show, you have to respect how much she has accomplished, especially considering the obstacles she overcame: poverty, sexual abuse, blatant racism, and a codependent relationship that was tied in with a crack addiction.
Yes, addiction is difficult to overcome. Yes, our media has a disturbing obsession with watching high-profile people suffer and fail. But know that there are success stories out there, and with the right help, anyone can do it.