There’s a common misconception about substance abuse that circles the world: that addiction has to destroy your life. Most people think that addicts are destined to spiral into misfortune and failure. However, the truth is that a huge number of people who enter rehabilitation move on to live healthy, happy and quite fulfilling lives.
Even following multiple relapses or mental illness, your life can turn around. These three widely celebrated individuals are the ultimate demonstration of that fact. They battled through substance abuse and have been clean and sober for years, all massive achievements. Beyond that, they’ve built lives that make them, and those around them, glad to be alive.
Trigger warning: This post discusses drug abuse and alcohol abuse in real-world situations, and describes the actions of people under the influence. Take care when reading.
Robert Downey Jr.
The world knows Robert Downey Jr. as the iconic Tony Stark, the wise-cracking techno-genius, the hero within Iron Man. However, before Downey occupied this role, he spent time in the acting world pulling off smaller roles and supporting parts. He also had a severe drug and alcohol problem.
In his early career, Downey was barely ever hired. Despite an Academy Award nomination for Chaplin in 1992, his struggles with heroin and cocaine placed him in a downward spiral for many years. Cycling in and out of jail, Downey saw his career decline rapidly due to the exorbitant insurance rates directors would have to pay to have him on set. What set him on the path to recovery was, in the end, an ultimatum from his wife Susan back in 2003. He chose her, and finally put substance abuse behind him for good.
Now, Downey enjoys an almost unimaginable degree of success. As of 2019, he’s starred in a variety of films, including Tropic Thunder (which earned him another Oscar nomination) and almost every MCU film. He is an inspiring story at 16 years clean and sober, and a testament to what people can do when they dedicate energy to turning their lives around.
Stephen King is one of the world’s most prolific and successful horror authors, having produced a total of 63 novels over the course of his writing career. Many of these became hit horror films like It, The Shining and The Green Mile. His estimated net worth as of 2019 is around 400 million dollars. However, there’s something sombre behind his story of success. For most of the 1980s, King was in a miasma of drugs and alcohol. He’s stated that he barely remembers writing several of his novels during this time, as he was deep in his addiction. He craved cocaine, cigarettes, alcohol—anything that would give him a boost in his writing. These substances also functioned as his primary coping method against the nightmarish thoughts that plagued him. He believed that these things were necessary, that he needed them for inspiration. This was a nearly fatal misconception. Similar to Downey’s experience, his wife Tabitha presented King with an ultimatum. Clean up, or she—along with his children—would leave. Despite his crippling fear of writer’s block in sobriety, King chose to get clean. It wasn’t an easy process, and there were many false starts with drug and alcohol treatment. Eventually, he found that his novels gained a deeper insight and intelligence from his clear mind. King stopped relapsing and has been in a clean and sober recovery for years. He is a testament to the fact that you are a real person under the addiction, that it doesn’t make up who you are, that you are worth so much more than what substances turn you into.
Jamie Lee Curtis
This highly successful actress has starred in many films, including the revolutionary Halloween, but there’s something many people don’t know about her. Curtis silently struggled with opioid addiction for ten years, telling no one at all until her first recovery meeting in 1999.
As the story goes, she went in for a minor plastic surgery operation to get rid of under-eye bags. Her doctors prescribed her opioid pain medication, and she quickly fell prey to its effects. This was prior to the opiate epidemic of the 90s, placing her somewhat “ahead of the curve”. She lied and stole from her friends and family to feed the addiction, and absolutely no one knew. She told her husband the same day she decided to get clean, that fateful day in 1999.
Twenty years later, the 59-year old actress is clean, sober, and helping others on their journey to be the same. Jamie Lee Curtis continues to attend meetings and sponsor recovering addicts, hoping to help them along the path to sobriety as best she can. She has spoken of her recovery as the single biggest achievement in her life, saying, “Getting sober remains my single greatest accomplishment… bigger than my husband, bigger than both of my children and bigger than any work, success, failure. Anything.”
Join the ranks of the recovering and start putting your life back together.
All of these people go to show that, no matter how deep in addiction you are, you can take your life into your own hands. You are in control, and you are not alone. With professional help and dedication, you can be clean.
Zen Detox is a wellness retreat in New Zealand that is dedicated to helping people on their journey to recovery. Using holistic methods of assessment and treatment, we work with our clients to restore every aspect of their lives, creating an environment that supports recovery. If you’re ready to start getting clean, give us a call.