These days, it seems as if we’re inundated with news stories regarding celebrities who have been arrested for DUIs, entered rehab and, sadly, suffered drug overdoses. We’ve become so used to watching our famous heroes spiral into drug addiction, that we’re almost desensitized to it. However, this suffering from substance abuse and their families can learn from many of these tales, some inspirational about turning one’s life around and some tragic. We’ve compiled the stories of five famous addicts whose struggles we can use as teaching tools in our own roads to recovery.
1.) Eric Clapton – Lauded as one of the greatest guitarists in history, Slowhand’s substance abuse spanned decades, with an extreme heroin problem that resulted in the break-ups of his critically acclaimed bands Derek & the Dominoes and Cream, as well as being responsible for the dissolution of his marriage to Patti Boyd. He eventually developed a serious alcohol problem that resulted in a hospitalization in 1981. Shortly after that incident, he checked himself into rehab and was quoted as saying, “In the lowest moments of my life, the only reason I didn’t commit suicide was that I knew I wouldn’t be able to drink any more if I was dead. It was the only thing I thought was worth living for, and the idea that people were about to try and remove me from alcohol was so terrible that I drank and drank and drank, and they had to practically carry me into the clinic.” Clapton was able to overcome his addiction, get healthy and get his life back – he is back to making music, remarried and has had more children. His experience instilled a passion for helping others and, in 1998, he founded Crossroads, a recovery center in Antigua.
2.) Darryl Strawberry – There’s perhaps been no cautionary tale against substance abuse in the sports world that’s bigger than Darryl Strawberry. The first overall pick by the New York Mets in the 1980, Strawberry was a promising young player on track to set slugging records and seemed a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame. However, he was plagued by personal demons and consumed by cocaine and alcohol abuse. Although he did enter rehab in 1990, continuous relapses sabotaged his one-promising career – including multiple suspensions by the MLB for drug use – and he eventually retired falling radically short of his potential.
3.) Robert Downey, Jr. – One of Hollywood’s biggest “comeback kids” in recent years, Robert Downey, Jr. spent years struggling with drug and alcohol abuse. After kicking off a critically acclaimed career as one of Hollywood’s most promising and talented young actors, Downey was arrested multiple times between 1995 and 2001 on drug-related charges for heroin, cocaine and marijuana. Consequently, his career experienced a series of highs – such as winning a Golden Globe for his performance on Ally McBeal – and extreme lows during which he was pegged as “unhireable.” Finally, he reached a point where he decided that “enough is enough” and checked himself into rehab. He has remained committed to his sobriety and he has experienced a career resurgence, with blockbusters like Iron Man and The Avengers, that has put him back on top as one of Hollywood’s leading men.
4.) F. Scott Fitzgerald – Since its publication in 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby has been called “The Great American Novel.” Only 29 at the time of its completion, Fitzgerald should have had a long, accomplished career ahead of him. However, a downward spiral into alcohol addiction halted his progression. Though he did manage to continue writing, the combined stress over financial problems and heavy drinking severely limited his output and the overall quality of his writing. At the young age of 44, Fitzgerald suffered a massive heart attack and died – doctors suspected it was brought on by a long history of alcohol abuse. Despite his early years of fame, Fitzgerald died in obscurity and it would be 10 years before some of his unfinished and unpublished works were discovered, reestablishing him as a literary genius.
5.) Whitney Houston – One of the saddest – and most recent – tales of a celebrity’s struggle with drug abuse is Whitney Houston. Although her ex-husband, Bobby Brown, is often pegged as the instigator of her addiction, since her death, close family and friends have said that Houston began dabbling with drugs as a teenager. Once seen as having the music industry’s most inspiring female voice, the last 10 years of Houston’s career was riddled with substance abuse that resulted in an ability to perform, canceled performances, unfinished albums and embarrassing appearances on television during which she was clearly impaired and under the influence. Consequently, she was viewed as a liability and often as a laughingstock, and was able to reclaim the success she experiences early in her career. In February 2012, after a lifetime of struggle with substance abuse, Houston was found submerged in a bathtub in her hotel room. The cause of death was drowning and “effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use,” and Xanax, marijuana and cocaine were all found in her system at the time of death.