To promote his new book, Love Is the Cure: Ending the Global AIDS Epidemic, that is hitting stores today, Sir Elton John has been making the media rounds over the past couple of weeks. As one of the most celebrated pop musicians of all-time, when John – born Reginald Kenneth Dwight – talks, the world listens. And on his most recent media tour, he’s been talking a lot about a topic he’s never shied away from: His battle with drug and alcohol addiction.
To hear John tell it, he’s been to hell and back, wasting some of the best years of his life as a slave to his addictions. As a shy young man, John began taking drugs to try to fit in and release his inhibitions. He says that his drug use was so bad, he would have seizures that turned his face blue, pass out and then get up an hour later and begin using again. For years, he tried off-and-on to distance himself from drugs and alcohol, but simply couldn’t stop and was never able to drink or take substances in moderation. He states that no only did he lose several friends to overdoses, but he lost many people in his life who loved him, but could no longer stand to be around him, like his mother. Sober now for more than 20 years and father to a young son, Zachary, John says life is better than ever and he is lucky to be alive today.
Not only is it inspiring to hear a story of triumph, like Elton John’s, it is incredibly important. We live in a celebrity-obsessed world in which musicians, actors and other famous individuals have an enormous impact. To hear of the struggles one of our heroes endured with substance abuse and how they turned their lives around can give hope to others struggling with addiction. Celebrities have a platform that “regular” people don’t – and it’s wonderful when they use their social status to reach out and help those looking for encouragement.
John isn’t alone in his candor and desire to help others. A few other celebrities who have recently struggled with addiction and made the difficult decision to share their stories with the world, in the hopes that they might help someone else recover, include:
- Kelly Osbourne – The world was first introduced to Kelly Osbourne through MTV’s hit reality show, The Osbournes, in 2002. What viewers didn’t realize at the time was that Kelly was hooked on painkillers. Since 2004, she has been to rehab three times, finally getting sober for good in 2009. Never one to mince words, Kelly has expressed regret over the person she was during her drug use and the pain she caused to the people who love her. She also feels very strongly that parents who have a child battling addiction need to be honest with their children and themselves, and force the person into drug rehab. Today, life is better than ever for Kelly, who has appeared on Dancing With the Stars and is currently a fashion correspondent for E! Entertainment Television.
- Eminem – One of the best-selling rappers of all-time, Eminem built his early career around songs glamorizing prescription drug abuse. However, after an accidental methadone overdose in late-2007, Eminem finally decided it was time to get clean – and turned to none other than Elton John for advice. In recent years, Eminem has been candid about his worst years of substance abuse – he estimates he was taking 40-60 Valium and 20-30 Vicodin pills a day – and how his drug use negatively affected his family life and music. Instead of rapping about drugs, these days, he uses his music to declare victory over his addictions.
- Demi Lovato – Teen queen Demi Lovato might not be recognizable to the over-25 crowd, but to her younger fans, she’s both a cautionary tale and an inspiration. In late-2010, she entered a rehab facility for bulimia and self-injury, and in subsequent interviews has stated that she was also taking copious amounts of drugs and alcohol to “numb [her] pain.” Today, Lovato is doing better than ever. She won the Acuvue Inspire Award at the 2011 Teen Choice Awards for her honesty and the encouragement she gives to her fans to stay healthy and strong, released a documentary about her journey, and currently scored the one of the coveted judge positions on the second season of X-Factor.
- Russell Brand – Funnyman Russell Brand didn’t just play a rockstar in movies, he lived like one. A former heroin and sex addict, and recovering alcoholic, Brand has been sober since 2002 and has used his celebrity as a platform to help others struggling with substance abuse. It was recently announced that he will be working with British politicians to develop new drug policy and is developing a documentary about addiction.