“Addiction isn’t about substance – you aren’t addicted to the substance, you are addicted to the alteration of mood that the substance brings.” – Author Susan Cheever
Rob Lowe on addiction and recovery
“To those struggling with addiction, there is true, real, hope. Twenty-five years ago today, I found recovery and a life of promise. #Grateful.” – Tweet byRob Lowe, May 2015.
Lowe described his rehab in his memoir as “one of the most exhilarating, liberating and exciting four weeks of my life. Scary yes… but unquantifiable relief.”
He comments further in an interview:
“It was great. I loved it. Because I was ready. Problem is, people go into rehab and they’re not ready.
“You want to get sober for your parents, you want to get sober for your job, you want to get sober for the cops, you want to get sober to protect your image.
“A lot of good reasons, by the way, but unfortunately, the only thing that works is that you have to want to get sober for you….”
He thinks Charlie Sheen, his friend from their teen star days, did not want help — and that he was wrong about how rehab works.
“He’s wrong… You don’t get to do it your way. You don’t get to make up your own special rules. We have a name for people like that. Those are people who suffer from terminal uniqueness. You don’t get to do it your way.”
Rob Lowe On Rehab: ‘It Was Great. I Loved It.’ HuffPost, 05/08/2011.
In another interview, he said the process of recovery is “an exhilarating journey. It really is, to continue to dig in and grow and learn things about yourself.”
He has also commented, “I couldn’t have gotten sober without rehab because I needed the science. I needed to [learn about] addiction and what it does to your body and all of the research and the things like that.
“A lot of people can do it through 12-step programs alone—I wouldn’t have been one of them, although I believe in them. I needed to do the work.”
[Photo from his Facebook page May 5, 2016 – caption: I’m on Jimmy Kimmel Live TONIGHT. #goodtimes #CincoDeMayo #Drunk #notreally.]
“Let’s just say I needed a cocktail when we finished that day.”
Amy Adams was referring to shooting a scene in “American Hustle”, which a Los Angeles Times article describes as “a scene in which her character, Sydney, a steely, sexy con artist, confronts her lover, Irving (Christian Bale), about the authenticity of his devotion.”
Adams said it was the “most emotionally complicated scene I’ve ever played in my entire career. That scene kind of messed with me. We ended up working on that scene for 16 hours from beginning to end.
“I was very stripped down, which, for this movie, I have to be careful how I say that. Bare. Sydney had been putting on so many personas up to that point. Even the person Irving met was a bit of a persona. So it’s a moment where she’s very raw, very vulnerable.
“I have a tendency to overcomplicate things as an actress, and Sydney is all over the place here. She doesn’t know who’s telling the truth, and that experience of not understanding what reality is in a moment is terrifying. Let’s just say I needed a cocktail when we finished that day.”
[From Amy Adams bares all about ‘American Hustle’s’ emotional scenes, By Glenn Whipp, Los Angeles Times, February 6, 2014.]
Many people use alcohol, marijuana or something else to relax and de-stress, especially from the challenges of physically and emotionally intense work like acting. But a number of artists use and abuse drugs, substances and activities – often as self-medication – to the point where they risk addiction.
The mission of this article is to provide some helpful perspectives and resources on addictive, self-limiting behaviors that can interfere with our creative lives.
See additional articles at the bottom of Artists and Addiction – Part 2
Also see the Emotional Health Resources page
One of the programs listed: Unchain Your Brain –
“An Audio Program for Breaking the Addictions That Steal Your Life”
by Daniel G. Amen, David E. Smith
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Philip Seymour Hoffman used drugs and alcohol throughout his life.
A lot, at times.
“It was all that stuff. It was anything I could get my hands on. I liked it all.”
He got sober, he says, because “You get panicked. I was 22, and I got panicked for my life.”
He has also commented that “Film is a very uncomfortable medium for an actor. It’s just not conducive to doing what actors do.
“The first few days of shooting are like you just getting over the fact that you are there. These people and the camera over the shoulder and the light and the boom – you’re just going crazy trying to find some kind of center of relaxation…”
Hoffman died Sunday Feb 2, 2014 from an apparent heroin overdose. What a huge loss to the creative community – his acting work is so powerful and evocative.
There are so many reactions to his death – here are a few articles:
What We Can Learn From Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Death, by Dr. Peggy Drexler, HuffingtonPost – “Increased exposure and conversation could help remove the lingering stigma surrounding addiction, and treatment of such, helping more people understand that addiction is a serious issue that doesn’t discriminate based on income, social standing, looks, or anything else.”
Philip Seymour Hoffman Didn’t Have to Die By Maia Szalavitz, TIME – “Whether it’s a heroin addict who has relapsed, a toddler who gets into grandma’s oxycontin, a granddad who drinks and takes the wrong pills or a teenager who tries these drugs in a dangerously high dose, there are ways to prevent these individuals from becoming victims of an overdose.”
Philip Seymour Hoffman Was Taught To Be Helpless Before Drugs – Heroin epidemic? Cunning disease? Or learned powerlessness? by Stanton Peele, Reason, February 4, 2014. [One of his books: Recover!: Stop Thinking Like an Addict and Reclaim Your Life.]
Russell Brand wrote in a letter for The Guardian, “Whilst routinely described as tragic, Hoffman’s death is insufficiently sad to be left un-supplemented in the mandatory posthumous scramble for salacious garnish; we will now be subjected to mourn-ography posing as analysis.
“I can assure you that there is no as yet undiscovered riddle in his domestic life or sex life, the man was a drug addict and his death inevitable.”
Brand adds, “Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death is a reminder, though, that addiction is indiscriminate. That it is sad, irrational and hard to understand.
“What it also clearly demonstrates is that we are a culture that does not know how to treat its addicts. Would Hoffman have died if this disease were not so enmeshed in stigma?”
From article Russell Brand on Philip Seymour Hoffman: “The Man Was a Drug Addict and His Death Inevitable” by Brett Malec E! Online Fri., Feb. 7, 2014.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Is it a disease?
Throughout this article there are quotes referring to addiction as a “disease” – and a number of rehab programs and addiction therapists, including some prominent ones on television (plus people in need of help, of course) accept the concept.
Among the consequences of this idea or belief can be assumptions such you are “powerless” or “doomed”; the progression toward death is “inevitable”; and you can do little for yourself and must rely on help from a medical specialist.
But many psychologists refute the concept, and say the 12-Step/AA “disease” philosophy is limiting or distorting and not helpful for managing addictive behavior for many people.
Here is a statement from a treatment program that is an alternative to “traditional” AA/12-Step methods, and uses CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and other forms of treatment to assist people in making changes in their behavior and thinking. This treatment approach may be particularly helpful for artists and creative people in general.
“In our work, we choose to use the term ‘syndrome’ over ‘disease’ – as described by Howard J. Shaffer, Ph.D., Director of the Division on Addictions at Harvard Medical School.
“From his study, we know that some people are born with a biological propensity to become addicted, while others are not. By calling an addiction a ‘syndrome’, it does not negate the existence of the neurological, genetic and biological components of the addiction; the term actually is inclusive of the ‘disease’ component of addiction, and it also acknowledges the scientifically-proven implications of the individual’s psychology and the influence of their environment.
“Additionally, the word ‘disease’ has many associated negative implications in our society. We find it much too simplistic a word to address the complex phenomenon that we call addiction.”
From the Addiction Alternatives program FAQ page.
[Image from book: The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer’s Block, and the Creative Brain by Alice Weaver Flaherty. “Neurologist Alice W. Flaherty explores the mysteries of literary creativity: the drive to write, what sparks it, and what extinguishes it. She draws on intriguing examples from medical case studies and from the lives of writers, from Franz Kafka to Anne Lamott, from Sylvia Plath to Stephen King. Flaherty, who herself has grappled with episodes of compulsive writing and block, also offers a compelling personal account of her own experiences with these conditions.”] [Amazon summary]
Related article: Positive Obsessions To Be Creative – Creativity coach Eric Maisel, PhD thinks obsession is a more or less necessary element of creative achievement – at least the healthy variety of obsession.
~ ~ ~
Actor and recording artist Demi Lovato is “doing well three years after going to rehab for drug and alcohol addiction” she told an entertainment news program Feb. 3 2014, according to an article, which continues:
“I don’t think anybody can save your life except for yourself,” said Demi, 21. “That was a key element in realizing I had to change. I don’t place any of the blame on anybody else except for myself for not being so honest.”
“Lovato, who was addicted to alcohol, cocaine and pot, also suffered from the eating disorders anorexia and bulimia. She confessed that she used to smuggle cocaine on airplanes to feed her dangerous addiction.
“Lovato, who goes to therapy and takes medication after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, wants to be a role model for other young girls suffering from similar problems.”
“I had a negative breakdown and it changed my life forever. If I hadn’t gone into treatment, I don’t know if I’d be alive today.”
She recounts her battles with drug addiction, anorexia and bulimia in her book, Staying Strong: 365 Days a Year.
From article: Ex-bulimic Demi Lovato talks drug abuse, rehab and smoking pot with Joe Jonas, by Samantha Chang.
In a Twitter post on her account @ddlovato, she wrote a response to Hoffman’s death – it says in part:
“I wish more people would lose the stigma and treat addiction as the deadly and serious DISEASE that it is. Drugs are not something to glamorize in pop music or film to portray as harmless recreational fun. It’s not cute, “cool” or admire able. It’s very rare when people can actually predict their addiction and even then, you never know when too much is going to take their life or take a bad batch of whatever it is their using.
“It’s time people start really taking action on changing what we’re actually singing/rapping about these days because you never know if you could be glamorizing a certain drug to a first time user or alcoholic who could possibly end up dead because they end up suffering from the same deadly disease so many have already died from…”
[Also see my page (old and not updated): Eating Disorders – with quotes by and about Scarlett Pomers. Felicity Huffman, Jane Fonda and many others.]
~ ~ ~
Many creative people have had addiction or abuse problems
Beethoven reportedly drank wine about as often as he wrote music, and was an alcoholic or at least a problem-drinker.
Among the many other artists who have used drugs, alcohol or other substances are Aldous Huxley, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Edgar Allen Poe, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Allen Ginsberg, composer Modest Musorgski, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Chandler, Eugene O’Neill, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dorothy Parker, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, John Steinbeck, and Tennessee Williams.
At least five U.S. writers who won the Nobel Prize for Literature have been considered alcoholics.
One of the most ‘romantic’ forms of alcohol has been absinthe.
Absinthe or la Fée Verte (Green Fairy) may have been “the drink of choice for Pablo Picasso, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Toulouse Lautrec, Julius Verne, Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allen Poe, and Ernest Hemingway.
“Many openly attributed some of their creativity to la Fée Verte. Its popularity spread during the Belle Époque to artist havens such as Paris, Bohemia and New Orleans.” [From ecodigerati post: Absinthe.]
But do drugs enhance creativity?
A Medical News Today story reports this is a “dangerous myth” – and drugs can actually stifle creativity.
> Read more in article: Getting High Doesn’t Make You Creative.
When he heard that he was chosen to be the new Bond, actor Daniel Craig says,”I was shopping, and I dropped what I was carrying. I went straight to the alcohol section and got myself a bottle of vodka and a bottle of vermouth and went back and made myself a Martini – or two.”
Acclaimed for his toned look as the new James Bond, Craig has commented about his training regime: “I’m not obsessive about fitness. I work out three or four times a week but I take the weekends off and drink as much Guinness as I can get down my neck.”
From my article Addiction and Creative People.
~ ~ ~
Edie Falco portrays the compassionate and competent – but painkiller-addicted – Jackie Peyton on the comedic drama series “Nurse Jackie.”
Falco has said her own experiences with addiction have been part of her dynamic acting.
“Addiction has had such an impact on my life and the people I love, and there really is not a lot about it that is funny.”
The article with that comment notes, “She also opens up about her own past bouts of workaholism, which she claims is an addiction like any other. Whether the disease takes the form of snorting pills or working yourself to the bone, addictive behavior springs from the same source.
“An addict is an addict,” she says. “If they’re not acting out in one area, it tends to come out in another.”
The article notes her character Jackie has been in rehab, is newly-sober, and that “Falco will be taking Peyton in a new direction – one that might echo Falco’s own experience as a sober woman with 20 years in recovery.”
[TV Imitates Life for Edie Falco, By Sam Lansky, The Fix 04/09/12.]
These exceptionally talented and acclaimed actors are far from alone.
According to surveys, at least 1 in 10 adult Americans has a serious alcohol problem (Institute of Medicine); around twenty percent of both men and women are smokers (Centers for Disease Control), and approximately 1 in 35 over age 12 is an illicit drug user (Institute of Medicine).
Russell Brand: “Drugs and alcohol are not my problem, reality is my problem, drugs and alcohol are my solution.”
From article: Russell Brand: my life without drugs, The Guardian, Saturday 9 March 2013 – “Russell Brand has not used drugs for 10 years. He has a job, a house, a cat, good friends. But temptation is never far away. He wants to help other addicts, but first he wants us to feel compassion for those affected.”
Addiction psychologist Marc F. Kern, Ph.D. [Facebook page] notes,
“Altering one’s state of consciousness is normal…a destructive habit or addiction is mostly an unconscious strategy – which you started to develop at a naive, much earlier stage of life – to enjoy the feelings it brought on or to help cope with uncomfortable emotions or feelings. It is simply an adaptation that has gone awry.”
[From my article Addiction and Creative People.]
William H. Macy [an Oscar nominee in 1997, for “Fargo”] once commented,
“Nobody became an actor because he had a good childhood.”
While that may not be literally true, many actors (and other people too, of course) have had painful lives, and use substances to cope.
Trauma takes many forms, and has different sources and levels of impact for each of us.
See quotes by and about many well-known artists such as Sarah Polley, Halle Berry, Lady Gaga, will.i.am, Jennifer Lawrence, Jonathan Safran Foer and many others, in my article “Creative People, Trauma and Mental Health” – which includes a number of videos, book quotes, programs and other resources.
[Photo from my article I don’t like emotions – Macy comments: “I don’t like emotions… For some reason I’m more comfortable in imaginary circumstances.”]
In his article ‘Emotional Trauma: An Often Overlooked Root of Addiction,’ David Sack, M.D. writes, “A history of childhood neglect or sexual, physical or emotional abuse is common among people undergoing treatment for alcoholism and may be a factor in the development of alcohol use disorders… Trauma has been associated not only with drug addiction but also overeating, compulsive sexual behavior and other types of addictions.”
From my article Creative People, Trauma, Addiction: Colin Farrell.
Tatum O’Neal, an Oscar winner at age 10, says in her autobiography (“A Paper Life”) that growing up she had to deal with her mentally unstable mother and volatile and unpredictable father, in an environment of drugs, neglect, and physical and mental abuse.
By age 20, she was addicted to cocaine.
Psychiatrist Leon Wurmser, M.D. says “Anxiety of an overwhelming nature and the emotional feelings of pain, injury, woundedness, and vulnerability appear to be a feature common to all types of compulsive drug use. Child abuse is, in the simplest and strongest terms, one of the most important etiologic factors for later drug abuse.” [From his article Drug Use as a Protective System.]
Ed Harris, commenting about playing the lead in “Pollock,” admitted to having “a slight drinking problem at that time… It had to do with things that you don’t talk about, very private and similar fears [to Pollock’s] about the need for approval and attention and the desire to do something that makes me feel worthy.”
Michael J. Fox developed a drinking problem after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991. “I craved alcohol as a direct response to the need I felt to escape my situation,” he writes in Lucky Man: A Memoir. “Joyless and secretive, I drank to disassociate; drinking now was about isolation and self-medication.”
Being driven to achieve can also lead to addiction problems.
Chris Penn fought cocaine and alcohol abuse for years, but died recently at age 40. Like many talented people in the arts, he wanted to do more and more, often working late into the night writing and working with equipment for a film he wanted to make, even helping construct the set.
Key entertainment industry executives and producers, even fellow actors, may enable drug and alcohol abuse, unless it gets too “out of control.” As fictional movie studio exec Peter Dragon (Jay Mohr) said in the TV series “Action” (1999): “Yeah – in rehab you’re an addict; on a sound stage you’re a tortured genius.”
An ABC News article [“The Mighty Have Fallen; Here’s Why” By Andrea Canning] says Gary Stromberg, author of the book “Harder They Fall: Celebrities Tell Their Real-Life Stories of Addiction and Recovery,” told ABC News, “With creative people in general, I think there is more of a tendency to gravitate toward substance abuse. Creative people push the envelope, and there’s no net,” he said.
“They live on the edge and that’s risky. They live in a world surrounded by people who adore them and enable them. No one telling them no. … They live privileged lives and they don’t play by the same rules as the rest of the world. They are crying out for someone to say no to them.”
Robert Downey Jr. has apparently been “indulged” for years on account of his exceptional acting talent. His former wife Sarah Jessica Parker admits, “Fairly early on, he told me he had a drug problem. Addiction didn’t seem like something that would impose itself on us. I was very wrong.
“In every good and bad way, I enabled him to show up for work. If he didn’t, I’d cover for him, find him, clean him up. He was like a broken pipe with a leak that you’re constantly putting tape around and tape over tape, but you can’t stop the leaking.” [Parade mag., January 29, 2006]
Downey admits “the actions I took and the decisions I made tied my shoelaces together. But I’ve never been as trustworthy or worked so hard as I am now [being sober]. I’m having a better time. It’s more fun to be clear and accountable. Believe me, I speak from experience.” [LA Times May 14, 2005]
In her memoir “Looking for Gatsby: My Life,” Faye Dunaway said she is “the child of a driven, dream-deprived mother and distant, alcoholic father” and admits using food “to counter the stress of filmmaking. I’ve never stopped guarding against a return to that kind of emotional reliance on food, and as I grew into this sophisticated world, alcohol. I’m finally beyond that now, but it was the pendulum I would swing on for years.”
Carrie Fisher detailed some of her addiction experience in her autobiographical novel Postcards from the Edge. In a Psychology Today article she said, “Drugs made me feel more normal. They contained me.”
At times, she took 30 Percodan a day. “You don’t even get high. It’s like a job, you punch in,” she said. At age 28, she overdosed, and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
“It was [Richard] Dreyfuss who came to the hospital and said, ‘You’re a drug addict, but I have to tell you that I’ve observed this other thing in you: You’re a manic-depressive.’ So maybe I was taking drugs to keep the monster in the box,” she said.
Those “monsters” can be a wide range of mental health and life issues, and we use a variety of substances to deal with them: former Full House actress Jodie Sweetin, and Tom Sizemore: crystal meth; Colin Farrell: painkillers; Lindsay Lohan: smoking, other drugs and alcohol.
William Petersen was working up to 12 to 14 hours a day on his tv series CSI, but was a smoker for many years, and started to experience heart problems, an article noted (“Addictions and Your Heart” by David Krissman, Beverly Hills  March 15th, 2006).
“There is evidence that both smoking and alcohol can cause irregular heart beats,” says cardiologist Dr. Sheila Kar, who diagnosed Petersen.
“Dr. Kar was able to help him, but it wasn’t without his hard work and sacrifice. ‘I was on medications for one thing,’ Petersen says of his treatment. ‘We got my heart back in rhythm and then we’ve been keeping it that way through exercise and diet, [and] lower stress in my life.’
“Now Petersen,” the article adds, “works less and continues to fight his addiction to cigarettes. ‘Cigarettes are a hard addiction,’ he says. ‘I started to try to stop smoking four years ago. Then it took awhile. You fail and you start again. Then things like heart problems surface and you quit.'”
~ ~ ~
Musician Keith Urban once checked himself into a rehab center for alcohol abuse, with support from his wife, actor Nicole Kidman.
A number of other stars have sought treatment for drug or alcohol problems, including Haley Joel Osment (star of The Sixth Sense), Mel Gibson, Robin Williams, Robert Downey Jr., and soprano Andrea Gruber, who sang with the Metropolitan Opera.
Johnny Depp has blamed his previous alcohol addiction in his early movie career on his needing to block his discomfort.
“I’d go to functions and back in those days I literally had to be drunk to be able to speak and get through it. I guess I was trying not to feel anything. My drug of choice back then was alcohol more than anything.”
In their article A Bioanthropological Overview of Addiction, Doris F. Jonas, Ph.D. and A. David Jonas, M.D. write people sensitive to perceiving the minutest changes in their environment can become overwhelmed. [from Part 2 – also see Part 1]
Those with less sensitive nervous systems are, they write, “better adapted to our more crowded living conditions. The more sensitive can only attempt to ease their discomfort by blunting their perceptions with alcohol or depressive drugs or, alternatively, by using consciousness-altering drugs to transport their senses from the dysphoric world in which they live to private worlds of their own.”
Fortunately, many gifted and talented actors, musicians and others have been able to stay healthy and use their high sensitivity to give us the pleasure of their outstanding performances.
Photo of Keith Urban from his album Love, Pain & the whole crazy thing.
Quotes are from my post Keith Urban and Other Stars Show Dark Side of the High Sensitivity Personality.
~ ~ ~
Nicole Kidman reportedly drinks in moderation, like many successful people, but has also admitted she’s a smoker: “Occasionally. It’s an addiction.”
Referring to the personality and work of many performers, she said, “You live with a lot of complicated emotions as an actor, and they whirl around you and create havoc at times.
“And yet, as an actor you’re consciously and unconsciously allowing that to happen.
“It’s my choice, and I would rather do it this way than live to be 100… Or rather than choosing not to exist within life’s extremities. I’m willing to fly close to the flame.”
From my article: Nicole Kidman – a brief profile of high ability and complexity.
She has also talked about the challenges facing her family with the addiction of her husband, musician Keith Urban: “We were thrown into his alcohol problem three months into the marriage, and that was big.
“We became the closest we could become, because we had to bare our souls. We did 10 years of marriage in three months. You go to hell and back with this — when the addiction takes control of the life, it’s terrifying.
“But there is hope, and we work on it every day, and we are in a place of actual peace right now, which is a beautiful place.” [Parade magazine via HuffingtonPost 10-30-08.]
Those “complicated emotions” Kidman mentions, part of the typical high sensitivity and high intensity of creative people, can help make actors outstanding in their work, but may also be a precedent to addictive behavior.
More related articles
Article publié pour la première fois le 20/06/2014