Getting trapped in the world of drug and alcohol addiction is something that can happen to anyone. Unfortunately, addiction and all the stigma that comes with it seems to surround the entertainment industry— and some of the biggest names in popular culture. While there are a handful of celebrities today that seem to be coasting on residual fame based in substance-fueled antics, there are many others who have conquered addiction and gone on to advocate for the recovery community by sharing their experiences in the hopes of helping their fans. These are a few of them.
Alexander Rae Baldwin III is one of America’s most iconic celebrities. He is the eldest of the four Baldwin brothers and boasts a fruitful acting career ranging from the stage to the big screen. Baldwin has been in the spotlight (and the public eye) for more than three decades, yet many of his most loyal fans were surprised to learn about his past struggles with drugs and alcohol. In an interview with George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America in 2017, Baldwin openly discussed his past addictions to alcohol and cocaine. Further details about his struggles and sobriety are shared in his published memoir Nevertheless.
“I got sober when I was just about to turn 27, and those two years that I lived in that white, hot period, as a daily drug abuser, as a daily drinker…to my misery, boy, that was a tough time… I think I would’ve got [sober] eventually, but, I’m glad I got it when I did ‘cause not many people get sober when they’re young.”
– Baldwin, Good Morning America Interview
Gerard James Butler, a British-Scottish actor and producer, is one of the biggest names in celebrity stardom today. Given that Butler does not even drink alcohol, many fans were surprised to learn that he struggled with addiction. After filming the movie 300, he unintentionally developed a dependence on pain medication. This turned into borderline addiction after Butler sustained an injury during the filming of Chasing Mavericks. Concerned for his health and what he called an ‘addictive personality,’ Butler checked himself into rehab to address the problem before it became too difficult to handle. In 2012, he completed pain-management therapy and reportedly has not had issues since.
“When you hear the word rehab, you think, ‘He’s a mess, he’s [messed] up.’ But I’m glad I did it. I’ve made a [ton] of wrong decisions in my life. But I know I’ve made some right ones as well.”
– Butler, Men’s Journal Interview
Jamie Lee Curtis
Jamie Lee Curtis, perhaps the most iconic scream queen of American horror movie pop culture, has always been very open about her past opioid addiction and advocacy for the recovery community. Like many Americans, Curtis’ addiction to opioid painkillers developed by accident after receiving a prescription following a medical procedure. In the midst of the worst opioid epidemic this country has seen, Curtis now uses her fame as a platform for discussing drug use, addiction, treatment, and sobriety. She believes that sharing experiences may mean the difference between life and death for anyone struggling with addiction. In fact, Curtis credits the Esquire Magazine article ‘Vicodin, My Vicodin’ by Tom Chiarella as having saved her own life.
“If you had to pinpoint one thing that will be important at the end of my life, it would be my sobriety.”
– Curtis, ABC News Interview
Robert Downey Jr.
The story behind Robert John Downey Jr.’s multiple addictions clearly outlines the consequences of drug abuse, but it also serves as an inspiring reminder that overcoming addiction and moving forward is possible. Early in his career, Downey was a Hollywood heartthrob with an abundance of critical and commercial success. This all changed once he got involved in a variety of drugs, including cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. Downey’s habits resulted in multiple arrests, family troubles, and even a brief (but unofficial) Hollywood blacklisting. Today, Downey has been sober for almost 20 years and has seen a legendary resurgence in his acting career.
“Job one is get out of that cave. A lot of people do get out but don’t change. So the thing is to get out and recognize the significance of that aggressive denial of your fate, come through the crucible forged into a stronger metal.”
– Downey, Vanity Fair Interview
The music industry has seen its fair share of addiction cases, too. English singer-songwriter Sir Elton Hercules John, CBE— one of the most famous and highly-esteemed celebrities in the world— struggled with a severe cocaine addiction back in the 1980’s during the height of the AIDS epidemic. After losing good friend Ryan White to the disease, John entered rehab to receive treatment for his addictions. After getting sober and gaining a new outlook on life, he went on to join the fight against both substance addiction and AIDS. Now sober for almost 30 years, John funds various HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs through The Elton John AIDS Foundation.
“I realized that I only had two choices: I was either going to die, or I was going to live, and which one did I want to do? And then I said those words, ‘I’ll get help,’ or, ‘I need help. I’ll get help.’ And my life turned around. Ridiculous for a human being to take 16 years to say, ‘I need help.’”
– John, NPR Interview
Up-and-coming singer and actress Demetria Devonne Lovato recently revealed in her latest documentary that she has struggled with addiction since age 17, while she was still a Disney Channel star. Lovato, like many people with substance abuse disorders, suffered from a dual diagnosis. In her case, it was an addiction to both alcohol and cocaine. She is very open with her fans about this, stating that her past addiction also drove other health issues like bulimia, bipolar disorder, and self-harm. Lovato has been sober for six years now and talks openly about her struggles in hopes of helping others facing similar situations. Like Jamie Lee Curtis, Lovato uses her fame as a platform to encourage others to seek help if they are struggling with addiction.
“[My family, friends, and treatment team] are there for me at any moment of the day and will be there to support me throughout my recovery. That relationship is ongoing — it’s not something where you see a therapist once, or you see your psychiatrist once, it’s something you maintain to make sure that you want to live with mental illness. You have to take care of yourself.”
– Lovato, People Interview
British actor Daniel Jacob Radcliffe has a career that is perhaps one of the most unique in Hollywood history. While it’s not uncommon for actors to enter the entertainment industry as children, Radcliffe was, from age 11, consecutively contracted for over a decade to play a single character in a single franchise— Harry Potter. His time in this role has earned Radcliffe a massive amount of fame, and with it, even more stress. Like many people who struggle with alcohol, Radcliffe began drinking as a teenager to cope with stress. This went on to become a habit that drove risky behavior and public blackouts. When discussing his struggles, Radcliffe has said that becoming so famous so quickly was the most likely source of his trouble, along with his fears of one day being one of Hollywood’s forgotten one-trick ponies. After a brief relapse, Radcliffe has now been sober for four years and has garnered a lot of success both on the stage and the silver screen after the end of the Harry Potter franchise.
“I was living in constant fear of who I’d meet, what I might have said to them, what I might have done with them, so I’d stay in my apartment for days and drink alone. I was a recluse at 20. It was pathetic – it wasn’t me. I’m a fun, polite person, and [drinking] turned me into a rude bore.”
– Radcliffe, The South Bank Show Interview
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As fans, we hear enough about celebrity addiction and relapse that it’s almost become a defining feature of the entertainment industry. And yet, we hardly hear anything about how some of the most well-known names and faces in the world have won the battle against addiction and gone on to find happiness and success. The celebrities on this list have shown us that recovery is not only possible but that it should be celebrated— not stigmatized. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance addiction, called TTC Care at (844) 310-9546 to learn more about our services and your treatment options.