It seems these days like there’s a different celebrity announcing that they are going to rehab. Or, if they’re anything like Amy Winehouse, perhaps writing a song about how they aren’t going to rehab (no, no, no!). While it may seem to be all fun and games to joke about big names in television and media “doing their time” in rehab, there’s a serious, sinister issue bubbling beneath the community of the rich and famous. So why do so many of our favorite celebs end up needing to seek help for addiction? And why do fancy, extravagant rehabilitation centers like Passages, Malibu and the Betty Ford Clinic in Rancho Mirage, California exist? The answer to these questions is more complicated than you might think. The fact of the matter is, the rich and famous struggle with mental health issues and addiction just like the rest of us. The only difference is that while we have the option to just walk into any old clinic off the streets and receive treatment, celebrities have to be choosy about where they get help due to privacy and security concerns surrounding their fame and recognition.
Why do celebrities struggle with addiction despite “having it all”?
We tend to look at celebrities and only see what’s on the surface: beauty, fame, riches, opportunity, adoration of fans, etc. To the regular person, these people seem to be living a life that the average joe could only dream of having. We find ourselves fantasizing about what it would be like if we could just skyrocket to fame and never have to worry about money or finding success ever again…
If only it were that simple.
Yes, the rich and famous have an immense privilege, there is no denying that. But this does not mean that they are immune to suffering. In fact, the fast life of fame and fortune often comes along with some unwanted baggage. When your entire life is under a microscope, there will always be pressure on you to perform. You must talk, act, and behave a certain way. Any slip-up or wrong move could land a celebrity in a world of trouble that no amount of good PR could completely fix. Misusing illicit substances is one of the primary unhealthy ways that people cope with stress, so it’s no wonder that so many celebrities are coming out and admitting that they have a problem.
The faces of celebrity addiction
Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr. is one of the best examples of someone who turned their life around and saved their career after a lifelong battle with addiction. Downey Jr. recalls having used drugs even before he was a teenager, and continued to rely on illicit substances throughout the early days of his career. He was arrested many times in the late 90’s and early 2000’s for being caught under the influence of alcohol, cocaine, and heroin. He even did time in prison. But his now-wife convinced him to make a change, and Downey Jr. started therapy, entered a 12-step program, started meditating, and even took up the martial art Wing Chun Kung Fu. He’s been clean ever since, and has made a name for himself playing Tony Stark/Ironman in the Marvel Movie franchise. He described his journey out of addiction as “like coming out of a 20-year coma”.
Drew Barrymore is often the face of childhood trauma that leads to addiction. Forced out into the spotlight at the tender age of six by starring in the movie E.T., a combination of the pressures of fame and neglectful, abusive parenting caused Barrymore to seek treatment for addiction at the by just 13 years old. She cites having been drinking from the age of nine and quickly began using marijuana and cocaine. Now recovered, she has gone on to act in many more television shows and movies, most recently the show Santa Clarita Diet. She also made her directorial debut with the movie Whip It.
Matthew Perry, former Friends star, dealt with addiction even after rising to fame and becoming a millionaire. He stated that even after he finally “made it,” it still didn’t feel like enough. He felt compelled to continue chasing a high, which led him to becoming dependent on pills and alcohol. His obsession with perfection led him down an extremely dark path. Now, he still struggles daily but considers himself to be mostly recovered. In a Fox News article, he was quoted saying: “At Phoenix House, I was very moved by the hope that I saw there, which is what this is all about. Getting sober is a really hard thing to do.” Feeling inspired to give back, he converted his Malibu mansion into a sober living home for recovering addicts to find respite in between rehab and regular life. Despite the facility since closing down, the sentiment remains. In addition, in 2013, Perry testified before congress to secure $41 million for Drug Courts and another $4 million for Veterans Treatment Courts. He said he felt compelled to do this because the programs are so effective and “55% of addicts who go through the process don’t see handcuffs again” (NADCP).
The controversy behind celebrity rehab
While most would argue that anyone with an addiction seeking treatment would be considered a positive thing, there is some controversy regarding celebrities “coming out” as addicts. As we know, one of the most telling factors of whether or not a person will have a successful time in a treatment program is the level of commitment they have to getting better. Unfortunately, many celebrities may only agree to attend these facilities and participate in the program as a PR move, intended to save their career. Typically, the ones who see recovery programs as nothing but a sponge to scrub their career squeaky clean are those that give treatment a bad reputation. People often look to celebrities as role models, putting their trust and faith into their actions. So when they see celebrities who make a habit of flitting in and out of rehab, it creates the notion in some minds that rehab is just a vacation, or perhaps that it isn’t effective. This is not true at all, and can hurt regular people who may feel reluctant to receive treatment after seeing their favorite celebrity seemingly give up after only weeks spent in a facility.
Despite this, there is certainly a positive side to famous people speaking out about mental illness and addiction. By being candid about their struggles, they may inspire others to follow in their path and seek help. And those who took rehab seriously and had a successful recovery are shining examples to all of their fans of how these programs can seriously change lives.
Scottsdale Recovery Center is a safe and private facility offering high-quality treatment in a luxurious setting. Celebrities, or those with a high-profile career can rest assured knowing that their time at SRC is protected and secure. With a range of in-patient and out-patient options, all walks of life can find comfort and healing at our facilities.