Image source: bbc.co.uk
Whether you’re new to the sober community, or you’re a veteran in the sobriety world, you’ve probably seen the countless articles on sober celebrities. There are some tragic stories too. Celebrities who have been robbed of their lives because of accidental overdoses like Heath Ledger and Philip Seymour Hoffman. These stories affect us deeply, as do the successes. Hearing about people like Bradley Cooper and Demi Lovato who beat their demons and are proud to stand in recovery today is inspiring. Why are these stories so popular? Why do they make us feel good? Let’s take a look.
Celebrities, our first recovery advocates
This is a controversial statement in some circles. There are some people out there who believe celebrities shouldn’t be role models, or that they aren’t always doing a good job. But the reality is most celebrities live their lives in the spotlight, whether that’s their intention or not. With their lives being meticulously followed by the media and being displayed by magazines and social media, they don’t have much choice in what is shown and what’s not. They are held to a high standard and if there is any foul play – a DUI, an arrest, even a drunken night at the club, it will most likely to make headlines the following day. The same is true about their recovery. Sober celebrities generally end up telling their story because the question about why they aren’t imbibing may come up in an interview at some point and time in their career. Through authenticity and an effort to be transparent, most of them are honest about their struggles, how they got through, and even talk about stints in rehab if that is a part of their story. That’s how we end up with sober celebrities.
The thing about sober celebrities is that it shows us that addiction truly affects everyone. I’ve been saying this since I got sober: Addiction does not discriminate. It affects everyone regardless of socioeconomic status, race, gender, or family history. Celebrities are living proof of this. They may have money and fame, but they’ve still used drugs and alcohol in excess and have been affected by this disease that affects so many. In a way, celebrities were our first recovery advocates; those that chose to talk about their sobriety in the limelight and show the world that you can get and stay sober. Even though anonymity was never a real option for many of them, they embrace what living sober could mean in the spotlight. They have navigated the road of open recovery and the stigma that could come along with it before a lot of us.
Why do we feel warm and fuzzy when we hear about sober celebrities?
Being a sober writer and influencer, I’ve noticed that whenever I share about sober celebrities on my blog or on my Facebook fan page, it automatically becomes a popular post. The likes and comments come in and everyone is happy I shared what I did about whoever it was. I think the reason hearing about sober celebrities makes us feel good is because we see ourselves in them. It’s the same reason people can relate to me as a sober blogger. Even though celebrities aren’t necessarily considered “regular people,” when they speak out about addiction and sobriety, it humanizes them. It makes us feel like they are just like us. Their lives aren’t perfect and happy all the time and they deal with the exact same types of struggles we do, including addiction.
It’s the same reason why we hurt when we see celebrities overdosing. We feel close to celebrities. We feel like we know them and their lives. It hurts us when we see talented artists pass away like Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin and know that they will never sing one of their famous songs ever again. These types of deaths also force us to take a real look at addiction; because it happens to celebrities. Drug addiction is a disease that affects 23 million Americans, but sometimes we are known to have the “out of sight, out of mind” attitude. Seeing real celebrities with successful careers and money, die from this vicious disease is scary and it’s real. We are forced to understand that it can and does affect everyone. If Philip Seymour Hoffman can relapse and pass away from this disease after years of sustained sobriety, then it can happen to any of us.
We feel good when we read and hear about sober celebrities because it gives us hope. It gives hope to those of us who are still sick and suffering that maybe one day we will find peace. It gives hope to those of us who are in long-term recovery that one day we might make it to 48 years like Danny Trejo. It makes us feel like we are not alone, that if someone like Demi Lovato went to rehab and made it out and is strong in her sobriety, then I can do it too.
We need more of that in this world. We need people who are open and honest about their struggles, who are not ashamed to say where they’ve been and where they’re going. Because the truth is nobody is perfect and that is something we need to hear in recovery. We are all flawed and we’re all making our way through this world doing our best to be a better person each day. Addiction is not a choice or a moral failing, it’s not something we should be scared to talk about or admit to. If we are ever going to change the amount of people dying from this disease each year we have to talk about how it affects each and every one of us. It has started with celebrities, but it’s up to us to keep it going. Sober celebrities are inspiring, but there is nothing more moving than finding someone else in recovery who is in your family, your group of friends, or at your work. I challenge you to be your own recovery celebrity, because if not you, then who?