We know that drug addiction is real because every day we hear another story of a celebrity with a drug problem getting into trouble. Drunk driving seems a particularly popular past time among many celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan, Mel Gibson, and Robert Downey Jr. These are people who could easily afford a driver (and probably have one) but choose to get behind the wheel anyway. What were they thinking? They must be addicted to drugs/alcohol and this impaired their judgment. There is no other explanation.
And there are the celebrities like Charlie Sheen who go bonkers in the public spotlight. There is no explanation other than he is a raging drug addict.
Celebrities and drugs seem to go hand in hand. Not so with other professions. Other famous people don’t have the same degree of drug problems. Politicians, business leaders, famous doctors and lawyers (who are not performers) don’t have anywhere near the level of drug use and abuse of celebrities. If addiction is real, why wouldn’t it affect all segments of society equally?
I think there is a simple explanation. What we see are people pretending to be addicted to drugs. After all, what kind of people are experts at pretending? What kind of people love drama? Of course the answer is: actors and performers. If there is anything better than fictional drama in tv and movies, it is real life drama. Celebrities do drugs because they are fun and they enjoy the spotlight from getting into trouble. They enjoy the drama. Also, they crave attention, and bad attention is better than no attention, in the celebrity psyche. These are people who are addicted to drama. Which particular drug they use doesn’t really matter. If they can suggest that they are under the influence of a powerful addiction, then all the better to gain our sympathy and excuse their behavior.
Drug addiction isn’t real. It’s just a role that actors play because it is fun. Lindsay Lohan clearly enjoyed the attention she got from playing with the court and defying the judge. No doubt she wore her brief jail sentence as a badge of honor. They are self-destructive whether on or off drugs, but being on drugs makes it easier to hide the true motivation.
Understanding the celebrity psyche this way explains other common behaviors. Why is Katie Holmes divorcing Tom Cruise and demanding full custody of Suri, out of concern she is being inducted into Scientology? Cruise was actively involved in Scientology when they married 5 years ago. What this not a glaring red flag? Of course it was, and the ensuing drama was only a matter of time.
There are even reality TV shows about famous people with addiction problems, e.g. Dr. Drew’s Celebrity Rehab. These shows teach us how to act like a drug addict, and spread through society at large. The movie “Requiem for a Dream” has taught a generation of drug addicts how to descend credibly into depravity.
Drug addiction is commonly used as a prop in tv shows and movies because it furthers the drama. “Person x committed the crime because they were addicted to drugs and needed money for a fix.” “Person Y prostituted herself because she was addicted to crack and needed a fix.” In reality, this kind of crime is very rare. There is much drug-related crime but it is mostly from turf wars over selling rights. And there is much prostitution, but it is mostly by women who are insecure about their bodies and sell themselves for validation. If they use drugs, it is also to relieve their insecurity, not because they are addicted.
Of course, none of this is to suggest that drugs are not dangerous. Drugs can be very dangerous. People get killed every day from impaired drivers. People die from overdoses. But this is not because of addiction. This is because people are freely choosing to take drugs to provide cover for irresponsible behavior. Sometimes they go too far.
Was Michael Jackson addicted to drugs? It would seem from the levels of drugs he was taking that he probably was. But there is a simpler explanation. MJ was a monster. Through plastic surgery he turned himself into a frightening creature. No doubt he was deeply ashamed and regretful about destroying his appearance, and getting suckered by his doctors. Too proud to admit his mistake, his only choice was to bury the feelings deep inside, and then use drugs to keep them buried whenever they tried to resurface. Ironically his pride and narcissism resulted in unbearable shame. MJ had no option but to destroy himself. There was simply no way he could continue to look at himself in the mirror each day. But — he was not a drug addict.
Was Charlie Sheen addicted to drugs? Based on his recent exploits, his drug-crazed episodes seem only to be fodder for advancing his career. He knew exactly what he was doing, and did it brilliantly. He’s a superb self-promoter.
“Whitney Houston struggled with drug addiction her whole life.” Perhaps. But perhaps she did drugs because they were fun. And one day she overdid it, perhaps intentionally.
Cindy McCain is a famous drug addict, stealing pain killers from the charity she started after marrying John McCain. After she was caught, to avoid jail, she agreed to go into rehab and perform drug addiction awareness public service. In fact, from reports of her behavior while working at the charity, she seemed to be angry with her husband (20 years her senior) and was probably trying to sabotage the charity in retaliation. She stole drugs and used ‘addiction’ as a convenient excuse. After a one-week stay at a rehab she quit the habit. She was probably not a drug addict — just an angry, lonely woman.
It’s hard to think of a celebrity addiction story that cannot be easily dismissed as an attempt to gain attention and sympathy. If you know of addiction only through celebrities then there’s a reason for that. It’s because professional performers are good at pretending to be addicts, and there really aren’t any others. If you know an addict personally, do you really believe them? Or do they have a history of acting or outright lying that precedes their ‘illness’? In my experience, every addiction story disintegrates quickly when subject to a little scrutiny.
Are there any real addicts?
The speaker at a recent AA meeting told the story of her own addiction. She started doing drugs as a young teenager, and before that she was put on ritalin during elementary school. But during the story she revealed some telling details:
- her mother was an actor
- “I love to fight”
- “I loved creating drama and scenes”
Her career now is as a drug and alcohol counselor who travels the world telling the story of her addiction to young school-age audiences. I suspect the fact that her high school and college years were filled with drug use left her with few other career options. Of course, she made the point: “This disease doesn’t care about your profession: engineer, doctor, lawyer.” OK, I guess she’s the expert.
She claimed to live a ‘double life’ as a good daughter and student who knew how to act properly, and yet drank and drugged to excess in secret. She also said she made amends to her parents. When questioned on this point: “Why did you make amends to your parents when you hid you behavior from them?”. She said:
- I made amends for stealing from them (she failed to mention this in her initial account)
- I–I made amends for lying to them! (almost as an afterthought)
- My father said he forgave me. “All teens are assholes,” he said by way of explanation.
- I don’t know if my mother has forgiven me because she is passive aggressive
- I hate passive agressive people — just be direct!
So it appears she was not the sweet daughter and student she claimed to be in her home alter-life, and there was more to the story than she originally recounted. And one wonders if her whole drug use was passive aggressive revenge on her mother for perceived neglect or unfairness.
And this woman is now traveling the world spreading the Myth of Addiction to impressionable young children, who now have a new career option.