Celebrity and Addiction–Is Fame Related to Substance Use?
Celebrity, or fame, can be a difficult life to live. It seems ironic to those of us who are not famous, and who do not have the resources and privileges that fame can afford. However, within the inner circle of fame, things can be very difficult to manage. Many of the dynamics involved in living a celebrity life make fertile ground for substance use and addiction.
The Relationship Factor in Celebrity and Addiction
Of course, not everyone who is famous will have the sorts of issues that put them at risk for addiction, but many do. The parallels between celebrity and an addictive process are many, and chief among them is the difficulty of managing social interactions and intimacy. Always in the spotlight, even during daily life, celebrities have very little privacy that isn’t highly designed and hard-won. Also, they are approached by people who feel they ‘know’ the famous person, but can’t possibly, having no previous interaction. However, strangers can feel a level of intimacy and familiarity with celebrities because they are fans, for example, but the public persona of a celebrity may be based on performance or other non-personal details. The real person behind the performance isn’t known.
Also, interactions and attempts to build meaningful relationships can be highly charged with suspicion and distrust for the celebrity. Many people may want to establish a relationship to vicariously have a piece of fame themselves. In fact, Robert Downey, Jr. is said to have had difficulty remaining sober because he was famous not only for his skill as an actor but for his addiction. Wherever he went, he was surrounded by enablers who wanted to be able to say they had used drugs with this famous addict.
Joni Mitchell, the highly acclaimed singer/songwriter addressed this relationship difficulty in one of her most famous songs, “A Free Man in Paris”. She says: There’s a lot of people asking for my time. They’re trying to get ahead. They’re trying to be a good friend of mine…I was a free man in Paris. I felt unfettered and alive. There was nobody calling me up for favors and no one’s future to decide… Her sense of freedom included a fantasy of …how I’d feel when I find that very good friend of mine.
Addiction is an Isolating and Socially Superficial Experience
The parallels of celebrity’s loneliness are that in the addictive process, we establish more of a relationship with using than with others. There is a retreat from intimacy and participation in meaningful relationships because this is what repeated intoxication experiences do to us. Addiction is a very isolating disease even in the midst of a crowd. Celebrity can have the same effect despite a very immersive social dynamic.
We often hear that people with addictions are self-absorbed, and in the sense of having trouble establishing and maintaining deep interactions, they are. It is not really about being selfish although selfishness results as the addiction makes demands, overriding other concerns.
Another parallel is that relationships when famous and relationships in addiction are often based on superficial factors. There are ‘hangers on’ that want a taste of privilege by associating with a celebrity and there are using buddies that only have drug use in common, for example. Underlying these is another commonality which is a sense of emptiness that can haunt someone in the perpetual limelight, unable to detach from others’ projections onto them and the sense of emptiness that drives compulsive drug use.
Self-Medication, Addiction, and Fame
Attaining celebrity and fame requires hard work, focus, self-interest, and driven-ness. As a celebrity, one’s self is one’s brand and the work involved to achieve and maintain celebrity can be overwhelmingly arduous and stressful, leaving one very vulnerable to self-medication and other self-soothing, compulsive behaviors. Schedules are often hectic, may involve travel and long work days, for example. It is easy to turn to the ‘quick fix’ of substance use to make the most of downtime and to temporarily de-stress.
The addictive process is fraught with such attempts to self-medicate ongoing life problems, be it an untreated depression, anxiety condition or chronic stress. The result is layering another problem on top of the original one. If one’s lifestyle is excessively stressful, for instance, the stress is not resolved, but a substance problem grows on top of it.
Privacy and Confidentiality Needs
Along with the social difficulties and job pressures comes an intense need for privacy and confidentiality when celebrities need to seek treatment. There is a widespread stigma about addiction in our culture, although in some circles going to rehab is common, and easily accepted. This can be the case in circles of famous people. However, having an addiction still carries many prejudices and negative stereotypes. These can result in people with substance problems not disclosing their problems to people who could help them.
Across the board, people who have substance problems are concerned with the loss of reputation and a loss of respectability in their professions. While it is true that some celebrity circles pay little attention to these types of things, an addiction can impair one’s ability to work, make work commitments to others happen, and to perform at the expected level. Many stars, for instance, have had to make ‘comebacks’ after an addiction eroded their ability to perform as usual in their jobs.
Among those outside the realm of celebrity, there is typically a great deal of stigma attached to having a substance problem, and this frequently causes a sense of shame and guilt. Consequently, the private struggles of addiction are often kept to oneself for fear of ostracism, rejection, and humiliation. In whatever way this occurs, it reinforces the isolation of anyone with a substance problem. It also leads to secret keeping which is a universal characteristic among people with addictions, and unfortunately this dynamic prolongs the addiction, postponing treatment.
There are many treatment options available to people who need additional privacy during rehab. For example, there are luxury and executive programs, providing private rooms and other hotel-like amenities in retreat-like settings. There are also programs that take only a small group of participants at a time, affording even more privacy and comfort for someone with a high-profile lifestyle.
It’s Your World, Too
Celebrity comes in many forms and across a range of degree. You do not have to be a performer to have a high-profile career or high-profile status in your community. You may be well known in your town or region due to your work, for example, or your family. Consequently, you may require greater anonymity than others seeking treatment to be comfortable with moving ahead in your own search for help. There can be substantial obstacles to reaching out for reach, not all of them related to a high-profile life, but all of them can be overcome so that you receive the help you need.
All people with an addiction have to battle the stigma and shame attached to their illnesses at some level. It is important to remember that addictions are human ailments and do not discriminate. Also, there are no immunities against these illnesses. Social standing, education, talent, achievement, finances, race, ethnicity, faith, or morality do not protect anyone from an addictive illness. It is your world, too, whoever you are, and you deserve the opportunity to re-establish your health.
Our service at Elite Rehab Placement can help you find the right treatment options for your clinical needs, needs for intensified privacy, and your financial situation. We offer free consultation to determine the type of services you need to be well again. And, we will identify your privacy concerns and match recommendations to them. When you are distressed enough to consider treatment for an addiction, we understand how important it is to have someone smooth the way as much as possible. We have done our homework and have created an extensive database of programs, their philosophies, services, and amenities.
Do You Want to Travel for Treatment?
If you are not comfortable seeking treatment in your home area, we can help you find programs in other places. We can even help you find the right program in a specific location, or in the type of setting you would prefer. We have worked with people who want to travel to another city or even another part of the world. Some prefer to be near loved ones in another town during treatment, for example, or to just be away from usual life altogether. You may have an idea of the ideal surroundings for your time in treatment such as the beach or the mountains.
What Type of Services Suit You?
Not every rehab facility is for everyone. They vary widely in their settings, staffing, treatment philosophies and amenities. What is important to you? Do you prefer a 12 Step orientation? Are you interested in holistic health services? Do you want treatment that will actively incorporate your faith?
Other choices you can make include going to a program that is for:
- men only or women only
- people with dual disorders–if you also have a mental health condition that needs simultaneous treatment
- executives that must continue some work-related business while in treatment
Preparing for Rehab
You may take some time to think about what would smooth your way to treatment at this time. Consider the issues outlined above and others that occur to you. This will help you envision what will help you feel comfortable in moving forward to treatment. When you call for your consultation with us, we can further clarify things with you and find the right solutions. Or, just pick up the phone, and we will walk you through the whole process. Remember, recovery is more than possible; it’s your world, too, and we can help you get the right help when you are ready.